MINNEAPOLIS - NFL outdoor football will return to Minnesota for the first time in 29 years this coming week, though that wasn't the intended plan.
With their normal facility still undergoing repairs, the Minnesota Vikings will take on the Chicago Bears this Monday night at the University of Minnesota's TCF Stadium in a Week 15 divisional showdown that could declare this year's champion of the NFC North.
A severe winter storm that dropped 17 inches of snow on the Minneapolis area last week caused the roof of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to collapse and damaged the stadium's ceiling in several places. As a result, the Vikings will move Monday's tilt to the nearby college venue for the franchise's first outdoor home game since Dec. 20, 1981, when Minnesota dropped a 10-6 decision to Kansas City in the final contest held at Metropolitan Stadium.
The Metrodome's unplayable conditions had forced the Vikings to play last week's originally-scheduled home date with the New York Giants at the neutral setting of Detroit's Ford Field, where Minnesota had a two-game winning streak under interim head coach Leslie Frazier halted with a 21-3 loss in a game that will be best remembered as the one that ended Brett Favre's epic run of 297 consecutive regular-season starts.
It appears Favre is about to begin a different sort of streak this week, as the sprained shoulder the legendary quarterback suffered in a Week 13 victory over Buffalo isn't expected to heal sufficiently enough to allow him to play on Monday. Backup Tarvaris Jackson is definitely out after landing on injured reserve Thursday with a sprained toe he sustained in the loss to the Giants, meaning the Vikings will likely put the offense in the hands of unproven rookie Joe Webb.
Webb, an athletic sixth-round pick of Minnesota in April's draft who rushed for over 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns during his senior year at UAB, completed 2- of-5 passes for eight yards and added a 16-yard scramble after taking over for Jackson in the latter stages of last week's setback. His understudy for Monday's matchup will be journeyman Patrick Ramsey, signed by the Vikings on Wednesday.
The raw 24-year-old's first extended NFL action will come against a Chicago defense that's been one of the league's best this season, but was shredded for 475 total yards by Tom Brady and the high-powered New England Patriots last Sunday in a 36-7 thrashing at Soldier Field that ended the current NFC North leaders' five-game unbeaten streak.
One of those wins came at the expense of the Vikings in Chicago during Week 10, with the Bears limiting their longtime rivals to 240 total yards and intercepting Favre three times en route to a 27-13 verdict.
Chicago does remain in good position in its quest for a first NFC North title and postseason appearance since 2006, and can clinch the division crown by defeating the Vikings and if second-place Green Bay loses at New England on Sunday. The Bears enter this week's slate with a one-game edge on the Packers in the standings.