For the first time this season, the Minnesota Vikings will be forced to respond coming off of a loss. They fell to the Philadelphia Eagles last week and were manhandled up front on offense, causing serious timing issues and protection problems along the offensive line. Though it was only one loss, it was somewhat concerning for their team going forward.
Fortunately, they’ll get a one-win Chicago Bears team that’s undergoing yet another change at quarterback. Jay Cutler has been re-inserted into the starting lineup – albeit, by default – due to Brian Hoyer’s arm injury. Will this provide a spark for Chicago? Or is it a disaster waiting to happen with Minnesota’s defense looming? We’ll go with the latter.
Here are three reasons the Vikings will rebound and win Monday night to move to 6-1.
Xavier Rhodes will take Alshon Jeffery out of the game
The Vikings could easily have the best secondary in football with Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Trae Waynes and Marcus Sherels. They’ve allowed the fewest passing yards in the league – by a wide margin – and shut down every No. 1 receiver that comes into their territory. The headliner of the group, of course, is Rhodes. He’ll play a huge role in this one, taking away Jay Cutler’s favorite target: Alshon Jeffery.
Cutler has always had a good connection with Jeffery in the past; much better than the one Jeffery and Hoyer had. He tends to lean on Jeffery and give him opportunities at 50-50 balls downfield. Hoyer didn’t give him the same chances given his reluctance to take risks deep down the field, but Cutler will undoubtedly go that route. Except, he probably shouldn’t.
Rhodes has allowed a 37.3 passer rating on throws his way, which is the best in the NFC. He’s allowed 24.3 yards per game in coverage, which is also outstanding. His combination of size and speed will create serious problems for Jeffery and Cutler’s connection as he has the ability to get his hands on and break up passes. If Rhodes can eliminate Jeffery from the game plan, Cutler will struggle. Eddie Royal is doubtful, and though Cameron Meredith is expected to play despite being questionable, Cutler won’t necessarily be on the same page with those receivers. And that’s not even taking into account the cornerbacks they’ll be facing in coverage, who are outstanding as well.
AP Photo/Chris Szagola
Jay Cutler is returning
Normally, a starting quarterback returning from injury would be a good thing. With Jay Cutler, that’s not necessarily true. Brian Hoyer went down with a broken forearm and has been placed on IR, giving way to Cutler as the starter going forward. Does that mean the Bears are getting an upgrade at quarterback? No. Cutler is inconsistent and turns the ball over far too often. It’s likely the Bears would be better off with Hoyer and his ability to avoid turnovers in this one rather than Cutler’s free-wheeling ways.
The offense had built a rhythm with Hoyer and while he and Jeffery never really got on the same page, he built a rapport with Meredith and Royal (who’s doubtful). Now Cutler will be inserted back into the lineup and will likely struggle to connect with those two players right away. Not to mention, he had two interceptions and three fumbles (one lost) in his two starts this season. With Minnesota’s relentless pass rush and outstanding secondary lined up across from him, there will be serious issues in the turnover department. The Vikings will force at least two or three turnovers from Cutler, which will shift the balance in this game.
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Mike Zimmer, Norv Turner will make adjustments after last week’s debacle
The Vikings were embarrassed by the Eagles last week. They were dominated in just about every facet of the game, particularly on offense. Philadelphia’s pass rush caused serious problems for Sam Bradford and the offensive line -- to the point where it was worrisome for the quarterback’s health. Facing Chicago's mediocre pass rush and defensive line, the Vikings will be much more effective on offense. Coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner will make the necessary adjustments to protect Bradford.
I’d expect tight ends to stay in to block more, chipping pass rushers like Leonard Floyd and Willie Young on the edge. Turner will probably also game plan for Bradford to make easier reads with shorter, quicker passes. This will allow him to get the ball out of his hands quickly and effectively, negating any pass rush the Bears might have. Bradford had little time to throw last week, and when he did, his receivers weren’t getting open due to the nature of the routes they were running.
Turner is one of the best offensive minds in the NFL, and he’ll make sure Bradford gets the protection he needs in the pocket. Chicago’s pass rush (18th in sacks) won’t pose much of a threat so long as Minnesota brings the route tree closer to the line of scrimmage.