The Vikings' next two games are at Chicago and home against Green Bay. If they manage to win both of those games, they'll be one game out of first place in the division, with a 3-1 division record and a win against each other NFC North team. And if the Vikings lose either of these games (especially the Packer game), they might be sunk. If they lose both of these games, they are sunk.
Tough Guy Town Week
From 2001 to 2009, the Vikings won a game at Chicago just one time, and it took a transcendent performance from Adrian Peterson for that one win (and that barely eked out). Want to guess how this game goes? The Vikings move the ball but commit awful, devastating turnovers. The Bears score at least one return touchdown. The Bear QB manages to find wide open WRs most of the day. The game is inexplicably close at the end, and some sort of turnover costs the Vikings the game.
That wouldn't be an awful guess. The Vikings often play above themselves at Lambeau, but they almost always play well below themselves at Soldier Field. And now the Bears have Julius freaking' Peppers, a man who has had some memorably dominant games against the Vikings. Will Brad Childress insist on keeping one blocker on Peppers most of the game? If he hasn't learned from the past, almost certainly.
If you're trying to talk yourself into hope, here we go:
The Bears rank 27th in the NFL with 18.5 points per game.
Jay Cutler has taken more sacks for more lost yardage than any QB in the league; he has been sacked on an incredible 11.7% of his dropbacks.
The Bears are 5-3, with just one win by more than seven points (and the Vikings are 3-5 with one win by more than three points, but this is the section for hope, not despair). Four of their wins are against teams with a combined four wins (and two of the those teams also provided the Vikings two of their wins--oh wait, hope! Hope!).
Adrian Peterson is, in fact, a transcendent player, and if the Vikings manage to avoid turnovers and contain the Bears' special teams, A Peterson takeover of the game might actually not get wasted.
It's games like this that remind me I've aged as a Viking fan. I remember the day of this Monday night game: I wore a Viking shirt and confident smiled as I told people how well the Vikes would do that night. I remember the week before this (don't actually click that link) game: I believe my exact words were "I'm pretty confident I'll be watching the Vikings in the Super Bowl" (the response: "What, do you have some old tapes of Fran Tarkenton you're going to pull out?"). And I remember my feeling before this game, giggling with anticipation at the idea of the Bears giving a rookie QB his first start. So young and naive. It was somewhere around here, here, and here that I realized I should never, ever, ever expect the Vikings to win at Soldier Field. They might, of course...but don't ever expect it or count on it. After they won in 2007, before I could forget that lesson, I got it again here and here. The Vikings suck at Soldier Field. It's that easy.
Obviously, I'm rooting for the Vikings this weekend. And obviously, I will root for the Vikings when the teams meet later this season. And obviously, I'm rooting for the Vikings to beat the Bears in the NFC North.
However, if the Bears do win this weekend, I will be rooting for them the rest of the year. I mean openly, on a game-to-game basis, watching the Bears and pulling for them to win. Just to keep the Packers from taking the division. It will get weird.
Other Intriguing Games/Fantasy Box
Titans-Dolphins. Chad Sexington lives!
Jets-Browns. Because the Browns are world-beaters that might do anything on any given day. Would you be surprised by any Browns outcome in any game for the rest of this season?
Bengals-Colts. Last week I started Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Donald Brown, and the Colt Kicker: the only way I wasn't getting big fantasy points from the Colts was if they gave rushing TDs to another player. Which they did.
Patriots-Steelers. Where's Wallace!?!?! Where's Wallace!?!?!? While Wallace has been a fantasy obsession of mine for 2010, I have no expectation of this continuing in 2011. Wallace as a very cheap fantasy pick that I was convinced would be a top WR--exciting. Wallace as a mid-range fantasy pick coming off a breakout year but reliant on big plays because he doesn't actually get many touches--not exciting.
Michael Beasley comes alive with 42 points.
Blessings to everybody. Even Bear fans. Just no football-joy from noon to three Sunday.