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Week 3 Preview: Bears (1-1) @ Seahawks (1-1)

There's been many smiling faces in Chicago this week, after the Bears big win against the Super Bowl champs. But, now... it's time to turn the page to Seattle, as the Bears head out west this Sunday for a 3:05 CT start on FOX. 

Week 2 Recap

The Seahawks are coming off a 23-10 road loss to division rival San Francisco. It was a brutal day for Seattle, as a depleted defense gave up 256 rushing yards to the 49ers, including a 207 yard effort by Frank Gore. Adding "injury to insult," QB Matt Hasselbeck left the game just before the half with a cracked rib, and backup LT Sean Locklear, filling in for the injured All-Pro Walter Jones, also left the game with an injured ankle. Seattle's star LB, Lofa Tatupu, exited in the 1st QTR with a hamstring injury. Backup QB Seneca Wallace, threw a TD and an INT in relief of Hasselbeck, however the Seahawks got shut out in the second half.

The Bears thrilled the crowd with a stunning 17-14 last second victory in their home opener over the Steelers in the rain. Robbie Gould sealed the deal with a 44 yard FG with 15 seconds left. QB Jay Cutler had a near perfect day against the vaunted Pittsburgh defense... completing 71% of his passes with 2 TDs and zero INTs and a 104.7 QB rating (and nobody cared what kind of face he made at the post-game press conference). The Bears defense held Big Ben in check, but the new look LB unit (minus Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa) did allow 105 yards on the ground to a Steelers team that has struggled to run the ball. The game served as a coming out party for rookie WR Johhny Knox, who was targeted 9 times by Cutler and led the Bears with 6 catches for 70 yards and a game tying TD. The Bears were aided by two missed FGs by Steelers K Jeff Reed. However, had Reed made both kicks, Jay Cutler still would've had the ball on a final possession with an opportunity to win the game

Quick Numbers:

  • 256: The total number of rushing yards allowed by the Seahawks in last week's loss to the 49ers.
  • 2: The number of injured LTs (Sean Locklear & Walter Jones), injured starting LBs (Lofa Tatupa & Leroy Hill), and injured starting CBs (Marcus Trufant & Josh Wilson) for the Seahawks.
  • 104.7: Jay Cutler's QB rating last week vs the Steelers.
  • 2.2: Matt Forte's average yards per carry so far in 2009.

Key Injuries:

SEA LB Lofa Tatupu (hamstring) Q
SEA WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (back) P
SEA QB Matt Hasselbeck (ribs) Q
SEA CB Marcus Trufant (back) O
SEA CB Josh Wilson (ankle) O
SEA LB Leroy Hill (groin) O
SEA LT Walter Jones (knee) P
SEA LT Sean Locklear (ankle) P

CHI LB Brian Urlacher (wrist) IR
CHI LB Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) Q
CHI TE Desmond Clark (ribs) Q
CHI DE Alex Brown (ankle) Q


When the Seahawks have the ball.
With the injuries to Hasselbeck and LTs Jones and Locklear, the outlook sure doesn't look promising for the Seattle passing game... especially if backup QB Seneca Wallace starts in place of Hasselbeck. Look for the Seahawks to play a conservative field position battle and keep the ball on the ground to avoid turnovers. RBs Julius Jones and Edgerrin James should challenge the Bears "B team" of LBs on early downs, and big TE John Carlson could be the key to third down conversions. TJ Houshmandzadeh is on a mission to prove Bears GM Jerry Angelo wrong for not wanting to sign him in the offseason... it'll be hard to prove if the Bears pass rush continues it's early season trend of putting heat on opposing QBs. However, the ankle injury to Bears starting RDE Alex Brown could neutralize the injuries to the Seahawks LTs.

The key matchup: LB Lance Briggs vs the Seahawks running game
Expecting a heavy dose of the run game (to either protect the injured Hasselbeck, or minimize the less capable Wallace), Lance Briggs will have to step up and do most of the dirty work himself. 

The X factor on offense for the Seahawks: RB Justin Forsett
The second year scat back from California got very heavily involved in the offense last week with 5 carries for 35 yards, and 6 catches for 57 yards. If Wallace starts in place of Hasselbeck, expect Forsett to be an easy bail out option when the primary targets are covered.


When the Bears have the ball.
Seattle is normally a very tough and loud place to play as a visiting team... but the Bears offense could feast against a banged up Seahawk defense. The Bears have yet to establish a productive run game in the first two weeks of the season, partially because of matchups. They faced a new 3-4 Packers D on opening night, and didn't have any fresh game film to study from. Then, of course they followed that by facing the always tough Steelers 3-4 run D. An injured Seattle LB unit could be just the cure for the Bears running woes. However, look for the Bears to do the unexpected and "get off the bus passing" downfield with play action in the first series... to set up the run. They'll want to create an early opportunity to run against 7 man fronts instead of 8, by spreading the field vertically... which could make for some big gains by Matt Forte and build confidence in their run game.  

The key matchup: WRs Johnny Knox and Devin Hester vs the Seahawks depleted CBs
We've seen Knox and Hester get behind All-Pro Charles Woodson, and we've seen Knox find holes in the Steelers defense. Now, the the two burners will get the opportunity to test a wounded Seattle secondary, who only have 3 healthy CBs. Cutler is already smelling blood.

The X Factor on offense for the Bears: TE Greg Olsen
Jay Cutler's new BFF has been shut down for the most part in the first two weeks, as defensive coordinators schemed to make someone else beat them. However, the Seahawks are so banged up on defense, that it should be quite difficult for them to remove Olsen from the equation.


Side notes from the NFC North:

Earlier in the pre-season, I warned that the Vikings days of dominant run D was coming to an end. Pat Williams, the key to their stout run D, turns 37 years old on October 24th... and so far this season, my prediction looks on target. Through two games, the Vikings are allowing 4.0 YPC and 109 YPG, to the woeful Browns and Lions. Small sample size, yes... but, it's the Browns (#32 in total offense) and Lions (#30 in total offense) we're talkin about here. That's a problem for Minnesota, especially with Frank Gore coming into town after a 207 yard performance.

Speaking of problems, the Packers offensive line has allowed a whopping 10 sacks and 19 QB hits in the first two games... including a 5 sack performance by Bengals DE Antwan Odom last week. If that's not bad enough, starting LT Chad Clifton is expected to miss the next two games with an ankle injury as the Pack go on the road for the first time this year to St. Louis and Minnesota.

The overall #1 pick of the draft, Matthew Stafford, is off to a horrendous start for the Lions, with 1 TD to 5 INTs and a QB rating of 40.5 in the first two games. I'll keep tabs on Stafford all season, as I eventually try to draw a comparison to Troy Aikman, who started every game for the 1-15 Cowboys in 1989, after also being the #1 pick in the draft.