Week 9 Preview: Cardinals (4-3) @ Bears (4-3)

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In a schedule that sounds like we're turning back the clock to 1925, the Bears and Cardinals kickoff at noon on Sunday in Soldier Field...  re-newing the old Northside vs Southside rivalry. Game on FOX. 

Week 8 Recap

The Cardinals got steam rolled by the Panthers at home, 34-21. Entering the game, Arizona's run D was #1 in the NFL, but Carolina ran for an incredible 270 yards. It wasn't the only incredible feat the Panthers accomplished in this game: they intercepted Kurt Warner 5 times... and for the first time all year, Jake Delhomme didn't turn the ball over (he only attempted 14 passes LOL). When you play the Cardinals, you usually try to play keep away from Warner and Co, but the Panthers played keep away from their own QB to win this one. 

The Bears took care of the woeful Browns at Soldier Field 30-6. However, aside from the final score, there was absolutely nothing impressive about the victory. The Bears, once again, had red zone problems, as their first 3 drives stalled and led to FGs... including one drive that started at the Cleveland 13 yard line after Danieal Manning interception. Manning had a spectacular game... leading the team in tackles, breaking up a pass, intercepting a pass, and recovering a fumble. 

Quick Numbers:

  • 270: Rushing yards the Cardinals allowed to the Panthers last week.
  • 3.5: Matt Forte's pathetic YPC in 2009
  • #7: The Cardinals rushing defensive ranking, falling all the way from #1 after last week
  • 1:  The number of sacks recorded by the Bears defense in their last 3 games. 1.

Key Injuries:

ARI WR Anquan Boldin (right ankle) Q

CHI FS Danieal Manning (back) Q
CHI WR Devin Hester (ankle) Q

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When the Cardinals have the ball.
Kurt Warner is leading another high octane offense, with WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston. What separates Warner from other QBs is his ability to read blitzes, and beat them with a quick release over and over again. Well, the Bears blitz more than just about every team in the NFL... and do it rather unsuccessfully. This should play right into the hands of Warner. And, when the Bears aren't blitzing, they're normally sitting in a very generous zone coverage, where veteran WRs make a killing. Ocho Cinco feasted on the Bears zone coverage a couple weeks ago... and Fitz and Boldin are better.  Sorry folks... but if Warner comes out firing, this could get ugly again... much like the Bengals game.

The key matchup: Anquan Boldin vs the Bears back 7
While Larry Fitzgerald is the headliner and deep threat, Boldin is the guy who makes his living underneath and in the middle: exactly where the windows are in the Cover 2. Boldin will find the open spots in this weak zone all day long. 

The X factor on offense for the Cardinals: Beanie Wells
Wells is starting to adapt to the NFL, and finally becoming a staple of the offense. He now leads the team in rushing, despite a few less carries than Tim Hightower, and is starting to look like a feature back. At some point this season, he's going to have "a game." 

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When the Bears have the ball.
Sometime this year... Ron Turner is going to have to allow Jay Cutler to do what he does best: make plays on the move. Now, would be a good time to finally start. The Bears offensive line has been so poor, that it's time to intentionally get Cutler outside of the pocket by design. When Cutler's on the move, he minimizes the Bears weak pass protection, and forces defenses to react, by freezing LBs and DBs who hesitate to commit to the QB or the WRs. Up to this point of the season, the Bears are simply wasting Cutler's best talents. And that's trending in other areas as well...  because they are also wasting the talents of their two RBs Matt Forte and Garret Wolfe, by continually asking them to run between the tackles of a poor offensive line, when their only running success is coming outside. In the red zone, where the team continues to struggle, Ron Turner must get creative and find a way to create mis-matches. Here's an idea: use your 6'7" TE, Kellen Davis.

The key matchup: Olin Kreutz and Josh Beekman vs Darnell Dockett
Dockett has steadily become one of the better DTs in the league, and is a very disrupting force. With the Bears issues on the line, he could make things difficult for the Bears all afternoon.

The X Factor on offense for the Bears: TE Greg Olsen
As usual... this nod goes to Olsen. When Olsen gets heavily involved, good things happen for the Bears offense.

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Side notes from the NFC North:

Vikings: Minnesota's run defense took another hit the last two weeks, as they are now allowing 4.1 ypc and 94.8 ypg. It feels good to be right about something this year :) They'll have the bye week to work on that, although there's no fountain of youth for Pat Williams to drink out of.

*(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)

Packers: Aaron Rodgers was sacked another 6 times last week... and the Packers O-line let the Vikings record 10 more QB hits on him. It's amazing this man is still standing. This weekend, the Pack switch bays, and head south to take on the Yucs. Rodgers might not be on his back all afternoon this Sunday.

Lions:  Detroit flies out west to Seattle after losing at home last week to the Rams 17-10, in a game they should've won. I doubt we'll be saying the same next Monday morning. Seattle should take of this bad road team rather easily.  

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