Well, I'm not very confident either of those things improve on Sunday. That's because defensive end Julius Peppers is "Doubtful" after spraining his MCL against the Lions(although he returned to play), and the Bears are benching safeties Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather. Second-year safety Major Wright, and rookie safety Chris Conte will replace them in the starting lineup.
The benching of Meriweather is not a surprise. He's struggled to pick up the Bears' defensive scheme since signing with the Bears on September 4th. He's been burned on some big plays, not stayed with his assignment on plays, been hardly impressive in stopping the run game, etc. Oh, he's also been fined for hits the last two weeks and played like a punk.
Harris' benching is shocking to me though. Yes, he played poorly against the Lions. But it was his first game back from injury that caused him to miss the previous three games. And he had the dreaded task of trying to stop Calvin Johnson.
I'm not excusing his play, but I think at least one more game from him as the starter would be fair. If he continued to struggle, sure, demote him to second-string. But this is a guy that was a second-team All-Pro last season, started for the Bears in Super Bowl XLI, etc. Is his play slipping? Possibly. But I still have much more trust in him than Wright and Conte at the time being.
Still, as I wrote about before the Lions game when talking about how the Bears need Peppers to play better, secondary play looks much better when the pass rush is good, which it hasn't been. And with Peppers likely out for the Vikings game, it's hard to see that improving this week. Thankfully, the Vikings' passing attack is very weak, so the Bears may be able to get by without a very good pass rush and/or safety play for this week anyway.
Peppers isn't the only (likely) big loss on the offensive line this week. Defensive tackle Matt Toeaina(knee) is officially out for the game. So with these two out, the Bears are going to need backups to step up and produce. One of of these players is rookie defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who is expected to get around 25 snaps. Additionally, second-year defensive end Corey Wootton is listed as "Probable" and will likely get a fair share of snaps.
In other Bears injury news, wide receiver Earl Bennett is listed as "Questionable" with a chest injury. It was thought he'd miss at least another game or two and I still expect that to be the case, even though he's finally practicing. Offensive tackle Gabe Carimi is still out, but could be back to face the Buccaneers next week in London.
For the Vikings, cornerback Antoine Winfield(neck) is "Doubtful", and wide receiver Percy Harvin is "Questionable", but the Vikings think he'll be good to go. Former Bear wide receiver Bernard Berrian is expected to be active and start after being inactive last week following a couple of missed team meetings.