1) Get Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery Going
In the last couple weeks, the Panthers have faced both Steve Smith of the Ravens and Antonio Brown of the Steelers. Both receivers picked up two touchdowns against the Panthers. Over the last two weeks, Brandon Marshall's picked up just three receptions for 25 yards and a touchdown, not his best production. If he can get his production healthy (as well as Jeffery) against a struggling Panthers secondary, that bodes quite well for the future of the offense-oriented Bears. I wanted to say Martellus Bennett, given how productive he's been early on in the year here, but only one tight end has over 50 receiving yards (Heath Miller, Steelers) and no tight end has scored a touchdown against the Panthers.
2) Carey and Forte Carries are the Forte
... Oh hush, you knew it was only a matter of time before I'd get carried away on that.
The last two weeks, the Panthers have allowed 264 and 127 rushing yards. Pittsburgh got Le'Veon Bell and LaGarette Blount both over 100 yards, and the Ravens got 29 carries split evenly between Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro (well, as evenly as 29 divides into two). Getting both Matt Forte and Ka'Deem Carey some carries worked really well against the Packers, as both were getting good running lanes. Maybe the Bears can get some of that working against the Panthers.
3) The turnover battle and Point Execution
I'll just leave this here in generalities. The Bears are 2-2. The Panthers are 2-2. The Bears are 2-0 when winning the turnover battle, and 0-2 when losing the turnover battle. The Panthers are 2-0 when winning the turnover battle and 0-2 when losing the turnover battle.
High-level analysis, that. Take care of the football, execute on offense and force mistakes on defense, it's usually a good path to winning.
This, however, does hinge on Jay Cutler and the Bears' offense making good, smart plays, something that got away a bit in the third quarter last week, as well as to close out the first half. Those types of mistakes can't happen. When you get in the red zone, you have to leave with points, preferably seven, when they're there.
4) Michael Ola / Eben Britton
So, if the Bears' offense is going to do things without Jermon Bushrod, they need Michael Ola or Eben Britton to stand up to whatever the Panthers are going to throw at them on the left side, whether it's a hampered Charles Johnson (probable, hip) or Kony Ealy. Matt Slauson is listed as questionable, and Roberto Garza is listed as doubtful, so without one of those two coming back, Ola stays at guard and Britton comes in to play left tackle. All the left side of the line is missing is duct tape, but while they've had their struggles, the offensive line has held well enough.
5) Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen
Benjamin, a rookie, and Olsen, the former Bear tight end, lead the Panthers in targets and receptions. Benjamin gets a fair amount of deep targets, more than I initially gave the Panthers credit for anyway, but most of their work is in the short to intermediate game. As such, limiting the yards-after-catch of Olsen and Benjamin will be big, requiring actual tackles to be made. Kyle Fuller against Benjamin should be a fun watch.
6) Pass Rush
So now we get down to this. The Panthers are down DeAngelo Williams (out) and Jonathan Stewart (doubtful), Cam Newton's injured and a little less mobile himself, and Fozzy Whitaker is listed as probable. Even with Whitaker, do the Panthers want to rely on the Browns' old running backs of Whitaker and Chris Ogbonnaya (as well as Darrin Reaves) to head the rushing attack?
The Bears may not have a great rushing defense, but I'd be a lot more worried about this matchup if it involved a healthy Williams and Stewart. (Yes, famous last words, I realize.) So it falls to the pass rush to get their plays in when they can, and collapse the pocket around Newton - either forcing him to run or make him rush a tough-to-make play.