Though the luster on this matchup has worn off a bit—with concussions to both starting quarterbacks—the defenses of each team were already set to star in this game. That will not change no matter who is taking snaps.
Bears backup quarterback Jason Campbell will start with Jay Cutler being ruled out for Monday night. How that changes Chicago's game plan remains to be seen, but look for the team to rely on its defense and rushing attack to exit San Francisco victorious.
Matt Forte and Michael Bush create possibly the league's best running back tandem. The Bears would do well to lean on these two in order to mitigate Campbell's exposure to a stout 49ers defense.
San Francisco, on the other hand, still has a decision to make at the quarterback position. But look for a similar attack from the 49ers, regardless of whether or not it is Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick under center.
The big difference for this team will be the health of running back Frank Gore.
Expected to go on Monday night, Gore will look to reduce exposure to his ribs against a Bears defense that is aggressive at the point of attack. How that affects his ability to work the middle of the field will be the key in this game for both teams.
Here is one bold prediction for each team, along with fantasy football "beast or bust" candidates in Monday’s matchup:
Matt Forte and Frank Gore Rush for Less than 100 Yards Combined (Fantasy Busts)
Both the Bears and 49ers pride themselves on playing great defense while minimizing the opposing offense's touches by instituting a sound rushing attack. Though Chicago puts the ball in Cutler's hand to make plays more often than San Francisco does with Smith, the blueprints are quite similar.
With possibly both quarterbacks out on Monday night, the running games will be relied on to carry more than their usual loads. Matt Forte and Frank will receive the lion's share.
However, both teams will be well aware of this going into the game and stop at nothing to force the opponent into traditional non-running situations.
If that is the case, both Forte and Gore will have had the chance for monster performances, but will come up short in doing so.
49ers Special Teams Folds, Allows Hester to Score
The 49ers rank second to last in the NFL in allowing 28.8 yards per kickoff return this season. The team is also yielding 9.6 yards per punt return with a touchdown given up.
The Bears' Devin Hester needs no introduction in the special teams department. Though he has yet to find pay dirt in 2012, his 18 return touchdowns (12 on punts, five on kickoffs and one on a missed field goal) are an NFL record.
The nature of Monday night's game will force the 49ers to key on Hester, but that is no different than at any point in his career so far.
Who will win Monday night's game?
This game could come down to one defining moment. Look for Hester to guarantee he makes his mark.
Defense, Defense, Defense: Fantasy Beast
With both quarterback situations shaky at best, the safe bet would be to assume that this game gets sloppy and is played at a methodical, grind-it-out pace.
While it is a risk to wait until Monday night to play certain players on your fantasy roster, there is typically no hazard in holding off starting a stud defense—especially under circumstances like this.
Both defenses enter Monday night in the top five in total yards allowed and rank 1-2 in points, with both under 15 per game.
It's is expected that neither team will get anything going on offense, which will create frustration and cause mistakes as the game wears on.
With the Bears' ability to score on defense, Hester's knack for special teams scores and the 49ers teeing off an Campbell, look for this game to be played in the teens with plenty of sacks and turnovers to boot.