The 4-1 Chicago Bears, coming off of a 23-6 win over the winless Carolina Panthers, will take on the 2-2 Seattle Seahawks at Soldier field this Sunday.
The Seahawks had a bye week last week and the week before, they played the St. Louis Rams, losing 20-3.
This game puts the Bears hot-and-cold passing offense against one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL; we will also see quarterback Jay Cutler back for the Bears after an one game hiatus, due to the effects of a concussion suffered against the New York Giants.
The Bears will also want to increase their lead over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North after they stumbled against the Redskins last week and have injury problems facing them this week.
Seattle comes into this season with a new head coach in Pete Carroll, a successful college coach (at USC). He has vowed to turn this program around and he has managed to get Seattle to a .500 record, but there is still a lot left for this team to do.
So which team will have the edge on Sunday? Will the Bears be able to win this game and stay ahead of the Packers in the division? What can Seattle do to win this game?
Let’s find out in this, an extended in depth preview of the Bears game against the Seahawks this Sunday.
When the Bears have the Ball
Cutler is back and ready to play once again—the question is can his offensive line protect him?
If the Bears decide to go with the same group that they started against the Panthers, they might have better luck but there will be some changes, again, on the offensive line.
Roberto Garza will be out this coming week (and most likely through the Bear’s bye week on the 31st of October), so the Bears are moving former left tackle Chris Williams to left guard as Garza’s replacement.
Current left tackle Frank Omiyale will remain at that position and Edwin Williams will stay at right guard while J’Marcus Webb will remain at right tackle. Perhaps this will be a combination that works well for the Bears? We will soon find out.
Protection is obviously the biggest issue for the Bears, so protecting Cutler will be their top priority. In order to keep him protected and keep him upright (and healthy), look for the Bears to run the ball and have Cutler throw some quick passes (along with having him take three step drops).
The run will help keep the Seahawks defense honest and will allow the Bear s to use some play action passes to help keep Seattle from blitzing too often—this would greatly benefit their passing game.
Quick three step drops would help take some of the pressure off as well, but do expect the Bears to open the playbook up a little bit against this Seahawks team, a team that is allowing an average of 302 of passing per game. The Bears need to take advantage of this and throw the ball often, gain the lead and win the game.
Still, Chicago cannot abandon the run. After having a lot of success rushing the football against the Panthers, the Bears need to try to establish the run early so that they can take some of that pressure off of Cutler.
Through four games this season, Seattle is allowing a total of 72 yards per game on the ground which is great by any standard. This means that the Bears may not be able to run on the Seahawks, but they at least need to try to see if they can establish something and help keep the pressure off of the offensive line and Cutler.
Look for the Bears to use both running backs Matt Forte and Chester Taylor a lot early in the game to see if they can establish the run. If they can, then look for Chicago to stick with it and keep running the ball. Both Forte and Taylor should also see some passes out of the backfield as the Bears would be wise to utilize the backs as pass catchers in this game.
The Bears wide receivers haven’t been too busy lately and we didn’t get to see much of them in last Sunday’s game against the Panthers.
With Cutler in the lineup, the chances of getting the ball further down the field will increase so guys like Johnny Knox, Devin Hester and Earl Bennett should see some action this Sunday. And if offensive coordinator Mike Martz decides to open things up a bit, these guys could be seeing a lot of passes thrown their way against Seattle.
Another aspect of the Bears game that has gone by the wayside has been throwing to their tight ends. Greg Olsen hasn’t seen much of anything come his way in the past two games and if the Bears want to have success throwing the football, then they need to get Olsen involved. Olsen can work over the middle of the Seahawks defense and catch quick passes which can help take some of the pressure off of Cutler.
Hopefully, Chicago will utilize him this Sunday.
When the Seahawks have the Ball
The Seahawks are a team in transition on offense. They have a few newcomers there (namely newly acquired running back Marshawn Lynch) and they have suffered some injuries that have kept them from developing on that side of the ball.
Quarterback Matt Hasslebeck is starting to show his age and isn’t quite as effective as he once was.
Seattle will be running up against a defense that has been one of the best in the NFL through six games this season. The Bears are currently ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense and have been playing very well (in keeping the team in games and making up for the problems on offense). Can they continue their luck against the Seahawks this Sunday?
Seattle has been using the passing game as their primary method of moving the ball down the field but thanks to the arrival of Lynch (in a trade from Buffalo) the Seahawks may want to get him into the lineup and give him a lot of work.
In looking at their running game, the Seahawks are rushing for an average of 72 yards per game—by NFL standards that is pretty poor.
The Bears defense is allowing teams to rush for around 78 yards per game so the Seahawks shouldn’t be able to get a strong running game going on Sunday forcing them to pass the ball. The Seahawks (remember, they have only played four games) are passing for an average of 197 yards per game which is not strong at all—this plays into the hands of the Bear’s defense as well.
Through five games, Chicago’s defense has been allowing an average of 216 yards of offense through the air. This isn’t bad at all, considering the teams that the Bears have played (hardcore passing teams like the Packers, the Cowboys and the Giants). Can the Bears contain the Seattle passing game?
The Seahawks receiving corps consists of tight end John Carlson (their leader in catches and yards) along with Mike Williams, Golden Tate and Deon Butler. The Bears secondary has been playing pretty well these past few games and matches up well with this group.
