Friday, December 17, 2010
I'm calling it: on Monday night, the Bears will clinch the NFC North title. Not that ballsy of a prediction, but still, I'm calling it.
Of course, for that to be possible, the Packers must lose to the Patriots in their prime time game Sunday night. Aaron Rodgers's status is still up in the air after he suffered his second concussion of the season, but I'm going Patriots either way. Even if Rodgers suits up after an entire week without practice, the Packers will have a tough time keeping up with the Pats in Foxborough. Last time Rodgers played after suffering a concussion, Green Bay lost to the Dolphins and Rodgers had an 84.5 QB rating.
Should New England prevail, the Monday night game will essentially define the Bears' season. A win gives them their first NFC North title since 2006. A loss gives the Bears their first divisional loss and therefore keeps the Packers in the hunt. Oh, man, I am ready for some football.
The Bears will have a couple of significant advantages. First, Minnesota won't have the benefit of a true home game because their f--king roof collapsed, though it will still be played in Minneapolis at nearby University of Minnesota. Second, they may not have the benefit of being able to start a true NFL quarterback because Favre is hurt, Tarvaris Jackson is out for the year, and third-stringer Joe Webb is ... well, to be honest, I have no idea who the hell Joe Webb is (Googling ... he's a rookie out of UAB). It looks like the Bears will be facing a third string quarterback for the third time in five weeks (Tyler Thigpen and Drew Stanton being the others). This is gonna be fantastic.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Focus on Peterson. This was one of my keys when these teams matched up in November, and it came to fruition: Peterson had just 51 yards on 17 carries and the Vikings scored only 13 points. The Giants held him to 1.9 yards per carry on Monday night and held Minnesota to three points. It's a great match-up for the Bears--they have the second-best run defense in the league. Stop Peterson, grab the lead, force the game into Joe Webb's hands, sack him 14 times, intercept him 17 times. That's the plan.
Double team Sidney Rice. Hell, triple team him if you want. The last two weeks, only Rice has surpassed the 30-yard mark in receiving for the Vikings. They got down big early to the Giants and had to throw all day, yet no receiver other than Rice did anything at all. Stop Rice and you pretty much stop the Vikings' air attack.
Bears offensive line vs. Jared Allen. Allen has 9.5 sacks this season and got Cutler twice back in November. If the o-line can keep him from getting pressure, Cutler should have success against this secondary.