Bears vs Cardinals: Why Bears Can't Fall Asleep on Arizona
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This matchup between two lousy offenses does not portend to be an exciting game on Sunday at the University of Phoenix Stadium. But fans of the Bears may want to stay awake for this one, as their playoff lives depend on it.
Of course, if you are of the ilk that would rather see the Bears lose if that means the firing of Lovie Smith, then the game may not have as much cachet for you. But believe me, Bears fans, GM Phil Emery will not base his decision just on the outcome of two games against bad teams (Arizona and Detroit).
Sunday's game, on the surface, would appear to be a very winnable game for the Bears. But as poorly as Arizona has looked at times this season, they are 4-3 at home and coming off a blowout against a Detroit team that the Bears barely beat back in October.
If you look at common opponents, Arizona and Chicago share one very eerie similarity. They each lost 21-14 at Minnesota. And while the Bears eked out a 13-7 win over the Lions at home, the Cardinals easily defeated Detroit 38-10 on Sunday.
Don't get me wrong, I understand that the Lions have pretty much given up on the season, so the win is diluted. But it shows that the Cards have not quit.
With the Bears sitting at 3-3 on the road, Arizona's winning home record means Chicago cannot afford to sleep on this team. The Bears would appear to have more talent—as bad as they have been playing it is almost inconceivable that they could lose nine consecutive games like the Cardinals—although they are banged up, of course.
If you look at the numbers from Sunday's win over Detroit, Arizona only impresses in one area: takeaways.
Sound familiar, Bears fans?
You would think that a team scoring 38 points would have had a game star on the offensive side of the ball, but QB Ryan Lindley threw for just 104 yards and had a QB rating of 58.4. He also tossed another interception, meaning he has six picks and hasn't thrown a TD yet this season.
The Cards running game didn't fare much better, averaging a pedestrian 3.4 yards per play on the ground.
But, like the Bears, it was the defense that bailed them out. They intercepted Matthew Stafford three times, returning two for touchdowns. So, if Jay Cutler can stay away from throwing the ball to the other team, the Bears should stand a decent chance of winning this game.
On the other hand, the Bears haven't been beating too many teams of late. They have lost three straight and five of six overall, falling to 8-6.
A loss to Arizona and the season is likely over for the Bears. That means they have more incentive to win but it also means they face more pressure too. It's a double-edged sword to be sure.
But much like Jim Mora's famous response to a reporter's question years ago, I don't want to hear about playoffs. Even if the Bears make the postseason, can anyone—even the most ardent Bears fan—see them winning a game?
In fact, there are many fans who would rather see them not make the playoffs if it means the firing of Lovie Smith. That's a rather sad state of affairs, but it seems to be true.
Arizona's passing game ranks 30th and its running game dead last. But they are fourth defending against the pass, though teams have been able to run on them.
But Matt Forte is not running as well as he did last season, and Michael Bush was placed on IR. Also, there is valid concern that Cutler may not be able to start and/or finish the game on Sunday. He was almost subbed out vs. the Packers on Sunday.
Forte doesn't seem to be as hungry since signing the contract extension, so the Bears may not be able to take advantage of Arizona's problems against the run.
As for the Cardinals, if you recall—in what seemed like an eternity—they actually opened the season by winning their first four games.
They then went on to lose nine consecutive games, including a 58-0 drudging at the hands of Seattle. Yet, just when you thought Arizona had given up, they faced a Lions team that seems to care less than they do.
With these two offenses, whichever team scores first could end up the winner.
Call it the Boring Bowl. Yet it certainly is not boring to anyone who wants to see the Bears make the playoffs, or to Lovie Smith and his staff.
I guarantee you this one won't have the "A" team from Fox calling the game. But the outcome does matter to some people.
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