Chicago Bears: Updated Game-by-Game Outlook for 2012
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When the schedule came out in April, the first instinct was to go through game by game and try and predict what they would look like.
Now, with a little over one quarter of the season in the books, some of that has been changed and a little more accurate assessment can be given. Predicting what will happen is still far too hard in a league that offers surprises every week.
Instead of offering a prediction, what can be given is a game-by-game outlook. How important a matchup might be based upon what we know thus far. Go through to view a breakdown of the remaining 11 games and offer your predictions in the comment section.
Week 7: Detroit Lions
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The upstart Lions from last season have faltered so far this year. Right now, their biggest problem is on defense, as they are giving up over 28 points per game—causing their offense to constantly play from behind.
The Bears will face the Lions on Monday Night Football coming off the bye week. The last time these two teams hooked up on the lakefront, the Bears roughed them up on the way to a 37-13 victory. Matthew Stafford was picked off four times in the game.
The Bears are 5-3 under Lovie Smith after bye weeks and 5-1 in the last six seasons. Undoubtedly, the focus will be shutting down star receiver Calvin Johnson, who torched them for five receptions, 130 yards and a touchdown.
The plan will be to get pressure and force Matthew Stafford into a couple of mistakes. Their running game with Mikel Leshoure and Kevin Smith has been close to non-existent. They could have third-year pro Jahvid Best make his season debut, which would be a boost.
Week 8: Carolina Panthers
Julius Peppers and Cam Newton
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Some want to say Cam Newton is going through a sophomore slump, but is he really? He has not had the start from last year, but by no means is he having a bad season.
Right now the Panthers defense is giving up 25 points per game. They have put Newton and the offense in the tough position of having to be one-dimensional and play a come-from behind-game that is not conducive to his style.
Newton cannot be let off the hook though. He has struggled during close games in the fourth quarter and could prove to be the difference against the Bears should it come that far.
Last season the Panthers gave the Bears everything they had.
The Bears held off the Panthers in Week 4 en route to a 34-29 victory. Newton threw for 374 yards and had two rushing touchdowns in that game.
The Bears struggled to contain Newton in that game. That was the first time they saw him and they were not able to sack him at all. Look for that to be the focus this time around as they look to keep Newton in the pocket and either knock him down or force him to turn the ball over.
Week 9: at Tennessee Titans
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Chris Johnson has not seen the Bears since his rookie season back in 2008. He had only eight yards on 14 carries but the Titans still won 21-14.
It was clear Johnson did not scare the Bears then, and they shouldn't be worried this time around either. He has struggled mightily since signing his contract before the start of last season. Tennessee is going nowhere fast as they battle Jacksonville for the bottom spot of the AFC North.
Second-year quarterback Jake Locker is battling a shoulder injury that might keep him out against the Bears. If that is the case, then the team will see an old foe in Matt Hasselbeck.
The Titans are bad all the way around. They struggle to score points on offense and their defense has given up the most points in football. This could be a game where you see Jay Cutler have an offensive explosion as he returns to his old collegiate stomping grounds in Nashville.
Week 10: Houston Texans
This has a chance to be a showdown of epic proportions. What makes it more fun is it will be nationally televised on NBC Sunday Night Football.
The Texans might be the best team in football.
They are certainly the most balanced. Their defense, led by standout defensive lineman J.J. Watt, is ferocious and consistently swarms the line of scrimmage. Their offense is scoring close to 30 points per game all without All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson not having to make a huge impact.
The Bears are going to have to play virtually mistake-free football if they want to beat Houston. Last season around this time they had a tough stretch where they saw the Eagles, Lions and Chargers. They beat them all and made themselves true contenders before finding out about the injury to Jay Cutler.
This could be a serious coming-out party for the Bears.
Right now they are considered a quality team in the NFC, but if they come out and take care of the Texans at home then they will be considered strong Super Bowl favorites going into the stretch run of the season.
Week 11: at San Francisco 49ers
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The Texans are out of the way but it doesn't get any easier in San Francisco on Monday Night Football. The 49ers were one game away from the Super Bowl last year and will look to make a statement against another quality NFC opponent at home.
Here is another defense that just wears you down with their physical play. Like the Texans, it is important for Jay Cutler and the offense to take care of the football and not put their defense in a difficult position.
