Just when you think you have the season figured out and the Bears put up a fairly convincing win, they drop the big bombshell on us about Jay Cutler being done potentially for the remainder of the regular season. So that changes quite a bit about how we look at our team, especially in the context of our opponents. There were plenty of good things to take out of Sunday's game as far as the guys that actually will be playing, so we will have to see how many of those will carry over.
I'm not as worried about the possibility of a quarterback controversy if the Bears pick up Kyle Orton. Hanie's going to have the first chance, and it's his first career start - all we've seen of him is relief appearances and 1 TD to 2 INTs against Green Bay in the NFCCG, so I'm not expecting any sort of All-Pro numbers, and if he doesn't perform, the Bears will move on to their next guy. We'll see what happens.
With that, let's move on to our next opponent, the Oakland Raiders...
What'd They Do Last Year: 8-8, 3rd in the AFC West
So Far This Season: The Raiders currently sit at 6-4 and first place in the AFC West and traded two high draft picks for Carson Palmer, who's been pretty good since ascending to the starting role.
When Last We Met: The Bears went to the Black Hole in week 10 of 2007 and came away with the victory, 17-6. Cedric Benson picked up a touchdown and 72 yards on 28 carries. Rex Grossman and Brian Griese shared duties, with Grossman picking up a touchdown and Griese completing 10 of his 14 throws for 97 yards.
What's At Stake: With a win, the Bears move to 8-3 and maintain their now-tenuous hold on a playoff spot. A loss opens the door for one of the 6-4 teams to pull into a record tie (although the Bears have the tiebreakers, generally - See Kev's post later today for details). Remember, tiebreakers are irrelevant if one of the other teams pulls ahead in record.
The team's current leader in quarterback rating is... Punter Shane Lechler. That is not a joke.
Now back to reality. The Raiders have given time to three quarterbacks this season - Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller, and current starter Carson Palmer. Campbell was injured, Boller was bad, and the team spent two high round draft picks to bring a quarterback who refused to play for his old team to Oakland. But he's come on pretty solidly, for a "retired quarterback." In his four games (3 starts) he's picked up 911 yards on 6 TDs and 7 INTs for an 80.0 quarterback rating and a team-high 15.7 yards per completion. His completion percentage is down a bit, and his interception percentage is way too high, but there's no denying his arm brings a new dimension to Oakland's speedy receivers. Darrius Heyward-Bey has been in and out with injuries, but in his eight games he leads the team with 31 receptions and a 15.4 yards-per-reception, which seems to be about the norm for the receiving corps. Denarius Moore leads all the regular receivers with a 17.1. Michael Bush has filled in ably when Darren McFadden has been injured, and provides a nice ground threat. Also, because it's on people's minds, TE Kevin Boss has 15 receptions for 229 yards and a TD.
Does the name Kamerion Wimbley ring a bell? It should - he's the guy that sacked Cutler four times in the first half of a preseason game last season. And he's leading a strong Oakland pass rush with six sacks. Next up are a pair of defensive tackles, Tommy Kelly and New England castoff Richard Seymour with five sacks apiece. In fact, the Raiders have 27 sacks, with 11 players each notching one. It's a similar unit to New Orleans - a 4-3 but one that employs numerous blitzing linebackers and defensive backs.
If the Bears do this...
Oh, that's right, the Bears have a backup quarterback. You'd think somewhere this week I'd've heard that. Well, either way. The Raiders aren't a particularly ball-hawky group, and they have faced the fourth-most pass attempts in the league, but they're only allowing 5.7 yards per pass attempt, which is 6th in the league, and 5.2 yards per attempt on the ground, the second worst. They've given up 18 touchdowns and are 20th in pass defense, so look for the Bears to open things up in the red zone, but this could be a Fort Barber game in screens and runs while the Bears ease Hanie in.
If the Raiders do this...
Carson Palmer may have a better arm, but he's been okay (19-35, 332, 3 TD, 3 INT vs DEN) and he's been game-manager-pedestrian (17-23, 164 yards, TD against MIN). He's thrown 7 INTs in 4 games and has been sacked 7 times in 4 games. The Raiders should try to go with the classic formula of using their running game to set up the pass, since they're third in the NFL in rushing, and to keep the Bears' "pass rush" at bay.
It's Caleb Hanie's first start, and it should be an interesting one. The Raiders will come at him early and often, but if he's learned anything from Cutler, it's "move" and "throw to Earl." We'll see how well those lessons stuck.