by Carlos Nazario
Well, what do we have here? The Bears are getting some love from the experts? CBS Sports has them ranked 9th overall, Pro Football Talk has them ranked 8th, and ESPN has them ranked 5th. After starting 2-3 (and 3 games behind NFC North leaders Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions), many of those same experts dismissed the Bears’ chances of returning to the playoffs. Since then, however, they have not lost and are now 6-3 with a playoff spot firmly in hand.
The Bears look to keep the good times rolling when they take on the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers come limping into Chicago with a 4-5 record, after having lost 4 games in a row. Granted, all those losses have been by 7 points or less, but they have not been able to make the crucial plays when needed, and quarterback Philip Rivers is having an off-season.
Rivers has 13 touchdowns but has thrown 15 interceptions. That does not bode well for him facing a Bears team that ranks 4th in the league with 13 interceptions, including 4 picks of Detroit’s Matthew Stafford last week. They have also recovered 7 fumbles as well.
After a slow start fueling whispers that the defense was old, the Bears have roared back and are once again playing like the Monsters of the Midway that people are accustomed to seeing. They completely manhandled the Lions last week, to the point where there are now questions about Detroit.
With the great defensive play, the Bears offense did not have to do much. In fact, if you were to tell me that Matt Forte would have 64 yards rushing and Jay Cutler would throw 9-19 for 123 yards and no touchdowns, and the Bears would win in a laugher I would have thought you were on something. That is what happened, though, and it was a sight to be seen.
The Chargers defense comes in ranked 24th against the rush and that puts a smile on Forte’s face. Look for him to add another game on the “Pay Forte” resumé.
Cutler looks so much more comfortable with his college roommate, Earl Bennett, back. Of the 123 passing yards Cutler had, 81 of them went to Bennett. Cutler and Bennett know each other well, and Cutler trusts the sure-handed Bennett to make a catch on a critical play.
The Bears have shut down their opponents’ running game and the Chargers have a mediocre rushing game to begin with, so watch for the Chargers to depend heavily on Rivers’ arm. This will open up many opportunities for the Bears to force turnovers. Also, for the Chargers’ sake, they better not punt to Devin Hester or allow him inside the end zone. The Bears are 11-4 when Hester scores a touchdown. The Bears are hoping he does score and that this trend continues.
Making this game a little bit more intriguing is the Cutler-Rivers rivalry. As a Bronco, Cutler got into it with Rivers on several occasions. He was asked whether or not his relationship with Rivers was smoothed over on Wednesday by reporters and he answered, “I don’t know him. You have his number or something, maybe we can call him up.” My prediction: Bears 30 Chargers 17.