Bears vs. 49ers: Who Has the Edge at Every Position Next Monday Night
It looks like we won't be getting the battle of the backups this Monday, as Alex Smith practiced on Thursday and Friday.
Jason Campbell will start for the Bears, though, and there is a tremendous amount of disagreement about what he is capable of amongst fans and media.
With Campbell in the game, it becomes a matchup of, for the most part, two very similar teams. The 49ers are a strong defense with a great running back and a quarterback who can manage a game.
The Bears have a little more flexibility with Campbell as he has the arm to go deeper than Smith. They also have a great running back and the best defense in the league.
It's a pretty even match for the most part.
Here's how the positions look set head-to-head.
Quarterback: Alex Smith vs. Jason Campbell
Not exactly a match on the level of, say, Namath and Unitas. Or Montana vs Elway.
Smith is a fairly smart player who can take care of the ball and keep the chains moving. He's been a bit up and down the last few weeks, and his downfield accuracy isn't tremendous, nor is his arm strength.
Campbell has a good arm and decent accuracy downfield but has some spotty decision-making skills and doesn't have a great track record of succeeding.
That said, if the Bears are down I trust him far more to bring them back with the tools he has (namely Brandon Marshall) than I do Alex Smith.
The 49ers have a great scheme for Smith, but it's not built to come back from behind. The Bears, on the other hand, have more downfield options and a quarterback who can use them.
Running Back: Forte vs. Gore
Forte is a solid option who doesn't get used consistently enough while Gore is the key to the San Fran offense.
Both have tremendous talent, though Gore is on the downside of his career while Forte is in the midst of his prime.
He'll never be as good as Gore, but he's a very good back.
Still, Gore is the guy I'd trust most here if the game was on the line.
Wide Recievers: Crabtree/Moss vs. Marshall/Bennett
I'd swap Bennett out for Jeffery but the rookie might not play, so Bennett it is.
I'd take Bennett, by the way, over Moss any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Moss isn't reliable and not a shade of his old self, while Bennett is limited in terms of ceiling but a guy Campbell can trust.
Between Crabtree and Marshall, it's a little closer but I'd still lean towards the Bears' receiver.
Marshall has really put on a clinic this year while Crabtree—improved though he is—is still not as dynamic or reliable as Marshall.
The Bears definitely have the better weapons here.
Tight End: Davis vs. Davis
It's not even close to a contest here, even if Vernon Davis isn't having the type of year I expected. He's still a tremendous player who can change the course of a game with one play.
So can Kellen Davis, actually. Unfortunately, he does it by dropping a ball, not catching one.
Both lines have their issues, though Chicago's has improved the last few games.
Ultimately though, the 49ers are a more reliable group right now and will likely have a better chance off withstanding the Bears' pass rush than the Bears do the Niners'.
Both defensive lines have tremendous talent along it. At defensive end, the Bears feature Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers as well as Shea McClellin, who may not play due to a concussion sustained last week.
The Niners have Justin Smith, who might be equal to the entire trio of Bears ends, but not a lot else. Steady players but not tremendous ones. It's a very solid group though.
At tackle, the Niners are all right, but not spectacular. The Bears have Henry Melton, who has really been turning in some great games, and Stephen Paea, who normally hangs at the nose tackle and has been excelling there as well.
As a unit, the Niners get more out of the guys they have, but the Bears are deeper and have more raw talent.
Smith is the best end on the field, but the Bears, as a whole, are a better group.
Another talented group for both teams. The Bears, of course, feature Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. Briggs has been great this season, and Urlacher has played well despite being hurt.
Nick Roach and Geno Hayes have also played very well. Again, this is a deep group.
The 49ers are equally deep, with Patrick Willis at middle and Navarro Bowman next to him, while Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks bring some heat off the edge.
It's very close here, but I give the 49ers a slight edge as the level of talent here is more than what the Bears can wheel out.
Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are, quite possibly, the best cornerback tandem in the league right now. They are tremendous in coverage and opportunistic at all times. You can bet that, even though Alex Smith is good protecting the ball, that they will find a way to get a turnover.
Major Wright and Chris Conte have also been playing well at free and strong safety respectively and both hit ball carriers hard and often.
The Niners have some good talent, but it's not in the same class as the Bears group is. Carlos Rogers and Tarrell Brown are all right at the corners while Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson are very good safeties.
As a group though, they lack the talent, depth and level of play the Bears possess.
Both coverage units are solid and can keep the opposition from big returns. The biggest difference here is Devin Hester who is a threat to take a ball to the house on any kick.
The Niners can easily negate him by not kicking in his direction, but that does limit what they can do when getting rid of the ball, which can be as handy as a Hester touchdown.
I have to give a nod to the Niners' staff. Jim Harbaugh has done tremendous work getting more out of Alex Smith than any coach since college. Between Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, this is a well-run offense. If it lacks anything, it's the ability to really stretch the field regularly.
It's been genius though, the way they have run the offense the last two years.
Defensively, the work by Vic Fangio has been very good as well. I'd say it's almost impossible to screw up with talent like this but let's be honest—we've seen teams do it.
For the Bears, Lovie Smith is a solid coach, but a lot of the plans he and offensive coordinator Mike Tice allegedly installed have yet to really come to fruition. There is also an odd lack of originality or variation in the play-calling. Also, it seems to me as if they don't use Forte nearly as consistently as they could.
Defensively, Rod Marinelli has this team humming along. This is the best defense in the league and it's not all about talent, though it has plenty of that. Marinelli has been masterful conducting this group and it shows in the way they play, generate turnovers and step up when they need to.
Very few missteps on the defensive end for this group.
Offensively, both have issues. The 49ers have done a good job getting Alex Smith in a position to succeed but have painted themselves into a bit of a corner due to his skill-set and the limited ability to come from behind, while the Bears' offense has stumbled often, struggled to get the line play up to speed and the play-calling is vanilla.
Which you could say about the Niners as well. I'd call that a push.
Defensively, it's a push as well. Both defenses are well run and well managed. That I say the Bears is a better defense does not take away from how good the 49ers are. These are two excellent defenses and that is a reflection of their coaches.
This will end up with one big play on the defensive side of the ball. I trust the Bears defense to make that play more than the Niners, but it could go either way. The Bears will have to play very smart football on Monday and make sure they keep Campbell protected.
They need to use Forte to hammer at the Niners and wear the defense out, and they need to move the ball (and Marshall) around to keep the fierce Niners defenders jumping.
I have no doubt the Bears defense will get after Smith and take away the short passes he likes—and in fact might even be able to get into the backfield too swiftly for him to get off his quick passes as well.
The Bears can beat this team if they play solid, smart football.
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