Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bears look to earn their stripes against Bengals

I don't know if you can have a must-win game when it's Week 7 and you're over .500. But if you can, then the Bears find themselves in that situation this Sunday in Cincinnati.

After all, a loss could send them tumbling to as many as 4.5 games behind the Vikings. And with the Packers likely to stomp on the Browns, the Bears could find themselves in third place in the NFC North. As in, they'd only be ahead of the Lions. As in, uh-oh. While bigger comebacks have surely occurred, a loss this weekend would likely leave the Bears shopping for Wild Card costumes come Halloween.

The Bengals were the "other" surprise team through Week 5 (the Broncos being THE surprise team), scoring wins against the Steelers and Ravens to take over first place in the AFC North. But just when you thought they were going on a Gus Johnson-announced ride to glory, they got beat up by the Texans in a 28-17 home loss. That made them 1-2 at home (compared to 3-0 on the road), which is either a reason for Bears fans to be optimistic, or a reason for them to be extremely fearful given that good teams don't typically lose consistently on their home field.

Keys to the Game

Defensive ends, coming and going. The Bengals' sack leader, Antwon Odom, is going. As in, going on the IR due to a season-ending injury. That should help limit Cincinnati's pash rush. For the Bears, newly acquired Gaines Adams will see action for the first time. He'll get into the rotation at defensive end, meaning Mark Anderson will play fewer snaps. Nice to have some additional depth on the defensive line, since Tommie Harris is unlikely to play.

Slowing down Benson and his bruised ego. Cedric Benson is amped up to face his former team, as evidenced by the shots he's taken at the organization this week. He's piled up the third-most rushing yards in the league to this point, and it could be a bad day for the Bears if they allow him to get his legs moving as fast as his mouth.

Pressure Palmer. You may have noticed that the Bears didn't sack Matt Ryan in last week's loss. But did you realize they didn't even hit him? That's right, not one hit on the opposing QB. Lovie Smith admitted at halftime that he was caught off guard by the hurry-up offense. He admitted after the game that he was caught off guard by Matt Ryan not having two flags hanging from his belt.

R-U-N-N-I-N-G G-A-M-E. I don't care. I don't care if I've said it every week, I'm just going to keep saying it until Matt Forte runs for more than 12 yards. Do I have to spell out the importance of Cutler not having to throw for 300 yards every single week? Because I just did. I literally spelled it out. And Lovie should get Wolfe in there a little more if Forte continues to struggle.

Where'd he come from?

QB Carson Palmer, USC
RB Cedric Benson, Texas
WR Chad Ochocinco, Oregon State
LB Dhani Jones, Michigan
CB Leon Hall, Michigan
CB Morgan Trent, Michigan
S Tom Nelson, Illinois State

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