After coming off a very (and I mean very) ugly loss to the New York Giants, the Chicago Bears (3-1) travel to play the Carolina Panthers (0-4).
Carolina is struggling. They're starting Jimmy Clausen, a rookie quarterback who has yet to find that he has a Pro Bowl wide receiver in Steve Smith. They are worst in points scored per game with 11.5 and 30th in total yards, averaging 258.2 yards per game. It's an understatement to say that Carolina has offense woes.
On the other hand Chicago's mind is currently filled with uncertainty. Uncertainty about who will be their starting quarterback come Sunday. Jay Cutler left last week's game after being sacked nine times. Cutler had a very limited practice Wednesday and has skipped on his weekly press conferences.
It's safe to say the Bears need Cutler to be healthy come Sunday. I get the feeling that Cutler will start Sunday, but he won't be 100 percent. The Bears are going to have to rely more on their running game. A running game ranked 31st in the league, only averaging 68.8 yards a game.
Carolina's running game is the only thing working for them. DeAngelo Williams leads the rush with Jonathan Stewart behind him. As the season progresses and Jimmy Clausen settles down as the starting quarterback, Steve Smith and the Carolina offense should produce more points.
With the uncertainty of Cutler, judging the Bear's offense is very difficult. Even if Cutler plays, I doubt he'll be dominant or at his full potential.
It's hard to see these two teams scoring a lot even with their above average defenses. Defensively, Chicago has the upper hand only allowing 17 points a game (8th) and 77 rushing yards per game (6th), compared to Carolina's 21.8 points allowed per game (21st) and 113.5 yards allowed per game (19th).
The Bears defense has been rejuvenated from the return of Brian Urlacher, and from the fact that the defense is staying healthy. There's more of a hunger in this year's defense than last year's, and it's definitely showing by the way they're playing.
Something has to give in this game. It's Chicago's game to win, but don't totally take Carolina for granted. They have weapons on the offense, though limited, and could do some damage.
I am picking Chicago to win this one 17-10.