Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
Kickoff is just a few hours away, so let's get into some specific match-ups for this critical Monday Nighter, pitting the NFC North leading Chicago Bears and the NFC West leading San Francisco 49ers.
Chicago Offense vs. San Francisco Defense (Edge 49ers)
The 49ers have a strong defense, and even with Jay Cutler starting this would have been a tough one to give the Bears.The last time the Bears traveled to San Fran Cutler threw 5 interceptions. I think it's safe to say that Jason Campbell will be more careful with the ball. Campbell was coined Captain Checkdown by a number of "witty" Chicago columnists after his 2nd half performance against the Houston Texans, but in a defensively dominated game, that's OK. I think Campbell's game manager type play is exactly what the Bears want tonight.
The Niners have a physical defense that the struggling Bears offense will labor with all evening. As long as Campbell can limit turnovers, and allow this to become a field position game, the Bears can live with their offense plodding along.
Chicago Defense vs. San Francisco Offense (Edge Bears)
I really liked this match-up, even before Alex Smith was ruled out, but I like it even more now that the inexperienced Colin Kaepernick will be starting for the 49ers.The 49ers have the best rushing attack in the NFL, and the Bears have the 5th best rushing D. Something has to give. I'd expect the Bears to play aggressive on running situations and sit back in zone on passing downs. Look for the Bears to show a lot of 8 in the box, then roll that look into some 3 deep. This may even be a good time to throw a handful of cover 1 looks at the young 49er QB, but with his propensity to scramble, expect a lot of base cover 2 from the Bears.
The Bears should be able to get after the QB with just their front 4. San Francisco has allowed even more sacks than the Bears so far (29-28). The Bears will do their thing on defense, and wait for Kaepernick to make a mistake.
The Special teams edge has to go to the Bears. Chicago has a terrible kickoff return average, but that's due to teams not wanting to give Devin Hester a chance at a return. Robbie Gould is one of the best kickers in the business on field goals, and nearly 60% of his kickoffs have gone for touchbacks.
On paper this should be a defensive struggle, so field position will be key. The punters may have a lot to say with the outcome tonight.
The Bears brought in a few punters last week on a try out basis, but decided to stick with Adam Podlesh. He'll need to bounce back from some less than stellar games and be accurate in his directional punting. Pinning the San Francisco offense inside their own 10 yard line will put even more pressure on Kaepernick.
My pick; Bears - 20 49ers - 13
So who exactly are the Chicago Bears EXPENDABLES for this evenings game?
Jason Campbell has to come in and show his signing was as key as many Bears fans believe it was. Picking up the slack for an injured Jay Cutler, but not trying to do too much, will be critical to the Bears game-plan.
Adam Podlesh will need to boom the ball with authority when needed, and place his angled punts precisely.
Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears running game will be something offensive coordinator Mike Tice should lean on to help with the time of possession.
And my wildcard EXPENDABLE is Alshon Jeffery. Jeffrey was starting to come on as a viable part of the offense, if he can be that 2nd option in the passing game, it'll take some pressure off Brandon Marshall.
For more on the match-up, be sure to check out Steven's always awesome Pleased to Meet You game preview.