The last time Cutler and the Bears saw the 49ers, he threw five interceptions in a brutal 10-6 loss on a Thursday night back in 2009. This could be a low-scoring affair again with two dominant defenses.
This game comes on the heels of a playoff push and could come down to the all-important chess match between head coaches Lovie Smith and Jim Harbaugh.
Week 12: Minnesota Vikings
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Not too many people can say with a straight face they thought a Week 12 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings would have serious playoff implications. Nevertheless, that's what this game could shake out to be.
The Vikings have been one of the most surprising stories in the NFL. They have played smart, mistake-free football early on. Christian Ponder has protected the football and Adrian Peterson has made a remarkable recovery from his torn ACL from last season.
It's a long season. It is still very early to get a gauge on whether the Vikings have true staying power. But one thing is for certain: the Bears can not take this team lightly. Adrian Peterson has 12 touchdowns in eight games against the Bears. He has been the key to shutting down the Vikings but a new threat has risen.
Percy Harvin has turned into a star and go-to player for the Vikings.
He is having not only an All-Pro season but is a serious MVP candidate. It will be up to the Bears defense to key in on Harvin, slow him down and force Ponder to go another direction if he wants to beat them.
Week 13: Seattle Seahawks
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The Bears will be looking for payback in a big way.
In that matchup the Bears handled Marshawn Lynch, holding him to only 42 yards on the ground. It was the turnovers by Hanie that did the Bears in that day. Seattle had two defensive touchdowns and forced five turnovers.
Seattle has a good defense but the Bears' is better. Seattle has a below-average offense and the Bears can put points on the board in a hurry. The Bears are the better team in this game and if they come out and act like that, they should make quick work of Seattle in Soldier Field.
Week 14: at Minnesota Vikings
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Could this second meeting be for a divisional title?
As mentioned before, it is tough to forecast whether the Vikings have staying power or not, but this still could be at the very least a battle for a wild-card spot for Minnesota.
The last couple of seasons, the Bears have had good success in Minnesota. They will bring a two-game winning streak into the Metrodome when this game comes about. In a tough divisional game on the road, the key is always establishing the run to take the crowd out of the game.
It will be interesting to see where both teams are in the standings at this point and what adjustments will be made from the first matchup. Two teams with quality running games and solid defenses might settle the game with their quarterback play. Jay Cutler has the clear advantage there.
Week 15: Green Bay Packers
Brian Urlacher & The Green Bay Packers
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Back in Week 2, the Bears seemed to come out flat on offense and the coaching staff seemed outmatched against Green Bay. The defense was up to the challenge, but that was ultimately not enough as the Packers won 23-10 in Lambeau Field.
The Bears need to come out a different team when these two meet again in Soldier Field. The defense found a way to frustrate Aaron Rodgers and sack him five times. The offense needs to respond and help their defense to win this game.
It's time for Jay Cutler to go out and show he can beat the Packers and take control of the division.
By this time, the offense should have a good feel for what they are trying to do. Cutler, the offensive line, backs and receivers should all be in sync at this point and they need to prove to the Packers and the rest of the league they are an elite group.
Week 16: at Arizona Cardinals
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Like the Vikings, the Cardinals are somewhat of an enigma. By the time Week 16 rolls around we will have a great idea of who the Cardinals are. If they are fighting for a playoff spot then this becomes a big game.
The Bears could come into Arizona looking for a divisional title or even home-field advantage. The Cardinals might be fighting for their playoff lives, and that means the Bears must look to stomp on the conference foe.
Whether it's Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, the Bears will want to put serious pressure on the quarterback and eliminate the big-play threat from Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals put a stingy defense on the field. It's a defense that doesn't give up a ton of points a game and really gets after the quarterback. As long as Mike Tice can keep them off-balanced with his play-calling then the Bears can be successful on the road.
Week 17: at Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford & Julius Peppers
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There is no love lost between these two teams. By the time they meet again for the final game of the season it could be at another level.
Remember the last time these two teams saw each other, Bears cornerback D.J. Moore was ejected from the game for retaliating against Matthew Stafford and a late hit. What happens in the Week 7 meeting could add fuel to an already big fire going into the regular-season finale.
What could fan the flames is the idea of a meaningless game.
Will the Lions be eliminated from the playoffs?
Will the Bears have a berth wrapped up and rest their starters?
Early in the season these two teams are trending in opposite directions and could be on other ends of the spectrum by the time this game rolls around.