Chicago Bears vs. Oakland Raiders: 5 Things to Watch
Beyond quarterback play, there are many other factors that will attribute to this week's game against the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders (6-4), are the division leaders in the AFC West and will be looking to further their grip on their division.
Here are five things to watch this week as the Bears travel to Oakland to face the Raiders.
Caleb Hanie's First Start
Caleb Hanie has been the all the buzz on sports radio stations, newspaper articles and on the web as he prepares to take over for the injured Jay Cutler and try and help lead the Bears to their sixth straight victory.
Hanie, who had a strong showing in last year's NFC Championship game after injury to Cutler and ineptitude by Todd Collins, will look to build off that experience and run their offense.
The Bears will most likely rely heavy on the soul of their offense thus far, Matt Forte, which will help alleviate the pressure that Hanie will be up against. Hanie does possess good athleticism and a decent enough arm.
The million dollar question is, will offensive coordinator Mike Martz be willing to adjust his offense to best suit Hanie's abilities? In the past, Martz has been too stubborn to adjust his offense, and after the first few weeks of the season, Martz has started to lean more on his run game.
In the nearly year and half that Jay Cutler was in this offense, it took Martz up until just a few weeks ago to incorporate more rollouts and bootlegs to best compliment Cutler's athleticism and ability to throw on the run.
Will he allow the equally athletic Hanie to do the same? Only time will tell.
Matt Forte's Ability to Find Running Lanes
Whenever a team is forced to use a backup quarterback, immediately the running game becomes a focal point.
Through the team's first 10 games this season, Matt Forte has undoubtedly been the team's most valuable player. Forte has accumulated 926 yards rushing and 465 yards receiving, accounting for more than 40 percent of the team's total offense.
In order for the Bears to take the pressure off of Caleb Hanie, they will need to find running room for Forte. Despite Forte's great numbers on the season, in his previous two games, he has only rushed for 121 total yards. The good thing for the Bears is the fact that the Raiders have given up the eighth most rushing yards in the NFL this season.
Look for the Bears to try and incorporate Forte a bit more than usual this week as they try and get Caleb Hanie more and more comfortable in this offense.
Bears Defense Stopping McFadden/Bush
Before being injured four weeks ago, Darren McFadden was having one of the best seasons of his career. Up until that point, McFadden was leading the league in rushing yards with 614 and four touchdowns.
In his absence, fourth-year veteran Michael Bush has filled his shoes admirably.
As of today, it is not known whether or not McFadden will see the field, but in his absence, Bush has been fantastic.
Including the game McFadden was injured, as well as his three starts since, Bush has rushed for an average of 115 yards in those four games. Bush provides a nice combination of speed and bruising running; that causes headaches for many defenses.
The Bears have played fairly well against the run this year, giving up just the 10th least amount of yards rushing. The Bears will need to rely on rotating their run stoppers up front, and all three linebackers must be prepared to take down the 6'1", 245-pound Bush.
Defensive Line Pressure on Carson Palmer
In order for the Bears defense to succeed in their pass defense, it all starts up front with pressure from their defensive line. The Bears are tied for 26th place in sacks this season, with just 18 total sacks.
In order for the Bears to stop Carson Palmer and the Raiders new found passing game, pressure is will be the name of the game. In recent weeks, the Bears have experimented more with moving Julius Peppers to the inside, matching him up against slower guards, and using Henry Melton on the outside.
Peppers remains to be consistent, regardless of his sack numbers, but in order to slow down Palmer, Peppers, along with Melton, Israel Idonije and the rest of the defensive linemen, will need to get up field and at least put pressure on Palmer, who has been shaky in the past when met with pressure.
Devin Hester Continuing His Return Game Dominance
To steal a line from Bears radio voice Jeff Joniak, "Devin Hester, you are ridiculous." This season, Hester has continued to prove why he is the best return man ever. In 10 games, he has returned two punts and one kickoff for a touchdown.
Hester leads the league with averaging more than 21 yards a punt. When having a weapon like Hester, not only does he have a chance to score every time he touches a football, but when he's not scoring or gaining big yardage on a return, teams will avoid him and kick the ball out of bounds. The Bears will need to capitalize on the field position that Hester provides them.
Regardless of his yard totals, his presence alone should allow the Bears more opportunities to score.