Beginning with Sunday, when the Bears travel to the Music City to face the Titans, the Bears will play six consecutive weeks against opponents boasting top flight running backs on their roster. This weekend, the devil is Chris Johnson, but it gets tougher from there.
Now, that is not necessarily a bad thing, as Chicago has the top defense in the NFL against the run. Still, it will be quite a test for even the most staunch run defense to face, week in and week out, the upper echelon of backs in the league.
Recognizing that, let's take a look at each one in greater detail.
Johnson is not the same back he was in 2009, when he ran for 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns. But the past couple of games seems to have awoken the beast a little, and even though he may have slowed just a bit, he still has excellent speed in the open field.
If the Bears tackle like they did against Carolina, there will be ample opportunities for Johnson to hit his second gear. So, one thing the Bears need to do is wrap up. That isn't the easiest thing to do in a Lovie Smith defense that focuses more on stripping the ball.
Johnson had 21 carries for 99 yards in last week's loss to the Colts. One very telling statistic is that in wins this season Johnson is averaging 6.1 yards per carry. But in losses, he has been held to just a 3.6 yards-per-carry average.
It's easy to forget that despite his achievements, Johnson is still just 27 years old.
On Sunday night in Week 10, the Bears face perhaps their toughest test of the season against a Houston Texans team that is a legitimate candidate for the Super Bowl. And they just happen to have one of the best backs in Arian Foster.
Foster, 26, ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yardage (659), yet averages only 3.9 yards per carry, which is a career low. But the Texans rely on him a lot, and he does have nine touchdowns on the season.
Meanwhile, Foster hasn't fumbled in 167 rushing attempts this season.
Compared to the last two backs, Gore is an old man at 29. But the little (5'9") guy is having a monster season.
Gore is just behind Foster in yardage (656) but is averaging an impressive 5.5 yards a carry. But all the Bears have to do is to look at the Cardinals defensive front to see how to stop Gore.
Gore was held to just 55 yards against Arizona, though he may have still been hampered by a rib injury.
Consecutive games against Houston and San Francisco is a lot to ask for the Bears, but if they win both, all the comments about the Bears not having beaten anyone good will be gone, and they will be number one in every power ranking.
But for that to happen, they will need to stop Foster and Gore in back-to-back weeks on national TV, with the 49ers game on Monday Night Football.
It's a tall order, my friends.
Peterson's 2012 season has been remarkable, especially considering that many doubted he would even play this year or ever be the same following the a nasty injury he suffered late last season.
Yet here he is, leading the NFL in rushing yardage (775). Over the past two weeks Peterson has totaled 276 yards on 38 carries for a 7.1 yard average and two TDs.
Meanwhile, this isn't the 2011 Vikings, and while QB Christian Ponder continues his development, to beat Minnesota requires shutting down Peterson.
The Bears have held him in check each of the past two seasons, so let's hope that trend continues, especially since Chicago plays against him in Weeks 12 and 14.
Sandwiched between two games versus the league's top back in Peterson, the Bears have to face the number two rusher in Marshawn Lynch. Luckily for the Bears, the game is at Soldier Field, because Seattle is a very tough place to play.
Lynch has rushed for 757 yards, with a 4.8 yard average and three touchdowns. Against the Lions last week, Lynch averaged 8.8 yards per carry.
The one good thing about Lynch is that he hasn't been much of a factor in the passing game, having caught just eight balls so far this season.
It's not until Week 15 that the Bears defense gets a break against the top backs in the league. And, even then, they have to face the Packers and QB Aaron Rodgers, though it's unknown if Cedric Benson will be ready to go by then.
So that makes six weeks in a row in which the Bears will have faced one of the top backs in football. The key to winning those games rests on stopping them, and fortunately for Chicago, they are good against the run.
The Bears have allowed the fewest yards against the rush in all of football (545). But versus these studs, the defense will certainly be tested.
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