Cleat Geeks

Bear Down; State of the Bears Week 7

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The Bear Den

Match-up: Carolina Panthers (4-2, First Place in NFC South) vs. Chicago Bears (4th Place in the NFC North)

Location: Solider Field, 12 pm (CT) kickoff

Betting info: Carolina -3, O/U 41

State of the Bears:

The Chicago Bears are coming out fresh off a victory, which now a days does not happen often. The Bears won a game last week that they tried to give away to the Baltimore Ravens. After two terrible Special Teams touchdowns and an overtime that was not needed, Jordan Howard and the Bears Defense were just enough to escape a Baltimore Ravens comeback. The Bears have no drop off in competition with the first place NFC South, Carolina Panthers coming to town. Lead by 2015 MVP Cam Newton, the Panthers look to get back on track after not playing since Thursday of week 6.

This was the first (of hopefully many) Mitch Trubisky wins as starter for the Chicago Bears. Biscuit, as his Bears teammates refer to him as, did not put up the gaudy numbers many NFL elite QBs have put up so far. What he has done though, is spark a Bears team that needed some sort of life. After the injuries kept mounting for the Bears (Kevin White, Cameron Meridith, Quentin Demps, Jarell Freeman, and company) John Fox needed something to jump start his free falling Bears team. (We’ll touch on Foxy later). Trubisky has shown that he has an NFL arm. He has shown poise in the pocket and has shown that he is not afraid to throw on the run. After all, he is missing what many thought to be, his top two targets in White and Meridith. While it has not been all great for the Bears new QB, he has shown a lot of potential, which may be enough for Foxy and OC Dowell Loggains to hang their hat on.

The offense needs a lot of work. But when you have a little Thunder and Lightning with Jordan Howard and rookie running back Tarik Cohen, pound the rock. The Bears offensive line has shown they love to block for the run, led by the Bears interior offensive line of Long, Sitton, and Whitehair. The Bears tackles (say what you want in pass protection) are decent run blockers. The “Foxy Formula” has always been run the ball and play defense. Whether he was in Carolina or Denver, it has always been this way for Fox. This is what the Bears MO looks to be moving forward.

A surprise, to which many have Bears fans have not been surprised to, is the stout Bears defense. Akiem Hicks has been an absolute bull for the Bears 3-4 defense. He has been everything you could ask for as a Nose Tackle in a 3-man front, if not more. He makes the jobs for the two inside backers so much easier. If teams do not double him, they are going to be in trouble, plain and simple. The biggest surprise for the Bears has been the play of former (bust?) first round draft pick Kyle Fuller. The man who many people (including myself) had circled as a bubble guy for a roster spot has come to life the last few weeks. The Ravens attacked him early and often, and Fuller was up for the challenge. Fuller has had a lot to prove and boy has he. The Bears really missed Danny Trevathan inside against Minnesota. It was nice to see the LB who was suspended for 1 game back in the lineup.

It is a shame the box score does not show how good the Bears defense really played. Two Special Team’s touchdowns (14 points) and a short field after a strip-sack does no favor to the Bears defense from the box score. The Bears defense did something they hadn’t done all year last week – intercept the ball, twice. The Bears allowed under 300 yards in total. The most important stat I take away from the game for the Bears is that the Ravens were 3/16 on 3rd downs. The Bears defense got off the field. The Bears also remained stout in the red zone and goal-to-go zone. Baltimore came up 0-2 in these areas. It may be a combination of a little bit of a good defense and a struggling Baltimore offense, but it’s the NFL. Getting off the field is tough and winning on defense is even tougher, nowadays.

Quick Hits Preview:

  • The Bears and the Panthers are no strangers to one another. Both organizations have some ties to one another. I know personally, I will never forget when the Panthers came to town in 2005 and beat the Bears in the playoffs. Steve Smith sliding down the goal post is something I hated at the time. Looking back on it, that was pretty cool.
  • John Fox takes on his twice removed former team, the Panthers. You have to bet he is going to be fired up about coaching against Riverboat Ron. Riverboat Ron will be returning home to the team that let him go (fired him) as their defensive coordinator in 2007. Both of these coaches will want a little revenge.
  • Super Cam seems to be back. A (more) healthy Newton has taken shape the last couple of weeks. Newton loves the big play and the Panthers are very potent at any time for one. The Bears will have a shot if they can limit these types of plays. The Bears will have to play their bend don’t break defense and make the Panthers work for whatever they get.
  • It’s also shame Greg Olsen is not healthy to play back in Chicago. I will never be able to get over the Bears letting him go. You can put all the draft picks aside, all the bad moves aside – letting Greg Olsen go was one of the worst moves the Bears ever made. You know he saw the schedule at the beginning of the year and circled this game. One of the games great TEs and the Bears let him go, for a very small price. Darn you Mike Martz and your offense that doesn’t “utilize” the TE.
  • Speaking of tight ends, Trubisky seems to really like throwing the ball to his tight ends, as his first two touchdown passes have been to Bears tight ends. As we all know the Bears are struggling at the WR position to stay healthy. Might as well look to the other positions you got out there with Miller and Sims at TE. Will we see some packages with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen on the field at the same time this week?
  • The Panthers need this game just as much as the Bears. The Panthers have an opportunity to make some room and keep pace in the division, as Atlanta looks to be struggling and the Saints look to be moving in the right direction. (The Bears choked one away against Atlanta – but that’s another story). There is definitely a lot of pressure on them to win this game – I like the Bears being able to come out loose and play football.
  • Christian McCaffrey seems to be living up to the hype for the Panthers. Though his rushing yards are not where the Panthers would like, he has been very good in the passing game. He is not yet their true every down back they would like him to be, but is on the field for a majority of the time. Jonathan Stewart struggled last week big time – the Panthers really could not get the run game going with him. Look for the Panthers to try and establish the run early to open up the passing game.
  • Luke Kuechly has not practiced all week for the Panthers. It’s a shame one of the game’s best linebackers cannot seem to stay healthy. Kuechly, who missed six games last year due to concussions, it still trying to get back on the field. Unfortunately for him, this is something he is used to.

Predictions

                I do think the Bears keep this one close if they can establish the run game versus a stout Carolina running defense. If the Bears cannot establish the run, they are going to be in a load of trouble. Yes, we all want to see Trubisky sling the ball up and down the field. But let’s be honest, who is he throwing to? If the Bears cannot establish Howard and Cohen early, they’re going to be in trouble. The best defense is a good offense. The Panthers have a lot of explosive players. The Bears need to utilize the clock as much as possible to control the game.

  • I think the Bears keep it close early on, but I think the Panthers will be too much for a banged up Bears team right now.
  • I think the Bears are going to need Trubisky to do some things that he cannot do because of the weapons around him and his lack of experience.
  • The Bears inability to move the ball consecutively and having the defense on the field too much will not lead to a Bears victory.
  • I would pound the Panthers -3 (if you can still get them at that number)

 

Final score: Panthers 27, Bears 17.

 

-I hope I eat my words and we are all drink Bears Kool-Aid on Sunday, but I just don’t see it happening this week.

 

As always,

 

Bear Down

 

AB

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