The Carolina Panthers (1-5) are having a tumultuous season thus far, and things won’t get any better for them this week as they have to travel to Solider Field and face the Chicago Bears (5-1), who are quietly one of the top three teams in the NFL this season. The Panthers enter the game coming off of a tough 19-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys last week while the Bears are riding high following their 13-7 victory over the Detroit Lions.
Chicago has been playing outstanding on the defensive side of the football this season, and rank first in the league in points allowed per game (13 points), rushing yards allowed per game (71 yards), forced turnovers (21, 14 interceptions and 7 fumble recoveries), giveaway/takeaway difference (+13) and defensive touchdowns scored (5) and are sixth total offensive yards per game (299.3 yards) and 16th in passing yards allowed per game (228.3 yards). Their offense is doing a solid job as well, ranking eighth in points scored per game (27 points), ninth in rushing yards gained per game (131.5 yards) but are just 23rd in total offensive yards gained per game (337.8 yards) and 26th in passing yards gained per game (206.3 yards).
The Bears two-headed attack at running back Matt Forte and Michael Bush may just be the best combo in the NFL, having combined for 608 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 144 carries this season. These two not only move the chains for the Bears offense, but they also control the game with their physical and bruising running styles. Jay Cutler has played better as of late and is also crucial for the Bears offense to operate properly. This season Cutler has passed for 1,359 yards, eight touchdowns, seven interceptions and completed 56.7% of his attempts. In this game, he will look to hook with his main target Brandon Marshall (41 receptions for 577 yards and 4 TD) as he has done all year. Linebacker Lance Briggs is having a Defensive Player of the Year worthy season so far with 37 tackles, one sack, two tackles for a loss, six pass deflections, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns. Expect Briggs to have another fine game this week against a Carolina offense who can’t seem to do anything correctly.
Speaking of the Panthers offense, they need to produce this week better than have all season. Carolina ranks 24th in total offensive yards gained per game (335.5 yards), 22nd in passing yards gained per game (221.8 yards), 13th in rushing yards gained per game (113.7 yards) and 28th in points scored per game (17.7 points). Their defense isn’t doing much of a better job however, and rank 19th in both passing yards allowed per game (245.8 yards) and rushing yards allowed per game (120.3 yards), 20th in points allowed per game (24 points) and 21st in total offensive yards allowed per game (366.2 yards).
Cam Newton is not having the kind of sophomore season that he intended on having, passing for 1,387 yards, five touchdowns, six interceptions and completing just 58.4% of his attempts along with rushing for 273 yards and three scores on 46 carries. As long as Newton struggles, this entire team will struggle with him, and facing the Bears intelligent defense this week will only frustrate the second-year signal caller even more. Newton needs his running game behind him to get it in gear and help him out a bit so everything doesn’t fall on his shoulders. Currently Newton is the team’s leading rusher while DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have combined for a disappointing 319 rushing yards on 85 carries. Carolina’s defense relies on the play of Dwan Edwards (24 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble) and Charles Johnson (18 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble) to make things happen especially when you factor in that as a team, the Panthers have only picked off two passes in six games.
The Panthers don’t stand a chance in this one, the only way the can win is if the Bears have a complete melt down on both sides of the ball and I just don’t see that happening. Chicago wins in a rout 34 – 13.