The lasting image from the Bears’ trip to San Francisco was 49ers defensive end Aldon Smith running amok.
And now Chicago’s battered offensive line gets to face Jared Allen, Chad Greenway and the Vikings on Sunday at Soldier Field.
No, Minnesota (6-4) is not in San Francisco’s class for creating mayhem with a physically imposing defense. But the way the Bears (7-3) are blocking — make that NOT blocking — for their quarterbacks, just about any team will be a major challenge, whether it’s Jay Cutler back from a concussion, or backup Jason Campbell on the field.
‘‘You’re going to play a great team on their home field, a place that we've struggled at,’’ Greenway said. ‘‘But this is a new year, a new team. And I think we’re going to have a focus going in there that we’re going to give ourselves a chance.
‘‘It’s going to take our best effort. It’s going to take our best game of the year to win out there this week.’’
To get that win, the Vikings figure to emphasize their ace, Adrian Peterson, and the running game, while fitting in throws to Percy Harvin, who also is having a strong season. They must be careful not to fall victim to Chicago’s ball-hawking defense, which did little against the 49ers, but otherwise has been brilliant. The Bears have seven interception returns for TDs and have forced 30 turnovers, the most in the league.
The Vikings don’t get many takeaways, but they can get after quarterbacks. Allen has 13 sacks in eight games against the Bears, including 3 1/2 in last year’s season finale.
Whichever defense sets the tone figures to swing things in its team’s direction.
On Thanksgiving Day, it’s Houston at Detroit and Washington at Dallas in the traditional games, then New England at the New York Jets at night.
Also Sunday, it’s San Francisco at New Orleans; Green Bay at the New York Giants; Atlanta at Tampa Bay; Baltimore at San Diego; Pittsburgh at Cleveland; Denver at Kansas City; Seattle at Miami; Buffalo at Indianapolis; Oakland at Cincinnati; Tennessee at Jacksonville; and St. Louis at Arizona.
The Monday night game has Carolina at Philadelphia.
Houston (9-1) at Detroit (4-6)
After escaping in overtime against Jacksonville, the Texans find themselves as the only team that can clinch a playoff berth in Week 12. A win and losses by the Titans, Dolphins, Jets, Bengals and either the Chargers or Steelers will do it. Got it?
Matt Schaub completed 43 passes for 527 yards, both totals tying for second most in NFL history, and threw for a team-record five TDs against the Jaguars. Andre Johnson had a career-high 273 yards receiving.
Houston never has been 9-1 and has four straight victories overall. It’s also 4-0 on the road.
‘‘It shows the progress we've made,’’ said tight end Owen Daniels, who has been with the franchise for seven of its 11 years of existence. ‘‘A few years ago, it took us until the end of the season to get that ninth win. We’re at that ninth win already.’’
Detroit is at a point where even one defeat likely ends its playoff hopes.
Washington (4-6) at Dallas (5-5)
One of the NFL’s great rivalries is renewed, but it hasn’t been much of a contest on the holiday. Dallas is 6-0 vs. Washington on Thanksgiving Day. It also has won three in a row and six of seven in the series overall.
It has not faced outstanding rookie QB Robert Griffin III yet, though. Griffin’s all-around play makes the Redskins dangerous with the ball, and he was 14 for 15 in a win over the Eagles last week, becoming the first rookie with 200 yards and four TDs passing and 75 yards rushing in the same game.
‘‘It will be fun. I'll see a lot of familiar faces,’’ said Griffin, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2011 at Baylor. ‘‘It’s Cowboys-Redskins or Redskins-Cowboys, whatever way you want to put it. Me being a Texas kid, I know how big the rivalry is and I get my fair shot at it.’’
New England (7-3) at New York Jets (4-6)
Bill Belichick can get his 200th career victory if the Patriots win their fifth in a row. He'd be the eighth coach to reach that level, but New England must do it without star tight end Rob Gronkowski, out with a broken forearm.
‘‘New England is so multiple, they give you sometimes it could be four wides, five wides, could be a bunch of tight ends and all that,’’ Jets coach Rex Ryan said. ‘‘So, we'll see as the game goes how (Gronkowski’s offense) affects them.’’
A victory also pretty much decides the AFC East, not that anyone really expects the Jets, Dolphins or Bills to catch New England.
San Francisco (7-2-1) at New Orleans (5-5)Continued...