Chicago is on a three-game slide while Zona is coming off a shocking win over the Detroit Lions. So, despite the difference in their records, expect Sunday’s action to be a battle.
Here’s what you need to know about that battle.
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
When: Sunday, Dec. 23 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 94 or online at Audio Pass
Betting Line: Chicago by 5.5, according to Bovada
What’s at Stake?
Right now, Chicago is on the playoff bubble, but on the outside looking in. It needs a win to stay alive so the Bears will be in desperation mode, which will be interesting to see given that they have lost four of their last five.
Arizona, on the other hand, doesn’t have much to play for except its head coach. Ken Whisenhunt’s job security may or may not be influenced by the Cards’ final two games of the season.
Bears Injury Report (via ESPN, as of Dec. 18)
Michael Bush (ribs), HB, Injured Reserve
Henry Melton, DE, Questionable
Tim Jennings, CB, Questionable
Earl Bennett (head), WR, Questionable
Matt Toeaina, DT, Injured Reserve
Cardinals Injury Report (via ESPN, as of Dec. 18)
Early Doucet, WR, Questionable
Fantasy Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em and Sleeper
Start: Matt Forte
Forte has taken a notable step back this season. He’s only eclipsed the single-game 100-yard mark twice this season.
Against a Cardinals team that allows 136.5 per game, though, he’s a must start—especially now that he doesn’t have to share carries with Michael Bush.
Sit: Larry Fitzgerald
I don’t care if Ryan Lindley is throwing to Jerry Rice in his prime.
You sit Rice.
Lindley is that pitiful of a passer. His completion percentage is 51.1 and his touchdown-to-interception ratio this season is 0-6. He renders elite fantasy receivers useless.
Sleeper: Beanie Wells
Wells rushed for three touchdowns against the Detroit Lions last week. Sure, Chicago’s run defense is superior to Detroit’s, but it’s obvious the Cards are making an effort to feed Wells the football close to the end zone.
What They’re Saying
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, if the Cards fire Ken Whisenhunt, then Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who called plays in Arizona when it recently went to the Super Bowl, is a likely replacement.
On the other side, Michael C. Wright of ESPN wrote that Alshon Jeffery’s lack of experience has resulted in his recent struggles, especially his drawing of offensive pass interference:
“As a rookie, Jeffery hasn't yet learned the art of being subtle when pushing off defenders. An offseason spent working with Marshall will improve Jeffery in that area.”
Bears Player to Watch: Charles Tillman
Tillman is a bully. And I mean that in a good way.
Peanut has forced 10 fumbles this season. Take that in for a moment. That’s as many forced fumbles as everyone on the Indianapolis Colts’ defense combined.
With Brian Urlacher out, there’s no doubt who the leader is of the Bears’ stop unit.
Cardinals Player to Watch: Daryl Washington
Usually great linebackers are either triple-digit tackle guys or double-digit sack guys—not both.
Washington pushes the envelope.
This season, the heart and soul of Arizona’s defense has recorded 115 tackles and nine sacks. He isn’t there yet, but against the always-shaky Bears offensive line, he could have his double-digit sacks on Monday morning.
Key Matchup: Brandon Marshall vs. Patrick Peterson
Peterson has quickly developed into a shutdown cornerback. He’ll prove to be valuable against a Bears team in which one receiver, Marshall, has literally accounted for 47.5 percent of the completions.
If Peterson puts Marshall on an island, Chicago is in trouble. However, Marshall has caught 107 balls for 1,398 yards and 10 touchdowns, so that’s easier said than done.
On the Hot Seat: Ken Whisenhunt and Lovie Smith
Whisenhunt hasn’t led the Cards to a winning season since they lost the Super Bowl in 2009. After going 8-8 in 2011, they have taken a step back, which most likely won’t be tolerated.
On the other side, Smith had control of a team that was 7-1 and primed to compete for a Super Bowl. Six weeks later, the Bears are 8-6 and in grave danger of watching the playoffs from their homes.
Chicago is the more talented football team. Then again, so were the Lions, and Arizona still found a way to win.
In the Cardinals’ house, picking the upset is tempting, but the Bears have so much more riding on the contest’s outcome that it would be foolish to bet against them.
Chicago by 3
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.