|Bears Play Vikings For First Place in NFC North|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Wednesday, 26 November 2008 16:01|
First Place on The Line
When the Bears visit the Metrodome on Sunday night with first place in the NFC North at stake, it seems likely they will get a big dose of Adrian Peterson and the Vikings running the ball.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Vikings –3.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Vikings –3.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
These teams are tied atop the division with a one-game lead on Green Bay, though a loss would be a bit more costly to the Vikings (6-5) because they would lose a potential tiebreaker to the Bears (6-5) for being swept in the season series.
"Right now we're in a position, and so are the Bears, to kind of control where we want to go," Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said.
Minnesota fell 48-41 in Chicago on Oct. 19, but has since won three of four, relying a lot less on quarterback Gus Frerotte. He attempted 40 passes in that game, completing 25 for 298 yards, but had a season-high four interceptions.
He's averaged 21.5 pass attempts in four games since that defeat while the Vikings have averaged 34.0 rushes.
Peterson has run for an average of 124.0 yards in that span, compared to 84.2 during Frerotte's first five starts as the veteran quarterback averaged 36.0 passes. Frerotte hasn't topped 200 yards since the Chicago game, including a season-low 120 last Sunday in a 30-12 win in Jacksonville as his streak of seven straight games with a touchdown pass was snapped.
"Realistically you will look at one phase that does better than the other, but everybody is picking everybody else up," Childress said. "That is what the team mentality is all about."
The best way for his team to beat the Bears might be handing the ball off to Peterson very frequently. He's averaged 141.0 yards rushing in three games against Chicago, including 121 on 22 carries on Oct. 19, even though the Bears have the league's fifth-best run defense (80.7 ypg) this season.
Peterson was benched for the first two series last week for arriving late to a team meeting, but still had 80 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
"That's one thing I know about our coach: There's no prima donnas," Peterson said. "Whatever the situation is, no matter the extent of it, you just have to accept the consequences.
"Really wasn't that big and it's over now."
While Peterson is second in the league with 1,180 yards rushing, Chicago's Matt Forte is fifth with 909.
Forte, who also has a team-leading 45 receptions for 336 yards, is trying to become the fourth Bears rookie to rush for 1,000 yards.
"It definitely means a lot, and it's something I want to achieve," Forte told the team's official Web site. "To come in my first year and gain 1,000 yards would be exceptional."
In last Sunday's 27-3 win in St. Louis, Forte ran for a career-high 132 yards and his first two-touchdown day, helping the Bears rebound from their most lopsided loss of the season - 37-3 at Green Bay - with their easiest win. The Bears had 201 rushing yards, their first 200-yard game since Oct. 5, 2003, against Oakland.
Like Peterson, Forte will face a strong run defense. The Vikings give up 70.4 rushing yards per game to rank second in the NFL, and they held Forte to 56 yards on 20 carries last month.
Minnesota also will have defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams for Sunday's game. The linemen face looming suspensions for testing positive for a banned diuretic, but the NFL is expected to announce those penalties next week. With both of them on the roster since the start of 2005, the Vikings have allowed three 100-yard rushers in the past 59 games.
Kyle Orton comes into Sunday's game with a streak of 186 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. Orton, who has four interceptions this season, hasn't had a pass picked off in the last six games, the last coming Oct. 28 in the third quarter against Philadelphia.
The Vikings have intercepted only eight passes in 11 games this season, and in four meetings, Orton has thrown two versus Minnesota.
Chicago's pass defense, meanwhile, will be without one key member with Nathan Vasher having to sit out due to a broken right hand, though he also missed the first meeting versus the Vikings with an injury.
The Bears are looking to sweep the season series with Minnesota for the second time in three years after losing both meetings in 2007. Chicago, though, has dropped five of six at the Metrodome, including a 20-13 loss last season.
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Posted: 11/25/08 9:02PM ET