WEEK 8: Noon AT CHICAGO • Ch. 9 (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)
One man’s prediction: It has been eight years since the Vikings won at Soldier Field, but they seem poised to end that streak and make it two straight road wins against NFC North rivals. The offense is starting to balance, the defense is one of the league’s best, and kicker Blair Walsh has gotten his groove back. Plus, the Bears, in a rebuilding year, are pretty bad. It still won’t be easy, but the Vikings should be able to improve to 3-0 in the division.
Climbing the charts
The defense continues to ascend in coach Mike Zimmer’s second season. The Vikings are tied for second in the NFL in scoring defense and rank seventh in yards allowed. Only eight teams have more sacks after they racked up seven in last week’s win in Detroit. The Vikings will again be without defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, but that shouldn’t matter against a Bears offense that ranks 27th in the NFL in scoring.
A little help here
Adrian Peterson, assuming he doesn’t chow down a bunch of seafood before kickoff, is expected to start despite a trio of injuries. He will get an exploitable matchup against a defense that is one of the league’s worst when it comes to stopping the run. But the Vikings need to block better for Peterson. He rushed for 98 yards in the win over the Lions, but 14 of his 19 carries went for 2 or fewer yards.
Here’s the kicker
Blair Walsh, the Vikings’ fourth-year kicker, bounced back from a rough preseason and a shaky start in the games that matter to help the Vikings pick up a pair of wins the past two weeks. He has made his past 10 field-goal attempts, and two of his five field goals against the Lions were from beyond 50 yards. Sunday’s outdoor game could provide tougher tests, though. Walsh is 6-for-8 in his career kicking in the Windy City.
Player to watch
Alshon Jeffery, Bears
The Bears’ big wide receiver returned from an extended absence two weeks ago, and with eight catches for 147 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Lions, it looked as if Jeffery’s hamstring injury was behind him. That’s bad news for the Vikings, who have been victimized by Jeffery in past meetings. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes will likely draw this assignment, and he has been beaten for four touchdowns this season.