Five weeks later, Minnesota has come to fully understand the power of the turnover -- just ask the Jaguars, who fell behind them 14-0 thanks to two quick turnovers last week. But as easy as it is to say "Minnesota wins if it induces turnovers," let's accept that the Vikings aren't going to force Chicago into any stupid errors.
After 225 carries, which is fourth-most among all running backs,
On the other end, it should go without saying: The Vikings simply cannot afford to turn the ball over and give the Bears a short field. As well as Orton has played in '08, Chicago's offense still isn't built to pull off multiple 70-yard drives in one game. As evidence, look at the Bears' two losses in the last three weeks.
Against Green Bay on Nov. 16, they had an average starting position of their own 26; three times they started inside their own 11. And Chicago only crossed midfield once before the fourth quarter started. Against Tennessee a week before that, Chicago's average starting position was its own 21; it started at or inside of its 10-yard line eight times. Again, it crossed the Titans' 40 just once before the fourth quarter. Through both games, the Bears' opponents had just two turnovers (read: they never treated Chicago to an abbreviated field) and the Bears scored just 17 total points.
Enter Minnesota. After
But here's the reality: Peterson does fumble a lot. Only
If Childress is going to attack the teeth of the Bears' defense, along the line, he'll want both guys to contribute. The Packers' one-two attack of
Let that last part be a lesson, Gus. The shorter the better against these Bears. In '08 Chicago has used a mixture of
The problem arises when opponents start to work the middle of the field. Against solid running teams like Tennessee, for example, Chicago committed its linebackers to the line of scrimmage and they successfully held the Titans to 20 yards on 29 carries. But that left plenty of open room across the middle of the field. Without
Same thing against Green Bay a week later. When Grant started off hot, the Bears moved their backers up to help and set Graham and Vasher as much as 10 yards off of the ball on pass plays. Then, picking up near midfield of the Packers' second drive of the game, they pulled this off:
On first down at the Bears' 45, Vasher lined up five yards off
This week, if Frerotte can get the ball to speedy receiver
So, just how decimated would Minnesota be if the suspensions went into effect by Sunday? Against Chicago, it would be a huge problem. Although he was limited to 56 yards in his first effort against Minnesota, Forte is still fifth in the NFL with 909 rushing yards. He's critical in moving the chains for the Bears' offense and he's best used straight up the middle.
Beyond the Williamses, Minnesota doesn't have a single interior lineman with more than three tackles, which means there could be some shuffling along the line (perhaps moving an end to down lineman). With sole possession of first place in the NFC North on the line, now is as bad a time as any for the change.
What seems more likely is that the league saves the suspensions for the last four games of the year, opting not to so directly mess with a playoff race. In that case they'd make an announcement early next week, allowing Childress to fully digest the situation before hatching a game plan. That isn't to say that Minnesota would be off the hook by avoiding the messy situation against Chicago. After Detroit and Arizona, miserable running teams by any measure, the Vikings face Atlanta and the New York Giants over the final two weeks, likely with the NFC North crown on the line. And those two teams currently boast the league's top two rushing attacks.
This game should be far more run-centric than the first, especially if the Vikings' suspensions go through. Since their 90-point shootout with the Vikings, the Bears have lost focus on their passing game. They only connected with receivers five times against Tennessee; four against Green Bay. Likewise, Childress will be feeling the pressure to use Peterson for the sake of saving the season and his job. If the NFL doesn't pull the trigger (my guess: it won't),