Can they help shut down their passing game (and these receivers) and keep the Seahawks from being a threat?
This may sound like a broken record but in order for the Bears to have success against the Seahawks passing game, they have to get pressure on Hasslebeck. The Bears have been getting some decent pressure for the past couple of games thanks to the emergence of Julius Peppers.
Peppers has been able to take some of the heat off of his fellow linemen (especially Israel Idonije) and allowed them to get pressure and sack the quarterback; in addition, Peppers has been able to create turnovers and wreak havoc with offensive linemen so his presence is definitely helping.
The Bears will work to stop the Seahawks running game as well. Chicago’s defense has been very stout against the run (not counting their game against the Giants) and are known as one of the NFL’s best run defenses.
The trio of linebackers that they have, including outside linebackers Lance Briggs and Pisa Tinoisamoa, along with middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, have been doing wonders against the run this season and shouldn’t have much trouble against the Seahawks in this game.
But keep an eye on the health of linebacker Lance Briggs. As of this writing, he has not practiced because of an injury to his ankle (in the Carolina game) but hopefully he will play. If not, Nick Roach or Brian Iwuh, two very capable backups, will take his place.
The Bears got some decent production out of their special teams units against the Panthers and hopes are that they will continue to have the same success. Teams are starting to realize that both Danieal Manning and Devin Hester are very dangerous return specialists and can change the pace of a game quickly. Kicking away from Hester only serves to give the Bears better field position and kicking out the end zone is the only real way to stop Manning.
Robbie Gould has been having a solid season and is back at Soldier Field, where he rarely misses. Punter Brad Maynard has been doing well also and has an average of 39 yards per punt, which is respectable especially for as many times as the Bears have had to punt this season.
Seattle’s featured kicker is Olindo Mare and he is one of the better kickers in the game; however, he does have problems missing clutch kicks from time and may have some trouble if it’s windy in Soldier Field. Their punter, Jon Ryan is averaging 43.2 yards per punt, which is very good in the NFL.
It looks like his punting average might suffer a bit though, in having to kick out of bounds (if the Seahawks choose to go that route) because of Devin Hester.
Both teams list the following players on their injury reports this week:
OLB-Lance Briggs-Ankle-Questionable; OG-Roberto Garza-Knee-Out; S-Major Wright-Hamstring-Out; CB Charles Tillman-Calf-Questionable; QB-Jay Cutler-Concussion-Probable; LB-Brian Urlacher-Groin-Questionable; OT/OG-Chris Williams-Hamstring-Probable.
TE-John Carlson-Personal Matter-Probable; CB-Marcus Trufant-Ankle-Doubtful; DE-Dexter Davis-Hamstring-Doubtful.
With the Bears injuries, it looks as if Briggs is going to miss this game; starting in his place will be Brian Iwuh.
Garza will be replaced by Williams.
It looks as if everyone else, except for Wright, will play in this game.
For the Seahawks, it would be a big loss if Carlson didn’t play; he is their leading receiver and an important target for Hasslebeck.
If Trufant can’t play, this would give the Bears wide receivers and edge against Seattle’s secondary.
Protection, protection, protection. This is something that the Bears have to do in order to keep Cutler safe and the offense moving forward.
Mixing in the run will help and the Bears can run, but the Seahawks definitely will have something to say about that—they are doing well against the run and could shut it down in this game.
Short drops and quick routes will help keep Cutler clean and the offense moving forward.
If the Bears find that the pass rush is getting to be too much, this may be what they decide to do.
Hopefully, Cutler doesn’t get injured in this game.
The wide receivers haven’t been too busy lately but they should be in this game. Expect Martz to try some things in this game that haven’t been tried yet this season in order to open up his playbook and give the Bears some new wrinkles on offense.
With all of the changes happening on the offensive line, let’s hope that this unit can now start to gel together better and come out of this game better. It will be interesting to watch this unit perform against Seattle.
On the defensive side of the ball, it appears as if the Bears will be without Briggs so it could be pretty interesting on defense. The Bears will start Iwuh there and hopefully he will be capable of helping the Bears stop the run and cover his part of the field (which is vital in the cover 2 defense).
The defensive line will be a key part of the Bears being able to beat the Seahawks on Sunday so expect a lot of good things out of Peppers and the rest of his line mates.
The Seahawks have allowed nine sacks so far this season and expect them to allow some more against the Bears on Sunday.
The secondary could get tested again but they should be up to the challenge. As long as they don’t allow any of the Seahawks wide receivers to get past them for big gains, this unit should be fine.
On special teams, the Bears will hope that both Manning and Hester give them good field position as both are very capable assets in the Bear’s arsenal.
The Seahawks have former New York Jet Leon Washington on their special teams and he is doing some good things back there for them. Chicago’s coverage units need to be on the ball in this game.
Coming off of a bye week usually means that teams are well rested and could quite possibly have an advantage over the other team; this hasn’t been the case for Seattle however, as their loss percentage following bye weeks is fairly high. Couple that with some of the injuries that they have had and the Seahawks have definitely lost some of their bite.
The Bears need to work on protecting Cutler and getting the ball down the field through the air. If they can do that and limit their mistakes, they should win this game.
Chicago 24 Seattle 13