The Chicago Bears will try to go 6-1 this Sunday against the 1-5 Carolina Panthers that’s trying to find their way after falling short of expectations. Here’s a preview of the matchup on both sides of the ball.
When the Bears are on offense
Getting the run game going with Matt Forte and Michael Bush should be priority number one. The Bears offensive line didn’t necessary have a great game against the Lions from a run blocking perspective, and they will need to take advantage of a weak defensive front seven that currently ranks 19th in the league defending the run.
The Panthers loss Jon Beason for the year; putting the pressure on first year player Luke Kuechly to be the face of the defense early on in his career. They also gave up on young players Sione Fua and Terrell McClain; both players who have started a lot of games at DT for the Panthers last season.
The Bears have had success in the past running against this Panthers defense, specifically Forte. In last season’s meeting, Forte rushed for 205 yards and a touchdown; the year before that he rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns. You figure that Forte is due for another big game against the Panthers this Sunday.
If the Bears establish the run, it should make things easier for quarterback Jay Cutler and the passing game. It all starts up front with the OL and the key matchup on the trenches is left tackle J’Marcus Webb against defensive end Charles Johnson.
After an embarrassing showing against the Green Bay Packers, Webb has been solid in both pass protection and run blocking. Despite the monster performance against the Atlanta Falcons, Johnson has been invisible this season and is currently not living up to the huge contract he inked last year.
The offensive line has to bounce back from a shaky performance against the Detroit Lions where they gave up 5 sacks.
Cutler and the receivers will need to be sharper in the intermediate passing game against a struggling Panthers secondary that just loss their best corner Chris Gamble for the season. That means you will see a lot of Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Thomas on Brandon Marshall Sunday afternoon. This will be another one of those games where Cutler targets Marshall a lot.
The Bears establishing the run and short-to-intermediate passing game will open them up to take shots against the struggling safety duo of Charles Godfrey and Haruki Nakamura.
When the Bears are on Defense
It’s been a classic sophomore slump for QB Cam Newton. After throwing for 4,000+ yards last season; Newton has struggle this season throwing 1,387 yards, five touchdowns, six interceptions, and a 1-5 record after coming into the season with high expectations.
Despite the slow start, Newton is still a legit gameplan nightmare for the Bears and they know it all so well. In last season’s meeting; Newton threw for 374 yards, one TD, two rushing TD’s and 35 yards rushing.
What makes Newton a tough assignment is that he’s a big physical athlete that can be a nightmare to bring down when he’s running with the football, but he also has a big arm to air secondary’s out.
Newton favorite WR Steve Smith has been a nightmare himself for the Bears secondary, and he will be targeted a lot by Newton Sunday. This will be another test for the young safety duo Chris Conte and Major Wright who have been outstanding this season for the Bears defense.
Other options the Bears defense will be occupied with are WR Brandon Lafell and tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen knows this defense after practicing against it for four years while he was with the Bears and Lafell is a big target capable of moving the chains and providing Newton a big red zone target.
With all that said, the Bears can neutralize the Panthers passing attack by shutting down the run and attacking an offensive line group that outside of Jordan Gross and Ryan Kalil is nothing to write home about. The Bears can’t let DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert get going or else it will be a long day on the defensive side of the ball.
The Bears want to be in a situation where they make the Panthers offense one dimensional. This is where the D-Line can pin their ears back and attack a struggling pass blocking unit in the Panthers.
Prediction: Bears 21 Panthers 10