Week 7 Preview: Bears (3-2) @ Bengals (4-2)

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The Bears take on Cedric Benson, Ocho Cinco and the resurgent Bengals on Sunday, when they visit Cinci for a 3:15pm CT start on Fox.  If you can't catch the game on TV, Ocho Cinco might tweet it live for you.

Week 6 Recap

The Bengals hosted the Texans high flying air attack last Sunday, and got out scored 28-17. Matt Schaub torched the Bengals secondary for 392 yards and 4 TDs... while Carson Palmer's passes only found the endzone once, in trying to keep up with the Houston offense.  The biggest news for the Bengals however, was the loss of NFL sack leader Antwan Odom, who tore his Achilles' tendon, and is out for the remainder of the year.

The Bears littered the field with costly mistakes in a 21-14 road loss to Matt Ryan and the Falcons. The Bears seemingly outplayed the Falcons for much of the game, outgaining Atlanta 373 to 253, and holding the ball for 33:54, compared to 26:06. They forced a handful of three and outs and sustained good drives between the 20's. But, the Bears couldn't overcome two turnovers inside the Falcons 10 yard line... along with a handful of penalties and miscues. 

Quick Numbers:

  • 8.0: Atwan Odom's sack total (out for the remainder of the season), exactly half of the Bengals team sack total (16)
  • 4.2: Cedric Benson's average yards per carry in 2009
  • 8/7: Carson Palmer's TD/INT ratio.
  • #22: The Bengals defensive ranking (total defense).
  • #7: The Bears defensive ranking (total defense).
  • 64.0 and 86.9:  Jay Cutler's completion %, and QB rating... right on pace with his career numbers.
  • 3: Receiving touchdowns for Greg Olsen, in just 15 catches.
  • 50-51: Marvin Lewis' career record.

Key Injuries:

CIN DE Antwan Odom (achilles) IR
ATL S Roy Williams (forearm) Q

CHI LB Brian Urlacher (wrist) IR
CHI LB Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) O

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When the Bengals have the ball.
With a resurgent Cedric Benson leading the charge, the Bengals have put together a more balanced attack than in the past. The team is averaging a nice 4.2 YPC on the ground. When they aren't running the ball, they'll put it in the hands of QB Carson Palmer. Palmer has been battling injuries over the last season or so, but seems to be finally back 100%, and with some good receiving threats in Chad "OchoCinco" Johnson, and Andre Caldwell, the Bengals put together a nice potent offense. Surprising, when it's crunch time, Palmer has been looking Caldwell's way this year. The forgotten men are free agent signing Laverneous Coles (who seems to be fading away fast), and young trouble maker Chris Henry, who is an excellent downfield threat. 

The key matchup: Cedric Benson vs the Bears Front 7
Let's not kid ourselves... this day is all about Cedric Benson, the NFL's #3 leading rusher. Benson will be out to prove something and say "I told you so." However, on the flip side... it also gives everyone on the Bears defense, who never liked Benson to begin with, a chance to finally hit him as a non-teammate. If you recall, a few training camps ago, Brian Urlacher and Mike Brown (the team's captains) laid some huge beatdowns on Benson, who whined about it to the press.

The X factor on offense for the Bengals: OchoCinco
As always, OchoCinco has been stirring up some twitter trash talk all week, and the Bears pass defense has been very kind to opposing #1 WRs.

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When the Bears have the ball.
Jay Cutler, incredibly, is leading this mediocre Bears offense up and down the field between the 20's with ease. However, the Bears continue to stall in the red zone, as the weak offensive line just can't open up holes for Matt Forte in key situations. WRs Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, and Johnny Knox, are developing very nicely under the guidance of Cutler, but the ultimate indicator for success is how involved the TEs get in the passing game. Greg Olsen, Dez Clark, and Kellen Davis are a very nice group.

The key matchup: The Bears O-line vs the Bengals Front 4.
With little reason to respect the Bears run game, it's hard to imagine the Bengals stacking the LOS with 8 men in the box to defend the run. If the Bears line can get into  "attack" mode early, they might actually enjoy some running success this Sunday. The run game, no doubt, was a focus during practice all week, as it simply must improve.

The X Factor on offense for the Bears: TE Greg Olsen
During the bye week, the Bears stated they wanted to get Greg Olsen more involved in the offense. Olsen responded with 5 catches and a TD... and he and Devin Hester led the team in targets with 10 each. When Olsen's heavily involved, it creates one on one opportunities for the Bears receivers.

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Side notes from the NFC North:

Vikings: Spinning the broken record once again (in the pre-season, I warned that the Vikings days of dominant run D was nearing an end, as Pat Williams turns 37 years old), Minnesota's run defense slid down one more spot on the charts this week to #13.They're now allowing 3.9 ypc, down from their #1 ranking in 2008 (3.3). Last week they gave up 4.5 ypc to the Ravens, who eventually abandoned the run game after falling behind, and passed their way back into the game in the 4th quarter. This week, the Vikings go on the road, outdoors, to Pittsburgh... who have been running all over everyone since Rashard Mendenhall took over the starting job. Chalk this one up in the L column for the Vikings, as they barely survived the Ravens, thanks to a missed FG with time expiring. 

Packers: Green Bay had their way with Lions last week, in a 26-0 shutout. However, that poor swiss cheese offensive line allowed another 5 sacks last and another 6 QB hits... to the friggin Lions! That's 25 sacks already on the year! At least they get the Brownies at home this week... that ought to make Aaron Rodgers feel a little better.

Lions:  Poor Detroit has found the injury bug at QB. #1 pick, Matthew Stafford, is still nursing a knee injury (suffered vs the Bears), and to make matter worse, Daunte Culpepper left last week's game with a pulled hamstring. At least they got the bye week to get healthy, but If both QBs are still hurt, Drew friggin Stanton could get a start next week  vs the equally woeful Rams.

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