I wrote a stunning game preview on Wednesday of late week. I was spinning prose like Dickens and finding better videos than Red Tube on its best day. Each time my fingers hit the keyboard I could, for the first time, imagine what Orwell must have felt as he tapped into his old Remington, "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
Then Alex Smith passed his concussion test.
WHY DO I LIKE THE CHICAGO BEARS THIS WEEK?
- I always like the Chicago Bears.
- You think scoring will be easy? Niners allow 14.1 points per game. Bears allow 14.8 points per game. You can't run on either. Can't throw on either. They're good.
- Bears have a +14 turnover ratio. Niners have a +4.
- Vernon Davis has 29 catches, 404 yards and 4 touchdowns.
- Kellen Davis has 11 catches, 150 yards and 2 touchdowns.
- Chicago quarterbacks have been sacked 28 times. San Francisco quarterbacks have been sacked 29 times. Chicago has sacked opposing quarterbacks 26 times. San Francisco has sacked opposing quarterbacks 17 times.
LESS PERTINENT ANALYSIS
- If the Bears run the ball less than thirty times, they will have made a major tactical error.
- Will Evan Rodriguez be moved to full-time tight end? Will Kyle Adams see his snaps increase? Will Matt Spaeth become more involved in the passing game? My answer to all three: no. I think the Bears will give Kellen Davis one more opportunity to be the pass catching threat they require from the TE position. If he fails, he's out.
- I think Jason Campbell will play a conservative, mistake-free game for the most part but I also think he'll take a few deep shots down the field. The return of Alshon Jeffery means those shots will probably go in his direction, not in the direction of Devin Hester.
- I get worried when coaches come down ill midweek and Jim Harbaugh's irregular heartbeat procedure falls into that category. It always adds a certain "let's win this for Jim" element that can not be qualified in normal football prognostication.
- I'm assuming the Bears camp Charles Tillman on his old buddy Randy Moss who - trust me - will want nothing to do with that type of physical battle. That means Tim Jennings will spend most of his evening making sure Michael Crabtree doesn't run wild. Crabtree is finally coming into his own as a wide receiver and he's doing so with a mix of down field receptions and bubble screens/run after the catch. This won't be a night about Jennings intercepting the ball. It will be a night about Jennings tackling.
- Who covers Vernon Davis? (Just a question. No answer.)
- When Jay Cutler went down in 2011 we all complained it would expose the lack of talent around backup Caleb Hanie. It did. There is tremendous skill position talent around Jason Campbell now, especially the big wide receiver. Brandon Marshall should catch ten passes tonight, even if those passes are all within three yards of the line of scrimmage. Get the ball to your playmakers and let them make plays. Marshall is the Bears best playmaker.
BUT JEFF, IT'S THE BACKUP QUARTERBACK!
This is what Marshall did against the league's best corner and Matt Moore as quarterback.
THIS GAME WILL COME DOWN TO SPECIAL TEAMS
I don't hide my love for special teams. I love punting. I love kickoff coverage. I love field position. I love it all. This is an intriguing special teams battle.
Andy Lee is a great punter - both for distance and direction. On a night like Monday night he'll rescue the Niners on 3 or 4 occasions. Adam Podlesh has landed maybe 2 or 3 decent kicks all year, including a nice bouncer inside the five against the Texans. The Bears need to hope Podlesh uses that kick as a springboard. I'm doubtful. Advantage 49ers.
Robbie Gould had an uncharacteristic miss in a clutch situation Sunday night but, hey, I'm letting him slide. He's made too many big kicks in too many big spots to be bothered by a single miss. David Akers is coming off his career year in 2011 but has been awful in 2012, missing 6 kicks through 9 games, including a game-winning 41 yarder against the Rams last week. He missed only 8 in total last year. Advantage Bears.
Return game statistics are always misleading so ignore them. Here's what you need to know. Ted Ginn Jr. and Devin Hester are both capable of scoring every time they touch the ball. Draw.
- Thrive: Cam Worrell blamed Nate Collins for both of the the longer runs on the Texans touchdown drive. Don't think the Niners won't notice. If Collins is active Sunday, and he should be, expect Jim Harbaugh to attack him with Frank Gore in much the same way.
- Survive: Aldon Smith will have to choose between J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi Monday. I think he chooses the latter. Carimi grades out as one of the best run-blocking tackles in the sport but one of the worst pass protectors.
HAVE SOME SINATRA...
The Niners have their starting quarterback tonight. They are coming off a tie, at home, to an inferior team. But I don't trust them to move the ball consistently against the Bears defense and I think Jason Campbell makes just enough plays. (Do I actually think these things? No. I think the Niners will win. But this site has never picked an opponent and we're not starting now!)
Chicago Bears 13, San Francisco 49ers 10