If you gave me some truth serum, I might admit that I like Ron Rivera more than Lovie Smith. Nope, don't even need the truth serum. Ron Rivers played linebacker for the greatest football team there ever was and coordinated the defense which nearly carried the organization to a second title. He and Thomas Jones were shown the door and the Bears went back into the tank. I know it was not a coincidence. He'll have something to prove Sunday at Soldier Field. I just don't think he has the horses in 2011.
WHY DO I LIKE THE CHICAGO BEARS THIS WEEK?
- I always like the Chicago Bears.
- Defensively the Carolina Panthers just don't possess much to actually frighten this Bears offense. (The Bears offense does a good enough job frightening itself.) They have only five sacks on the season and the Bears should be able to keep Charles Johnson, the most insanely paid player in the NFL, off Cutler's back. With the injuries Carolina has suffered at linebacker any blitzes will cost them big yardage on short throws from Cutler to Forte, Hester...etc.
- The Bears will sell out to stop the run because they know Ron Rivera and Chud are not crazy enough to have Cam Newton put the ball in the air 40 times against a defense that lives off the turnover. The Bears also know the Panthers will see the tape of Starks and Grant running cutbacks free through their second level and will expect the same approach from Williams and Stewart.
- If Newton is going to beat the Bears in the air, he's going to need to connect on the slant routes and under zone stuff he's yet to successfully do as a pro. The QBs that have success against this defense display two distinct qualities: patience and accuracy. You have to wait for that tight end to slide away from the defender in the middle of the field. You have to wait for the receiver to duck into the space between corner and safety. You have to throw the ball into tight spots. Is Cam that kind of player? I don't think so. Certainly not yet.
- Pro Panthers, Volume I. I am not one to read too significantly into the first three weeks but as I wrote yesterday the Bears are getting thrashed by pass-catching tight ends. The Panthers have a good one named Greg Olsen.
- Pro Panthers, Volume II. I still have nightmares of Steve Smith in the 2005 postseason. When he's possessed, he can't be stopped.
- The Bears can't ignore the rushing game for a third consecutive week, can they? I think they'll find themselves with an early lead in this game and run the ball between 25-30 times at least for better than 150 yards.
- The Panthers are registering touchbacks on half their kickoffs. Robbie Gould is 11-14 on touchbacks. That's a rather significant statistic when you consider the weapons Chicago has in the return game, including Dave Toub making the calls. Opponents won't be able to keep the return units off the scoreboard all season.
- There are a few intangibles I think exist here. (1) I think the Bears play their best football when they've been written off. (2) They are even more dominant when they've been written off and face an inferior team. (3) Anger. I think there's a lot of anger in that locker room right now, especially on the defensive end. In 2005, the defense learned quickly they needed to dominate the line of scrimmage and win games on their own. I think they start with that approach Sunday.
Chicago Bears 23, Carolina Panthers 6
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