The last time the Chicago Bears played the Arizona Cardinals on the road was in the 2006 regular season, which resulted in Chicago winning in their Monday night comeback. That Bears team eventually went on to win the NFC Championship. Six years later, Chicago hopes that they can a get victory in the desert, keep their slim playoff hopes alive, and make a run for another conference title.
The Cardinals started the season winning their first four games, only to go on a nine-game losing streak afterwards. However, Arizona did end their nine-game skid last week. Even though they did get back on the winning track, the Cards still have struggled, especially on offense.
Arizona’s best player, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, only has 674 receiving yards and four touchdowns this season. Fitzgerald’s low numbers are caused by inconstancy at the quarterback position. The Cardinals are playing their third quarterback of the season. Rookie Ryan Lindley has three career starts in the league, has thrown six interceptions, and is still searching for his first touchdown pass as a pro.
Unlike the Cardinals, the Bears have much more at stake in this Week 16 battle. Already missing an opportunity to win the NFC North title, Chicago is now desperately trying to get a firm hold of a wild card berth.
The Bears’ offense is still sputtering, and the only consistent thing going is the connection between quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Chicago’s porous offensive line may find it hard to protect Cutler when facing a Cardinals defense that leads the league in sacks with 52.0.
Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett may be able to play and give Cutler some assistance in the passing game. In addition, a stronger commitment to the running game should benefit the Bears. Running back Matt Forte is quietly on pace for a 1,000-yard season, and the return of Kahlil Bell, who was re-signed earlier this week, should add some spark to the ground attack.
Don’t expect this to be a high-scoring game. The Bears and the Cardinals are ranked 29th and 32nd in the league in total offense respectively. Though both teams have loss more games than they have won in the second half of the season, I believe that Chicago will finally get their act together and pull away with the victory.
I don’t expect the Bears’ offense to make a dramatic turnaround, but I do expect their defense to carry them on their shoulders to the finish line.
Prediction: Bears 17, Cardinals 10
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