Bears vs. Vikes Preview
Minneapolis, MN - Before the start of the season, the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears made big headlines by acquiring star quarterbacks expected to help lead their respective teams to the playoffs.
So far, it's only working out for one of them.
Brett Favre looks to lead the Vikings to their 10th win Sunday when they host struggling Jay Cutler and the free-falling Bears.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Vikings –10.5 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 74% of bets for this game have been placed on the Vikings –10.5 (View NFL bet percentages).
Minnesota (9-1) signed Favre during the preseason, and after a disappointing year with the New York Jets, the 40-year-old is emerging as an MVP candidate. Favre has 21 touchdown passes to three interceptions, helping the Vikings stay on the heels of undefeated New Orleans for the top seed in the NFC.
"There's nothing he can do to surprise anybody anymore," Minnesota center John Sullivan said. "He's a great player. We know that as long as we protect him, him and the receivers and Adrian (Peterson), they're all going to make plays."
Opposing defenses keyed on Peterson in his first two seasons, and he still amassed 3,101 rushing yards. This year, defenses also have to respect Favre and the passing game.
In last Sunday's 35-9 win over Seattle, Favre completed a career-high 88.0 percent of his passes (22 of 25) for 213 yards and four touchdowns. It was his second four-touchdown performance in three games and the 22nd of his career, surpassing Dan Marino for the record.
"Getting back to that confidence that I had when I didn't know any better, that was pretty good," Favre said. "And I'm feeling more confident. I'm more of a realist at this age, but that doesn't mean you can't go out there and turn it loose."
This will be Favre's first game against the rival Bears in a Minnesota uniform. Although he's lost five of the last six meetings while playing for Green Bay, the three-time league MVP should benefit from lining up in the backfield with Peterson, who needs one more yard for 1,000.
In four games against the Bears, Peterson has rushed for 554 yards and eight touchdowns, his most scores against any opponent.
The Vikings are 3-1 against Chicago since drafting Peterson and have won six of the last seven meetings in the Metrodome.
While everything seems to be going Favre and the Vikings' way lately, Cutler is mired in an awful stretch.
The Bears (4-6) had high hopes after pulling off the blockbuster trade with Denver for Cutler, but with losses in five of its last six, it appears Chicago will miss the playoffs for the third straight season.
"This wasn't part of the master plan," coach Lovie Smith said after last Sunday's 24-20 loss to Philadelphia.
Cutler, leading the league with 18 interceptions, has been a big reason the team is falling short of expectations.
After throwing a career-worst five interceptions in a 10-6 loss to San Francisco on Nov. 12, Cutler was 24 of 43 for 171 yards with one touchdown and one pick against Philadelphia. His interception in the final minute sealed the win for the Eagles.
While Cutler made poor decisions against the 49ers, he was largely inaccurate last week. At one point, he overthrew a wide open Greg Olsen and Devin Hester on back-to-back plays for possible touchdowns, forcing Chicago to settle for a field goal.
"I haven't played up to my expectations," Cutler said. "I think that's the most important part. I can play better. I know that."
While Cutler is receiving a bulk of the blame, it's not entirely his fault.
The offensive line has struggled to give Cutler time and will now face a pass rush that tops the NFL with 36 sacks. The line has also had little luck opening holes for running back Matt Forte.
Chicago ranks 28th in rushing, averaging 89.3 yards, and it will likely be tough to get the ground game going against the vaunted Minnesota defense.
The Vikings boast the third-best rush defense, giving up 85.5 yards per game, and limited the Seahawks to four rushing yards on 12 attempts last week - the second-fewest yards allowed in franchise history. Minnesota has led the league in rush defense in each of the past three seasons.
Posted: 11/25/09 7:41PM ET