The Cardinals are the ultimate "tale of two teams" of late. They can look like an NFC champion one week and the same old Cardinals the next. Dr. Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde.
So this week we have two teams that have battled each other longer than any other NFL rivalry in existence. Two charter teams that have a history about as "Jekyll and Hyde" as you can imagine.
And here they are, 90 years after their first head-to-head matchup, playing each other in the not-so-typical position where it’s the Cardinals that are coming off a championship season. But as is usually the case, the Bears are a slight favorite.
That’s because the Cardinals are an enigma. A mystery. A conundrum. One week they knock perennial division toughs Seattle into oblivion, or the Giants from conference heavyweight to question mark. The next, they watch their top-ranked rushing defense get rolled over at home by a 2-4 team that they shouldn’t have had that much trouble with.
Much of the same can be said for the Bears. Are they the team that piled up 170 yards on the ground last week? Or are they the team that ranks 26th in the league in rushing? Is Matt Forte the guy that put up 1,200-plus yards last year and the guy that has 211 yards in two games? Or the guy that has amassed 203 in the Bears’ five other games?
Inconsistency also marks the passing game for these teams. Both thought their (re)acquisition of Pro Bowl quarterbacks would launch them into NFC supremacy. There was little doubt that Warner was coming back, his sight-seeing trip of SF on the eve of his re-signing aside. But when the Bears traded for Cutler, he was the official missing link to take Chi-town back to the Promised Land.
But both passing games have struggled at times and been OK at others. Cutler has thrown as many picks as touchdown passes (11). Meanwhile, Warner set an accuracy record one week and a pick-fest the next.
Both teams will have one of their top receivers playing hurt, if at all. Anquan Boldin has missed much of practice this week, and Bears emerging wideout threat Devin Hester is also listed as questionable. The Cards can cover for Boldin’s absence better than the Bears can cover for Hester’s. But that doesn’t make either team a passing academy.
I usually break down these pre-games with "When the so-and-sos have the ball," then add some special teams and coaching thoughts before settling into "The Brady Hunch." But I’m finding that nearly impossible to do this week, with these two teams.
Neither team run blocks particularly well, and both offensive lines have nearly killed their signal-callers in pass blocking at times. Both special teams have been hot and cold. The fans of both have (justifiably) questioned some of the coaching calls.
These teams are about as evenly matched as they could be. The Cardinals have been true road warriors this year and have come back from bad losses to incite the masses with strong games on the road. The Bears just thrashed the Browns last week and have a long history of beating the Big Red.
This should be a close game, and my educated guess here says that whoever turns the ball over less will win. I know that’s not exactly rocket science. But with these two teams playing as inconsistently as they have been all season, nailing down anything "exact" is like nailing Jello to a tree.
That said, The Brady Hunch :
This Was Originally Published on The Cardinals Page on NFL.com BlogBlitz .