Bears-Vikings: And the winner is...

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Bears-Vikings: And the winner is...

Prior to the season, “View from the Moon” project that the Bears would defeat the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field Sunday and improve their record to 3-4. Now that becomes a difficult call.

The problem is that the Bears are weaker on defense with the loss of starting lineman Jeremiah Ratliff the very week that Adrian Peterson and an emerging quarterback Teddy Bridgewater appear in Chicago.

On the plus side, the teams of John Fox have been among the NFL’s most successful following the bye (10-3) and the Denver Broncos were 4-0 after a bye. Three of those did come with Peyton Manning as Fox’s quarterback, but one was with Tim Tebow under center.

[RELATED: Bears moving into next phase of the post-Jeremiah Ratliff period]

More immediately relevant, opponents are out-gaining but not outscoring the Vikings, who are consistent if not spectacular on defense: Every Minnesota opponent has gained between 320-399 yards. By comparison, the Bears held both Oakland and Kansas City to fewer than 290 total yards, but Detroit rang up 546; the Vikings allowed the Lions 323 and 333 yards in the two wins over Detroit.

But where it matters, the Vikings are winning on points. The Bears and Vikings are both averaging 20 points per game (Minnesota 20.7). But the Bears are 31st in scoring, giving up nearly 30 points per game, while Minnesota is tied for second in scoring defense at 17 per game, a common standard for a good defense, which the Vikings have. Four of Minnesota’s last five opponents have fallen short of scoring 20.

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But the Vikings have lost 13 of their last 14 road meetings with the Bears. Fox has traditionally made very, very good use of the recovery week, now with Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator which further points to a defense picking itself up after the Ratliff chaos. The Bears are getting healthier, particularly on offense with receivers Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal giving quarterback Jay Cutler and coordinator Adam Gase truly dangerous support.

Not a comfortable pick, but the Vikings need to show me they can beat the Bears outside of Minnesota:

Prediction: Bears 21, Vikings 20

Three Bears necessities toward going 3-0 in Jerry's house

Three Bears necessities toward going 3-0 in Jerry's house

The Bears have won both times they've played in Jerry Jones' gargantuan pigskin palace. But that was in 2010 and 2012, the last two times this franchise finished with a winning record. The home team has lost eight straight times there. This matchup actually provides some hope for the offense (despite Jay Cutler's absence), but uncomfortable thoughts defensively, considering Danny Trevathan and Eddie Goldman will be sidelined, with safety Adrian Amos and nickel back Bryce Callahan (concussions) potentially joining them.

1. Tag Hoyer

...with a red non-contact jersey. Not possible, you say? Okay, well this scuffling offensive line needs to get in synch. And quickly. Like the Bears, the Cowboys have just four sacks so far this season. But they did deliver nine hits last week in D.C. on an already-rattled Kirk Cousins. Rod Marinelli's no-name, suspension-thinned defense has allowed fewer points than the Bears. The added concern is Hoyer's lack of work with the only player opponents must game-plan for: Alshon Jeffery, who worked primarily with Cutler throughout training camp. And who knows how much Jeffery (knee) worked at full-speed in practice this week, being held out of Thursday's workout completely. So....

2. Hand off, dump off

There is no time like now to establish the running game. There's Hoyer trying to get comfortable. There's the 4.75 yards per rush the Cowboys defense is allowing. There's the need to keep the Cowboys' offensive weapons off the field against the Bears' banged-up D. Between Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, Ezekiel Elliott, and the best offensive line in the NFL, no matter Dak Prescott looks so comfortable. And when the Bears need to mix up their attempt to pound on the ground, get Zach Miller and Eddie Royal involved with quick-hits through the air.

[SHOP: Get your Bears gear here]

3. Fill up the half-empty glass

Whether this is Dowell Loggains being unable to adjust and be creative enough to the opposition's counter moves, or a coincidental breakdown in execution, the Bears' offense has scored zero points after halftime. We signed off on Houston's talented defense two weeks ago. Three turnovers on the first four possessions lost momentum Monday night. Loggains and company need to find a way to anticipate, execute, and dictate at a much higher level over the final 30 minutes.

**Join Alex Brown, Lance Briggs, Jim Miller and Chris at 6:30 p.m. Sunday night on Comcast SportsNet for "Bears Pregame Live," leading you right up to the 7:30 kickoff on NBC. Then as soon as the second quarter ends, log on to CSNChicago.com for "Bears Halftime Live," as Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over adjustments. And immediately after the game ends, switch back to CSN as the four guys are joined by former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt for 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, live press conferences and locker room interviews from Dallas on "Bears Postgame Live."**

Bears vs. Cowboys: And the winner is...

Bears vs. Cowboys: And the winner is...

Severe conflict here.

The obvious temptation is to succumb to the swelling despair surrounding the Bears and predict a third loss to open the 2016 season. And “View from the Moon” did in fact call this game as a loss back in April. It’s not that easy, however.

The Bears couldn’t be pants’d by two rookie quarterbacks in a row, could they? Dak Prescott got the Dallas Cowboys to a win last Sunday while Carson Wentz was preparing to undo the Bears Monday night. Prescott posted a passer rating of 103.7 in the win at Washington while the Bears were losing their game and their quarterback the next night.

But if the Bears have had their troubles at home under John Fox (1-8), the Cowboys haven’t won a home game without Tony Romo at quarterback since December 2010.

So a contrarian view has taken shape. Brian Hoyer looked awful in training camp and preseason, but Hoyer is a controlled professional in the tradition of Josh McCown, and last year with the Houston Texans put up six games with passer ratings of 94 or better (Cutler had seven for the Bears).

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I do not like the look of the Bears defense without nose tackle Eddie Goldman and with a litany of others (Willie Young, Bryce Callahan, Adrian Amos) at less than 100 percent because of early season injuries. There is little to favor the Bears, which is why bettors placed them as clear underdogs.

But the belief here is that the offense will shed its passive mindset and attack with Jordan Howard and the running game, unlike the first two games. The first two games effectively turned on turnovers, and Hoyer last year had just one game in the 11 he played where he threw more interceptions than touchdown passes, before the meltdown in the playoffs.

If the Bears keep control of the football, they will wear down a mediocre Dallas defense, which is exactly the style of game Fox and Dowell Loggains want.

Bears 17, Cowboys 16

(View from the Moon ’16 record: 1-1)