Five Things to Watch in Bears-Panthers

The Bears Defense Should Continue to Roll
Coming off another impressive performance on Monday night, the Bears face one of the NFL’s worst offenses against Carolina. After allowing 44 points in the first two games of the season, the Bears have allowed only 34 points in the last four games. In that same time span, the Bears defense has scored 35 points.

The Panthers rank 24th in scoring and 28th in total offense. The Bears defense should have no problems with an offense that has been struggling and no true threat other than Cam Newton. Defensive coordinators have figured out how to stop him this year. The two gap system and using a spy have slowed down the 2011 number one overall pick.

Can the Offense Perform in the First Half?
In the last five games, the Bears offense has scored only 26 points in the first half. Against a team like Carolina, letting them hang around gives them confidence that they have a chance to win.

While Brandon Marshall is having a historic season for a Bears Wide Receiver, Jay Cutler’s 78.3 Quarterback Rating ranks just 25th. He has only topped a 90 Passer rating just twice this season.

If he doesn’t play better, teams will be able to key on him and force him into the turnover prone player he was in 2009.

Can The Special Teams Improve?
Lovie Smith called out the special teams before Detroit last week. He was especially displeased with the returns game. With the defense on an unprecedented pace in 2012, the special teams have not lived up to their usual performance.

The Bears ranks 24th in punt returns average and 21st in punt returns yardage. Their kickoff returns team ranks just 16th in 2012. Devin Hester ranks 21st in kickoff e

The Offensive Game Plan
This should be a good game for the Bears to get better. Carolina ranks 19th against both the run and the pass. Their 366 yards allowed per game ranks 21st overall.

Carolina allows 120 yards per game on the ground. Michael Bush and Matt Forte should get plenty of work. Despite that, the Panthers ranks 11th in the NFL having given up just four rushing touchdowns this season. The Panthers give up 245 yards per game.

Can the Bears Continue to Lean on Brandon Marshall
As Jay Cutler continues an up and down season and rookie Alshon Jeffery remains out, can Brandon Marshall continue his torrid pace?

Marshall is on pace to shatter the Bears reception and yardage record for a single season. He has had only one bad game thus far. With Cutler continuing to struggle and no one stepping up in Alshon Jeffery absence, can Marshall continue to put up big numbers. His past history has proven he can, but teams will start to key on him more.

He should have a great game this week, with Carolina equally generous against the run and the pass, but the Bears schedule gets much more difficult in November.

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