Bears Facing a Motivated Vikings Team with Major Weaknesses

Ben Goessling at ESPN describes the Vikings chances of making the playoffs. They’re pretty good.

“The Vikings (8-5) will enter Week 15 as one of only five NFC teams with fewer than seven losses. No matter what happens around the conference in Weeks 15 and 16, they can clinch a playoff spot by winning back-to-back home games against the Chicago Bears and New York Giants. And while they’d be marching into a thicket of tiebreaking procedures if they win only one of their final three, they’d still have a good chance to reach the playoffs, considering the teams chasing them for a wild-card spot are all 6-7 or worse. Essentially, if the Vikings get to nine wins, one of the teams chasing them would have to win out just to be tied with them. And if they get to 10 wins, they’re in no matter what.

“They’re also in control of their own chances to win the NFC North, despite the Green Bay Packers pulling ahead of them in the division with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. If the Vikings win their final three games — including a victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 17 — they would at worst be tied with Green Bay at 11-5 and would win the division by virtue of a better division record (5-1 to 3-3). Even if the Vikings lost to the Bears on Sunday, they’d have a chance to win the division title as long as they’re within a game of the Packers by the time the two teams meet.”

This Sunday, the Bears are facing a motivated team that played pretty well against the Arizona Cardinals last week. But I have my doubts about how capable the Vikings are of showing well down the stretch. They have a miserable offensive line and it will take a successful short passing game an everything their defense could give them to stay competitive with even the teams in the bottom half of the league. Star runningback Adrian Peterson averaged only 3 yards per carry against the Cardinals and it was only 1.68 after he came out with a hot start during the first series.

I was high on the Vikings coming into the season and thought that they had a decent chance to unseat the Packers as the division winners. But I’m afraid that their weaknesses up front will be their downfall. Even with their chances being as good as they are, I can’t imagine that they will go far in the playoffs if they make them at all.

Vic Fangio’s Defense of Shea McClellin Doesn’t Hold Water

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune quotes defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as he defends the play of inside linebacker Shea McClellin:

“Fangio believes McClellin can learn the physicality and explosiveness required to win at the point of attack.

“‘It’s all keying and diagnosing and reaction and instincts and repetitions,’ Fangio said. ‘The more he plays, the more he’ll do better at that.’

That was good enough when the season began and the position was new to McClellin. But we’re in week 15 now and there has been no noticeable improvement in his play. Color commentators that have focused upon the Bears inside linebackers note that there’s far too much running sideline-to-sideline going on. The only player who has shown any ability to diagnose plays fast enough attack up field is undrafted rookie Jonathan Anderson, who has seen far less playing time and had far fewer repetitions than either McClellin or Christain Jones. Linebackers are allowing too much time for offensive linemen to get to the second level and block them out of the play.

I find Fangio’s arguments in McClellin’s favor lacking and I think the fact that we will be seeing John Timu against the Vikings is an indication that the other members of the organization aren’t buying it either.