1:00 PM ET, November 14, 2010
Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
The Chicago Bears will grab a share of first place in the NFC North with a win Sunday, but standing in their way is a Minnesota Vikings team that may be playing with renewed confidence after a possibly season-saving win last weekend.
Trying to move into a tie atop the division, the Bears host the Vikings, who look to snap an eight-game road losing streak.
Chicago (5-3) is looking to move into a first-place tie with idle Green Bay in the Bears' first game against a division opponent since a 20-17 win over the Packers on Sept. 27. The Vikings (3-5) are two games behind Chicago and a game in front of last-place Detroit.
"I like our position," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We're not sitting in first place right now, but to me (that's) because we've played one less game than the team that's up top right now. They don't play this week. That's why this game is so big for us.
"We want to matter, and right now, I think you can say the Bears matter."
After back-to-back home losses, the Bears came out of their bye week with a 22-19 victory over winless Buffalo last Sunday in Toronto.
Jay Cutler threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett followed by a two-point conversion to close the scoring with 2:22 left. Chris Harris then intercepted a pass in the final minute as Buffalo was closing in on field-goal range.
"We needed this one," Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "We found a way to get it done."
Cutler, who threw four interceptions to DeAngelo Hall in a 17-14 home loss to Washington on Oct. 24, finished 17 of 30 for 188 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran five times for 39 yards while the much-maligned offensive line finally offered him some protection. Cutler came in having been sacked 27 times, but Buffalo's defense only recorded one.
Led by 49 yards from Matt Forte, Chicago rushed for 105 yards after totaling 127 the previous two games. Still, the Bears are 27th in the league with 90.6 rushing yards per game.
Cutler could face a lot of pressure from Minnesota's defensive front, which sacked Arizona's Derek Anderson six times in a thrilling 27-24 overtime win last Sunday.
That capped a tumultuous week for the Vikings, not only breathing life into their season, but possibly saving embattled coach Brad Childress' job.
With the team struggling and days following Minnesota's bizarre decision to cut recently reacquired Randy Moss after just four games, Brett Favre helped lead the Vikings back from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit. He finished 36 of 47 for a career-high 446 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Favre said the Vikings are ignoring rumors surrounding Childress' future while focusing solely on the game.
"Those younger guys in there, they want new contracts, they want to be in the Pro Bowl and the best player at their position," said Favre, who at times has had his own issues with Childress. "They can't look at it from, 'Who's my coach?' It's still football. You have to run routes, you have to block, you have to tackle, you have to make the right reads; you have to overcome adversity.
"A head coach is a head coach. Individually, that's the way it should be and that's the way I approach it."
Favre will look to help the Vikings begin cutting into their deficit this weekend. They have two games left against Chicago and will host the Packers on Nov, 21.
Favre, however, could be without his favorite target Sunday as Percy Harvin didn't practice Wednesday due to a migraine. The ailment has been a recurring problem for the receiver, but he had been managing them better this season while stepping up with Sidney Rice out following offseason hip surgery.
Harvin had nine catches for a career-high 126 yards against the Cardinals, but it's uncertain if he'll play Sunday. Rice remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list, and will not be available.
Favre and his receivers might not have to do it all, however. Adrian Peterson, who is third in the league with 107.1 yards rushing per game, has played well against the Bears over his career, averaging 122.2 yards and running for 11 touchdowns in six games.
Minnesota hasn't won away from home since beating Green Bay on Nov. 1, 2009. The Vikings have also dropped eight of their last nine visits to Chicago.
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1. Keep Brett upright: Vikings QB Brett Favre has had his share of bumps and bruises this year and still seems to find a way to suit up on Sunday. However, at his age he can't keep taking big hits and be expected to finish the season. Keeping an extra tight end in for protection or a fullback in the backfield are two options.
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|Avg Points Allowed||21.7||16.2|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||MIN|
|Rush Yds Allowed||MIN|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Chicago leads 12-8|
|Dec 28, 2009||MIN 30, @CHI 36|
|Nov 29, 2009||MIN 36, CHI 10|
|Nov 30, 2008||MIN 34, CHI 14|
|Oct 19, 2008||MIN 41, @CHI 48|
|Dec 17, 2007||MIN 20, CHI 13|
|Oct 14, 2007||MIN 34, @CHI 31|
|Dec 3, 2006||MIN 13, @CHI 23|
|Sep 24, 2006||MIN 16, CHI 19|
|Jan 1, 2006||MIN 34, CHI 10|
|Oct 16, 2005||MIN 3, @CHI 28|
|Dec 5, 2004||MIN 14, @CHI 24|
|Sep 26, 2004||MIN 27, CHI 22|
|Dec 14, 2003||MIN 10, @CHI 13|
|Sep 14, 2003||MIN 24, CHI 13|
|Oct 27, 2002||MIN 25, CHI 7|
|Sep 8, 2002||MIN 23, @CHI 27|
|Nov 25, 2001||MIN 6, CHI 13|
|Sep 23, 2001||MIN 10, @CHI 17|