Ah, what a difference three months make.
In September, Bears at Vikings figured to be another stop on Chicago's easy road to the playoffs; instead, the Bears are in garbage time and the Vikings are whopping 10-point home favorites against their NFC North rivals.
We certainly bought into the accepted view back before Labor Day -- hell, we picked the Bears to go 14-2 and the Vikings to go 5-11.
So, what happened? Well, Chicago was known for its Big Play ability in its 2006 run to (near) glory, but it's been the Vikings riding Big Plays to victory in 2007. The V-Men are a whopping +32 on the BPI, better even than the almighty New England Patriots.
And the Vikings are pretty decent across the board in the Quality Stats, with a low rank of 20th, in Passing Yards Per Attempt. Their defense is pretty average (16th Defensive Hog, 15th Defensive Passer), but they make up for it with takeaways and stiffening in the red zone (No. 2 in Bendability).
The offense is pretty pedestrian as well, just OK on the offensive line and subpar in the passing game. But add rookie RB Adrian Peterson to an average bunch, and you're not so average anymore.
Chicago, on the other hand, is subpar across the board and slipping defensively from week to week. They were No. 1 in the Defensive Hog Index early in the season, now they're 4th. Their Offensive Hogs are a pathetic No. 31, and they're starting third-string QB Kyle Orton tonight despite a 3-3 record with Brian Griese as a starter.
About the best thing that can be said for the Bears is that they've hung fairly tough against Quality Teams this year. They're 1-5, but their last four vs. Quality Opponents have been decided by seven points or fewer.
But with a third-string QB (Orton), a second-string tailback (Adrian Peterson the Lesser) and a bunch of no-names and never-weres holding down spots on the defense, a close game in Minnesota against a hungry Vikings team just doesn't seem too likely.