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Birds of prey: Bears-Cardinals game preview

The current No. 1 seed in the NFC is coming to town

NFL: SEP 26 Cardinals at Jaguars Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Most teams would come off their mini-bye victory week rejuvenated and hopeful, but this is the Chicago Bears we’re talking about.

A week removed from a load of drama surrounding their coach and more, they’ve snapped their five-game skid and are hopeful to get their young starting quarterback back from injury.

But just when it could seem like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, one looks at the schedule and sees the current No. 1 and No. 2 NFC seeds on the schedule, in order up next.

Gulp.

The Arizona Cardinals come in off their bye also hoping to get some of their starters back, including quarterback Kyler Murray and receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

The Cardinals have managed to play OK without those guys, going 2-1 without them.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Bears are 7.5 point underdogs, so the sportsbooks aren’t big believers in the Bears no matter who is starting for either team. This one could be tough to watch.

Arizona Cardinals (-7.5)

SB Nation site: Revenge of the Birds

Record: 9-2, first in the NFC West

Last game: 23-13 win over Seattle (Nov. 21, Cardinals had their bye last week)

Game day, time, TV: Sunday, noon CT, FOX

Bears all-time record against: 59-28-6

Historical meetings: The Bears and Cardinals have met twice before on Dec. 5, the most recent of which was in 1937.

In that game the 8-1-1 Bears and 5-4-1 Cardinals met at Wrigley Field.

The Cardinals took a 14-0 first quarter lead but the Bears answered with 40 unanswered points in the second and third quarters.

Quarterback Ray Buivid threw five touchdown passes, including three to Les McDonald. Buivid had been a first round pick of the Cardinals that year.

He was the first player to ever throw for five touchdown passes. Later in the third quarter he caught a TD from teammate Sam Francis.

The Bears won 42-28.

Last meeting: The Bears beat the Cardinals 16-14 in week 3 of 2018.

Sam Bradford, in what would be his final NFL game, gave way to rookie Josh Rosen, and the Bears could do no better offensively.

The Cardinals jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and the Bears took the rest of the game to chip away at it with three Cody Parkey field goals and a Jordan Howard touchdown.

Parkey’s kick with 4:31 in the fourth gave the Bears the lead and they never looked back.

Injury report: The Cardinals listed seven players on their Wednesday injury report but six were limited or not participating.

Limited: WR DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring), QB Kyler Murray (ankle), S James Wiggins (knee)

Did not participate: OL Kevin Beachum (NIR-rest), OL Rodney Hudson (NIR-rest), OL Justin Pugh (calf)

Offense: The Cardinals come in ranked fifth in points and 10th in yards on offense.

Their passing offense ranks ninth and their rushing offense ranks 10th.

Should Kyler Murray (72.7 pct cmp/2,276 yds/17 TD/7 INT) return, the Cardinals will be back to having their MVP candidate signal caller, who was playing his best career football before his ankle injury sidelined him.

I expect Murray to be back, but there’s a chance it’s Colt McCoy (75.6/684/3/1) again.

The weapons at the quarterback’s disposal are many, starting with, again should he be healthy enough, DeAndre Hopkins (35 rec/486 yds/7 TD). There’s also Christian Kirk (49/628/4), rookie Rondale Moore (47/413/1) and the veteran A.J. Green (34/538/3), who is averaging a healthy 15.8 YPC.

Also don’t sleep on trade deadline acquisition Zach Ertz (22/269/3).

On the ground James Conner (146 att/555 yds/12) is leading the way. Chase Edmonds (76/430/1) spells him and Kyler Murray (49/147/3) is also dynamic as a runner.

Kliff Kingsbury’s offense is famous for being wide open, but the numbers are interesting. The Cardinals rank 24th in passing attempts but have the ninth most passing yards (that’s some efficiency) and the fourth-most rushing attempts. They lead the league in rushing touchdowns (17).

Defense: The Cardinals defense might be even better than their offense, coming in to this week ranked fourth in points allowed and fifth in yards allowed.

Their passing defense ranks third and their rushing defense ranks 17th.

The unit is led by Markus Golden (10 sk/33 tkl/4 FF/8 TFL), Chandler Jones (8 sk/3 FF/8 TFL), Jordan Hicks (82 tkl/4 PD/4 TFL/3 sk), Budda Baker (63 tkl/2 INT/3 PD) and Byron Murphy (3 INT/8 PD/1 FF/39 tkl).

Key match ups: The Bears are entirely overmatched in this game. It’s hard to see an area where they hold an advantage, let alone have a match up that they could win.

They need to protect their QB, whether its Andy Dalton or Justin Fields. They will need to establish their running game and avoid getting pass-heavy as they did on Thanksgiving. The weakness of the Cardinals’ defense is their run defense, so the Bears have to exploit it.

On defense it’s going to be up to their playmakers such as Robert Quinn and Eddie Goldman up front to get after Kyler Murray (in all likelihood) and slow down James Conner.

This secondary defending DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Zach Ertz and A.J. Green is...uh...scary to think about.

Key stats

  • The Cardinals rank sixth in offensive scoring drive percentage, with 44.1 percent of their drives ending with a score and 30th in defensive scoring drive percentage, allowing opponents to score on just 29.7 percent of their drives
  • James Conner has 13 touchdowns (12 rushing, one receiving), which is just four fewer than the entire Bears team has
  • The Cardinals defense is holding opponents to an 86.5 QB rating. That’s 10.1 points higher than Andy Dalton and Justin Fields have combined for on the season
  • Kliff Kingsbury is 0-2 off of a bye week in his career. Last season the Cardinals lost to the Dolphins 34-31 and in 2019 they lost to the Rams 34-7.

Do the Bears have a chance this week? What’s their best hope for a win if Andy Dalton starts for them and Kyler Murray starts for Arizona?