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Hey, Old Friends: Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers Game Preview

| October 2nd, 2014

I don’t know what to make of the Carolina Panthers. After opening the season with two strong defensive outings and well-earned victories they have been beaten a combined 75-29 by the rather mediocre Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. So with this complete lack of understanding who the Carolina Panthers really are you might ask a simple question…

Why do I like the Chicago Bears this week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

WHY ELSE?

  • Panthers defense was a force a year ago but something is rotten in the state of North Carolina. They are allowing 140 yards a game on the ground and have fewer sacks than the Bears (8-10) after doubling Chicago’s total in 2013. There is very little reason to believe the Bears offense won’t be able to build off their success against Green Bay, run the ball effectively and score quite a few points.

“We’ve got to do things the right way,” Rivera said. “You don’t want to unleash him until he’s ready to be unleashed. We’ve got to listen what the trainers and doctors are saying and then we’ve got to listen to what he’s telling us. Part of it is watching him and seeing how he’s doing things. You just know that he wants to cut loose and do certain things, and you can feel it and a lot of times you see him start to do it. It’s coming, and again we’ve got to do this the right way.”

  • Panthers receiving threats – Benjamin, Cotchery, Olsen – should not be types of players to exploit the Bears secondary deficiencies for big plays and they will use street players in the backfield. This feels like a Panthers offense that will be far better in the second half of the season than the first. Luckily for the Bears, they’re playing the Panthers Sunday.

A BRIEF NOTE ON STEVE SMITH

He is pound-for-pound the best NFL player of my lifetime. I have made that statement in the past and I stand by it now. Carolina letting him walk out the door has to rank among the five most ridiculous decisions in modern NFL history. (Just as Steve.) You know why? Because if he were still on the Panthers I would give the Bears zero chance to stop him and give the Panthers a significant advantage in the game.

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THINGS I SAW DURING PANTHERS/RAVENS

  • Panthers left tackle Byron Bell is not a good football player and Jared Allen should have a field day against him. It won’t take long for the Panthers to start supplying help on that side.
  • Panthers have most success when Cotchery and Olsen are lined up on the slot corner, exploiting the mismatch. I’d be shocked if this were not objective number one against the Bears Sunday.
  • The Panthers missed more tackles in the first quarter than I saw them miss in 2013.
  • Panthers are incredibly susceptible to the perimeter screen game and Ravens attacked there. Carolina’s linebackers are bruisers but they get lost in space/coverage.
  • At 21-7 late in the first half, Flacco throws a perfect pick six to Luke Keuchly. Keuchly drops it. Game changing moment you’d never see on the highlight shows.
  • Carolina’s secondary should have a terrible time with Chicago’s size and physicality. Torrey Smith and Steve Smith manhandled these guys and those are not large fellas.
  • When Cam took off to run he looked his was running in slow motion.

In summation: It would be surprising if Matt Forte did not have a ton of success Sunday both in the run and pass games. This is a tailor made opponent for him.

STATISTICAL SURPRISE

Here is a statistical comparison between two tight ends through the first quarter of the season.

Player One: 32 catches on 41 targets. 340 yards. 10.6 yards per catch. 3 touchdowns.

Player Two: 29 catches on 37 targets. 295 yards. 10.2 yards per catch. 4 touchdowns.

Player One is Jimmy Graham, the unanimous selection as best tight end in the NFL.

Player Two is Martellus Bennett, the guy who was sent home from the Bears this summer for being a lunatic. Right now Bennett is having the greater impact and would be my selection as the league’s All Pro TE through the first quarter of the season.

I EXPECT…

…Jared Allen to register his first sack of the 2014 season early in the game. Allen isn’t playing for the veteran minimum in Chicago and he does not want his season to require validation from PFF grades and readjusted pressures on Tuesday mornings. Sacks are what has defined Allen as one of the premiere pass rushers of the past ten years and sacks will ultimately be what gets him into the Hall of Fame. He sacks Cam Newton before halftime Sunday.

(And yes, if you’re paying attention, I copied and pasted this from the Packers game preview and simply replaced Rodgers with Cam Newton)

I DON’T EXPECT…

…the Bears defense to play anywhere near as poorly as they did a week ago and actually think some of what happened Sunday was an aberration. The Bears had two major injuries along their defensive line, safeties at 75% and faced Aaron Rodgers, desperate for a victory, essentially throwing a perfect game. Cam Newton can’t produce a game like Rodgers did Sunday and he has nowhere near the weapons to create mismatches. Rebound game for Mel Tucker’s crew.

A PADDY POWER GAMBLE

2-2 after nailing that Bears would beat the Packers to 10 points.

Call me crazy but I think 22.5 is a low number for the Bears points total. Panthers defense has had their doors blown off in back-to-back weeks. Bears are averaging nearly 24 a game. I think they hit 30 Sunday.

FINAL SCORE

In three parts.

I. Panthers inability to mount anything in the run game forces Cam Newton and his sub-mediocre offensive line to throw the ball far more than they’d like. Bears pass rush redeems a poor Packers outing by harassing Newton all afternoon.

II. Bears offensive line continues their fine form and anchors the Bears run game to their second successful effort in consecutive weeks.

III. Jay Cutler and the Bears passing attack seal the game as Cutler throws a handful of touchdown passes and no interceptions.

Chicago Bears 30, Carolina Panthers 20

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