The Chicago Bears will grab a share of first place in the NFC North with a win Sunday, but standing in their way is a Minnesota Vikings team that may be playing with renewed confidence after a possibly season-saving win last weekend.
Trying to move into a tie atop the division, the Bears host the Vikings, who look to snap an eight-game road losing streak.
Chicago (5-3) is looking to move into a first-place tie with idle Green Bay in the Bears’ first game against a division opponent since a 20-17 win over the Packers on Sept. 27. The Vikings (3-5) are two games behind Chicago and a game in front of last-place Detroit.
“I like our position,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “We’re not sitting in first place right now, but to me (that’s) because we’ve played one less game than the team that’s up top right now. They don’t play this week. That’s why this game is so big for us.
“We want to matter, and right now, I think you can say the Bears matter.”
After back-to-back home losses, the Bears came out of their bye week with a 22-19 victory over winless Buffalo last Sunday in Toronto.
Jay Cutler(notes) threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett(notes) followed by a two-point conversion to close the scoring with 2:22 left. Chris Harris(notes) then intercepted a pass in the final minute as Buffalo was closing in on field-goal range.
Cutler, who threw four interceptions to DeAngelo Hall(notes) in a 17-14 home loss to Washington on Oct. 24, finished 17 of 30 for 188 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran five times for 39 yards while the much-maligned offensive line finally offered him some protection. Cutler came in having been sacked 27 times, but Buffalo’s defense only recorded one.
That capped a tumultuous week for the Vikings, not only breathing life into their season, but possibly saving embattled coach Brad Childress’ job.
With the team struggling and days following Minnesota’s bizarre decision to cut recently reacquired Randy Moss(notes) after just four games, Brett Favre(notes) helped lead the Vikings back from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit. He finished 36 of 47 for a career-high 446 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Favre said the Vikings are ignoring rumors surrounding Childress’ future while focusing solely on the game.
“Those younger guys in there, they want new contracts, they want to be in the Pro Bowl and the best player at their position,” said Favre, who at times has had his own issues with Childress. “They can’t look at it from, ‘Who’s my coach?’ It’s still football. You have to run routes, you have to block, you have to tackle, you have to make the right reads; you have to overcome adversity.
“A head coach is a head coach. Individually, that’s the way it should be and that’s the way I approach it.”
Favre will look to help the Vikings begin cutting into their deficit this weekend. They have two games left against Chicago and will host the Packers on Nov, 21.
Favre, however, could be without his favorite target Sunday as Percy Harvin(notes) didn’t practice Wednesday due to a migraine. The ailment has been a recurring problem for the receiver, but he had been managing them better this season while stepping up with Sidney Rice(notes) out following offseason hip surgery.
Harvin had nine catches for a career-high 126 yards against the Cardinals, but it’s uncertain if he’ll play Sunday. Rice remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list, and will not be available.
Favre and his receivers might not have to do it all, however. Adrian Peterson, who is third in the league with 107.1 yards rushing per game, has played well against the Bears over his career, averaging 122.2 yards and running for 11 touchdowns in six games.
Minnesota hasn’t won away from home since beating Green Bay on Nov. 1, 2009. The Vikings have also dropped eight of their last nine visits to Chicago.
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