5 Baltimore Ravens To Watch vs. Chicago Bears
Five Ravens to watch vs. Bears
As they are set to take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday, there are still a lot of questions looming with this team going forward.
One thing I will say about this Ravens team is that if they are to win this game versus the Bears and any other team this season, it is destined to be ugly. There are a plethora of injuries both teams will have to overcome this week, and none more prevalent than the injury to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. His name highlights a busy injury report for both sides in this contest.
Despite Josh McCown starting at quarterback for the Bears this week, not too much of a dropoff is expected as both quarterbacks possess similar skill sets. Baltimore will have to not only have to overcome the weapons at the Bears' disposal, but also sloppy conditions as the current weather forecast shows a strong potential of thunderstorms, rain and wind. This is the type of game the Ravens normally like: an ugly, physical game where running the football and playing good defense takes center stage.
Baltimore has done well on the defensive side of that argument, but running the football has been where the Ravens have left more to be desired. If the Ravens expect to come out of Chicago with a .500 record at 5-5, these five players are going to have to make a difference.
5. Bernard Pierce
Bernard Pierce hasn't been a world-beater for the Ravens this season, but he may be the guy who can be a difference-maker for this offense. Pierce is a change-of-pace back from Ray Rice, but not much has been all that different this season. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said earlier in the week that he will give the ball to the more productive back no matter who it is, but it remains to be seen if Harbaugh deviates from the loyalty he has to Rice. Pierce is a north-south runner who may fit what the Ravens are doing offensively right now more than Rice's shifty nature in the backfield. The Bears are 31st in the league against the run and the Ravens are 30th -- something has to give.
4. Joe Flacco
The Baltimore Ravens have had to rely on quarterback Joe Flacco more than they anticipated in 2013. The weapons at his disposal are not as great as those on the Bears, but given that the Bears are missing five defensive starters this week, the Ravens may be able to have some more offensive success on the road than they have thus far. They are 1-4 on the road and Flacco has struggled mightily with his accuracy. Given the conditions, his ability to create big play may or may not hinder him. That being said, I expect him to have a better game through the air than McCown will for the Bears.
3. James Ihedigbo
Despite having one of the biggest blunders of the year last week, James Ihedigbo played the game of his life in Week 10 as he tallied nine tackles, three passes defended and grabbed his first two career interceptions. He has started to emerge as a serious leader on this defense and he will be vital in stopping this Bears' offense, especially if tight end Martellus Bennett is good to go on Sunday. Ihedigbo has always been known as a hitter, but he has shown improvements in pass coverage and has burdened the slack given up by rookie free safety Matt Elam.
2. Haloti Ngata
It's no secret that Haloti Ngata has been struggling as of late for the Ravens as he is once again battling a knee injury. Ngata hasn't been dreadful up front, but he hasn't been a difference-maker either. The Bears will be a little offensively challenged with McCown at quarterback, but if Ngata can provide pressure up the middle, Chicago may have more of an uphill battle than they anticipated.
1. Elvis Dumervil
For the Ravens to win this game, they are going to have to pressure quarterback Josh McCown. The best way they can do that is with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil on the outside. Dumervil and Suggs have combined for 17.5 sacks -- Chicago has 14 sacks as a team -- and while this Bears' offensive line is improved with guys like Jermon Bushrod up front, there's no reason that, given the expected sloppy footing, Dumervil can't have a big game on Sunday.