The only two remaining charter members of the NFL, the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals—both teams originating from Illinois, ironically enough—will meet for the 89th time in a series that dates back to 1920 this Sunday.
The Cards, at 5-9, are out of playoff contention having lost 10 of their last 11, scoring and average of just 9.5 points per game in each of those losses. (Finally, a team the Bears’ offense can keep up with! Too soon? Sorry.)
But where Arizona lives and dies is atop the shoulders of its defense. The Cardinals feature the NFL’s fourth ranked pass defense and lead the NFL with 22 INTs on the season. The Bears lead the NFL with 37 takeaways, second in INTs with 21.
And while the Chicago group started the season averaging three takeaways per game through their first nine contests, they now only have three total through their last three. The Cardinals on the other hand grabbed four last week alone.
Asking Jay Cutler to win this one for you is, maybe at first glance, an intimidating proposition when one considers the three picks he’s thrown through the Bears’ last two, and the fact that Arizona is holding opposing QBs to an NFL-low 68.0 passer rating on the year.
CB Patrick Peterson, who may be one of the best defensive backs in the League right now, has seven INTs on the season, second only behind Chicago’s Tim Jennings, who has been limited in practice all week and could be questionable heading into the game.
Arizona’s D is allowing 20 points per game this season, to Chicago’s 17.
Like the Bears, the Cardinals have suffered a slew of injuries. All told 16 Cardinals’ players have combined to miss a total of 88 games in 2012.
Arizona has started three separate quarterbacks this season in John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and Ryan Lindley. And if you don’t recognize two of the names on that list, don’t kick yourself for it; you’re not supposed to. I won’t get into the QB issues in AZ, but will just say that Chicago will face Ryan Lindley, who’s made three starts and thrown six INTs to zero TDs.
Which brings me to the reason I think you can, in fact, ask Jay Cutler to go win this one for you . . .
Because if Jay-Frickin’-Cutler can’t go down to Arizona and put up more points than Ryan Lindley when his season is on the line, Bears fans have bigger things to worry about than what Brian Urlacher thinks about them.
Because his season is on the line, folks. It’s win or go home down in sunny Glendale.
As for what I expect to see? I expect to see Mike Tice try to, once again, establish the run. There should be no reason they can’t commit to the ground game in this contest. And, if they do, I expect Jay Cutler to protect the ball and make the plays in between that will get points on the board.
Final score prediction: Bears 17, Cardinals 6
How about a history lesson this time? Me, I like history!
The Cardinals franchise is actually the original Chicago-based professional football team. Prior to 1922, the Cardinals were located on the corner of 61st and Racine, known then as the “Racine” Cardinals. They changed names to the “Chicago” Cardinals after a team from Racine, WI entered the League in 1922.
The Bears, then located in Decatur, IL (just southwest of Champaign), were known as the Staleys before relocating to Chicago in 1921 where they kept their name for one season before the Chicago Bears were born in 1922.
Charles W. Bidwill, who was a senior vice president for the Chicago Bears, actually bought the Cardinals for $50,000 in 1932, a scandalous move considering the two teams were hard-nosed rivals. The Cards relocated to St. Louis, MO in 1960 and finally Arizona in 1988. Bidwill’s family still owns the team to this day.