For the third consecutive week, the Bears will be without two defensive starters and could also be without a key offensive starter.
Linebackers Lance Briggs (ribs) and Jon Bostic (back) are both doubtful after practicing on a limited basis all week. Both appear to be on track to return following the Bears' Week 9 bye.
Rookie Christian Jones will start at weak-side linebacker over Khaseem Greene, according to Tribune's Brad Biggs. Shea McClellin will start at strongside with D.J. Williams playing in the base package and Darryl Sharpton coming in on nickel downs.
Jordan Mills is listed as questionable after being limited this week with a lingering foot injury. Head coach Marc Trestman calls Mills' injury a "problem." Michael Ola will start in his place at right tackle if he can't suit up.
Cornerback Kyle Fuller is listed as probable with hand and hip injuries he suffered in last week's loss to Miami. It was first thought that Fuller would wear a plastic brace on his broken right hand, but Trestman thinks he might not even need to wear it.
Safety Chris Conte returns after sitting out last week's game with an ongoing shoulder issue. Also, Danny McCray (knee) has been ruled out, so rookie Brock Vereen will be the third safety on Sunday.
The Bears are as healthy as they've been all season. This Sunday's matchup in New England is crucial as they near the mid-point of the 2014 season.
This is a tough one, but if they can squeak one out they will be in a much better place following their Week 9 bye.
These are five players to watch when the Bears trave to New England to take on the Patriots this Sunday.
Since reeling in interceptions in the first two weeks of the season, Conte has just 10 tackles in five games. He's only been able to make it through two of his six starts, struggling with concussions and an ongoing shoulder issue from last season. Despite the fact that Conte takes some bizarre angles in coverage, he's still the best option at free safety for the Bears. Rookie Brock Vereen has a chance to be successful, but he is too raw and didn't do himself any favors in last week's loss. If the Bears' pass rush can be successful on Sunday in New England, so can Conte. He thrives off bad throws, unfortunately Tom Brady doesn't make many of those. Conte needs a big game this week to boost this defensive unit, which is 19th against the pass.
Forte leads the NFL with 52 receptions. He set career-highs in receptions (74) and receiving yards (594) in 2013 and appears to be on pace to shatter those records very soon if he keeps getting fed the ball. Forte has 884 yards from scrimmage and five total touchdowns in seven games. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer admitted this week that if the Bears earn more offensive plays then rookie Ka'Deem Carey will get a chance to spell Forte. For now Forte is an elusive back, who can make defenses miss on screen passes, slant routes and out of the backfield running to the outside. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick called Forte "one of the best backs in the league, maybe the best back in the league" on Thursday.
Fuller will start opposite Tim Jennings despite his hip pointer and broken right hand. He could opt to wear a plastic brace on his hand, but if chooses not to it would free up more chances for him to haul in interceptions or deflect passes. Fuller has 11 tackles, a forced fumble and two pass breakups over the past three weeks. The Bears' defense struggled without him in the second half of last week's loss. Fuller is still maturing as a player, but like Conte he is the best option the Bears have at a thin position. Fuller will have his hands full going up against Brady, but he should be able to matchup well with New England's top two wideouts, Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell.
Marshall is fresh off a six-catch, 48-yard performance accompanied by a post game outburst after the loss to Miami. “The only thing I regret is that the door wasn’t closed. I wouldn’t change any of my reactions, because they came from my heart and that’s how I felt and that’s how I still feel," Marshall said on Tuesday's episode of Inside the NFL. This week Marshall squares off against the NFL's top pass defense. The Patriots allow a league-low 208 passing yards per game and only 19 plays of 20 yards or more, which is ninth best. The Bears' offense has just 19 plays of 20 yards or more after having 66 last season. Marshall will see a mixture of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Both are physical corners, who have all the tools to excel against the lenghty Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. This is a tough matchup for Marshall, who will most certainly be playing with a chip on his shoulder.
The 26-year-old appears to be on track to make his sixth start this season with Jordan Mills (foot) likely being held out. If Ola starts at right tackle, this will be the third different position he will start at this season. He has proven to be very versatile something the Bears lacked last season in a sixth lineman. With defensive end Chandler Jones out, Ola and the Bears catch a break, but the Patriots still have some steady pass rushers in Rob Ninkovich, Chris Jones and the never too old Vince Wilfork. Mills has struggled the past two weeks with pre-snap penalties and with his blocks, so Ola end up being an upgrade in this big matchup.
Thoughts on the five players to watch? Make sure to leave a comment below.
Forte's Latest Appearance In Fantasy Football Web Series
Here is Episode 8 of Tough Season 2, a 13-episode spoof series premise revolves around perennial fantasy football loser Blevins (actor Tim Baltz) using Lenovo’s Yoga 2 Pro and support from NFL stars to defend his first-ever office fantasy title.
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