NFL Week 14 odds: Chicago at Minnesota

The will have to continue their playoff push without Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher. He suffered a hamstring injury in last week’s overtime loss to Seattle and is likely to miss the rest of the regular season. Urlacher was on the sideline with his right leg wrapped when Sidney Rice scored the winning TD for Seattle. It’s uncertain if he expects to be back for the Dec. 30 season finale in Detroit.

This week’s game against the Vikings would be Nick Roach’s fourth career start at middle linebacker. The Bears also had linebacker Dom DeCicco at Halas Hall on Tuesday and re-signed him for depth at the position. If the playoffs started today, the 8-4 Bears would be the fifth seed against the fourth-seeded and NFC East-leading Giants (7-5) on wild-card weekend Jan. 5-6. Such a scenario would give Urlacher a month to fully recover.

Chicago has dropped three of four and its once-vaunted defense — still ranked second in the NFL in points allowed (16.5 per game) — yielded a season-high 459 yards last Sunday to a Seattle team that entered Week 13 ranked 27th averaging 316.7.

Chicago beat Minnesota just two weeks ago, 28-10 at Soldier Field. Jay Cutler threw for 188 yards and a touchdown after missing a game, and the Bears broke it open early. Brandon Marshall caught 12 passes for 92 yards and became the first Bears receiver since Marty Booker in 2002 to go over 1,000 yards. The defense held Adrian Peterson in check early on, although he finished with 108 yards rushing. Vikings QB Christian Ponder wasn’t much help, going 22 of 43 with 159 yards and a touchdown along with an interception. His favorite target, Percy Harvin, sat out and likely will again sit.

Chicago counts heavily on Marshall to keep its passing game relevant and the Vikings know from their first-hand trial and error two weeks ago that he’s not easily double-teamed. Cutler trusts him to provide a soft landing for risky throws. The Vikings are a better pass-rushing team in their home dome, but need a quick start to truly test Cutler’s reconfigured line. Peterson continues machine-like production for the Vikings even without the offense threatening regularly with the passing game in Harvin’s extended absence. Peterson is the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,446 yards after finishing with 210 last Sunday, including a career-long 82-yard touchdown in a 23-14 loss at Green Bay.

The Vikings’ running game is their bread and butter, while the Bears have been inconsistent defending the run and have been exploited for big numbers in recent weeks. Look for Minnesota offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to design a game plan around a physical ground game to set the tempo. The Bears were slow to react to the Seahawks’ outside runs last week. C John Sullivan will need a hand to escort Bears DT Henry Melton out of inside running lanes and to keep QB Ponder’s sight lines clear for short throws to TE Kyle Rudolph. If Harvin returns, it’ll likely be against Charles Tillman. Chicago will also be without CB Tim Jennings (shoulder), who leads the NFL in interceptions.

WAGERWEB.COM OPENING LINE: Bears -2.5 (39). Check current odds

BEARS NOTES: QB JAY CUTLER aims for 6th win in row vs. Min. In past 5 meetings, is 5-0 with 13 TDs, 5 INTs & 100.9 rating. Incl. playoffs, when he has 100 rating, his teams are 26-1 … RB MATT FORTÉ rushed for 92 yards in last game at Min. Has 963 scrimmage yards & needs 37 to reach 1,000 for 5th consecutive season. RB MICHAEL BUSH had 2 rush TDs in last meeting … WR BRANDON MARSHALL has 75 catches for 968 yards (107.6 per game) & 7 TDs in past 9. Is 5th player in NFL history with 1,000 rec. yard-season with 3 different teams … Bears have allowed 198 points (16.5 per game), 2nd fewest in NFL. Defense has 7 INT-TDs, tied for 3rd most in season in NFL history. CB CHARLES TILLMAN leads NFL with 8 FFs & ties for NFL lead with 2 INT-TDs. LB LANCE BRIGGS also ties for NFL lead with 2 INT-TDs. Since entering NFL in 2003, Tillman has 36 FFs, most by DB. Is only player with 30 INTs (32) & 30 FFs in that span. DE JULIUS PEPPERS blocked FG in last meeting. DT HENRY MELTON leads NFC DTs with 6 sacks.

VIKINGS NOTES: QB CHRISTIAN PONDER is 4-1 in past 5 at home … RB ADRIAN PETERSON rushed for 210 yards last week. Has rushed for 947 yards (157.8 per game) & 6 TDs in past 6. Has 100 rush yards in team-record 6 consecutive games. Has 12 career 150 yard rush games, most by active player. Since 2007, leads NFL with 8,198 rush yards & 72 rush TDs. In 9 career games vs. Chi., has 12 rush TDs & 931 rush yards (103.4 per game) … WR-KR PERCY HARVIN & HOFer GALE SAYERS are only players in NFL history w/ 20 scrim. TDs & 5 KR-TDs in 1st 4 seasons. Harvin, Sayers & TIMMY BROWN are only players in NFL history w/ rush, rec. & KR TD in 3 seasons in row. TE KYLE RUDOLPH aims for 4th in row with TD. Had TD in last meeting … DE JARED ALLEN has 13 sacks in 9 career meetings. Has 4.5 sacks in past 3 vs. Chi. Has 40.5 sacks in past 37. Since entering NFL in 2004, Allen has NFL-best 113.5 sacks. CB ANTOINE WINFIELD had INT in last meeting. Aims for 3rd in row vs. Chi. with FF or INT.

WAGERWEB.COM TRENDS: Vikings are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 games overall. Vikings are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 vs. NFC. Bears are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 meetings. Favorite is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 meetings. Home team is 7-2 ATS in their last 9 meetings.