What was supposed to be a Week 11 NFC playoff preview may turn out to be nothing more than a playoff tease, as Alex Smith is questionable to play and Jay Cutler has been ruled out, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
At the same time, the San Francisco 49ers ended last week in a disappointing tie with divisional opponent St. Louis. In the process of that tie, backup Colin Kaepernick was thrown to the wolves after starter Alex Smith also went down with a concussion.
Both offenses looked out of sync and struggled to move the football without their starting signal callers. This week, they both face similar struggles and will have put similar personnel onto the gridiron in what should be an exciting game of football regardless of the circumstances.
When: Monday, Nov. 19 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, Calif.
Live Stream: WATCH ESPN
Spread: San Francisco -5 (via Covers)
This Monday Night Football matchup has all the makings of an excellent display of old-school football. It should showcase these two defenses even more thanks to injuries to Jay Cutler and Alex Smith.
Both teams’ defenses rank in the top ten of the league, meaning this one is going to be close. Still, the Niners should have the advantage due to their offensive line and running game. San Francisco is averaging a league-high 170 yards per game on the ground.
Go with the 49ers at home to cover the five points, winning by at least one touchdown.
Over/Under: 38.5 (via Covers)
Both Chicago and San Francisco struggled to score points with their backup quarterbacks leading their offenses in Week 10. Even if the starters were going this week, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t score over 38 points because of the physical defenses both teams employ.
The smart bet is that Jason Campbell will be behind center for the Bears, and that means they’ll be playing a conservative game plan focused on Matt Forte and burning clock. Also, keep in mind that both teams rely heavily on their defenses to force turnovers and create favorable field positions for their offenses in order to get points.
The similar styles of these teams and the injuries bode for a low-scoring defensive matchup.
Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 11/15/2012)
WR Alshon Jeffery, Hand, Questionable
QB Jay Cutler, Concussion, Questionable
DE Shea McClellin, Concussion, Questionable
DT Henry Melton, Back, Probable
DT Matt Toeaina, Calf, Questionable
San Francisco 49ers
CB Chris Culliver, Shoulder, Questionable
RB Anthony Dixon, Hamstring, Probable
S Dashon Goldson, Ribs, Probable
LB Tavares Gooden, Elbow/quadriceps, Probable
RB Frank Gore, Ribs/wrist, Probable
WR Mario Manningham, Shoulder, Probable
QB Alex Smith, Concussion, Questionable
DT Will Tukuafu, Wrist, Probable
LB Patrick Willis, Shoulder, Probable
Fantasy Big Plays
Chicago: RB Matt Forte
Matt Forte is coming off of his worst game as a starter in 2012. His miniscule three fantasy points came against one of the top ranked rush defenses in the NFL. I say one of the top because he will face THE top rush defense this week in terms of allowing fantasy points to rushers.
There have been games where they’ve been susceptible to giving up some points, though. Last week, the St. Louis Rams rushers totaled 21 fantasy points by accumulating 159 yards on the ground and one score. They were also beat up by the New York Giants rushing game for 151 yards and one score in Week 6.
There are anomalies there to suggest they aren’t always going to pitch a fantasy shutout on opposing backs. That, plus the fact that Jason Campbell will be starting, means Forte is going to have every opportunity to succeed on Monday night.
Projected Stats: 21 rushes, 103 yards, 0 TD; 6 receptions, 45 yards, 1 TD
San Francisco: RB Frank Gore
Frank Gore has proven that he’s a viable fantasy option against any defense he goes up against. His numbers may not be jumping off the page, but his 12.2 fantasy points per game show he’s a reliable option week in and week out.
Chicago’s rush defense is the third stingiest in holding opposing rushers in check in fantasy terms. That’s mostly due to their ability to keep backs out of the end zone. They’ve allowed just two rushing TDs and only two 100-yard rushers this season. They’ve both come in the past two weeks (141 yards by Tennessee, 129 yards by Houston).
Projected Stats: 22 rushes, 115 yards, 1 TD; 3 receptions, 31 yards, 0 TD
Key to Victory
Ground and Pound
Both teams could be without their starting quarterbacks due to both suffering Week 10 concussions. That means the battle at the line of scrimmage is going to end up being the deciding factor in this one. Sure, the play of the backup quarterbacks will be a factor, but the trenches are where this battle is going to be won and lost.
This one is definitely a tough call, but it comes down to who will be able to control the line-of-scrimmage better. San Francisco is a much more physical team on its offensive line and should be able to create enough running room for Frank Gore to eat yards and clock. That will allow whoever is at quarterback, and the defense, to have a much easier evening at Candlestick Park.
It’ll be close, though, and if Jay Cutler were playing they Bears might have had enough firepower to stretch the 49ers defense. However, with Jason Campbell in there, the Niners are going to be all over the backup quarterback. It might get ugly, too.
Final Score: San Francisco 17, Chicago 10