Week 8: Carolina Panthers At Chicago Bears
- QuarterbackCam Newton is having a lot of problems finding the right formula in his second year and the pressure is increasing dramatically in Carolina. The Panthers firedgeneral manager Marty Hurney after their Week Seven loss to the Cowboys. Newton’s lack of progress is indicated by his poor 5-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. If that figure doesn’t improve, the Panthers are not going to win a lot of games the rest of the way.Jay Cutler takes a beating for his “attitude,” but he is a strong-armed quarterback who is capable of ripping apart any defense with his arm strength and accuracy. While Cutler has been criticized by outsiders for several seasons, he has the full support of head coach Lovie Smith and his teammates. Cutler took a vicious hit from Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh and landed on his shoulder in the Week Seven Monday night game and that could limit him in this game.
- OffenseThe Panthers should always present one of the best running attacks in the NFL thanks to Newton’s quick feet. They also get production from James Stewart. Veteran receiver Steve Smith has done well against the Bears in the past and fights for yardage with each reception. Brandon LaFell has plenty of speed but he is erratic.Brandon Marshall gives the Bears a receiving deep threat and a player who can seizecontrol of the game and dominate. Look for Cutler to set the tone by getting the ball to him early in the game. Matt Forte is both a running and a receiving threat out of the backfield. Look for Earl Bennett to have a big impact as the possession receiver.
- DefenseThe Panthers are playing hard on defense, but they are finding it difficult to overcome the team’s offensive errors. Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly is making a run at defensive rookie of the year. He had 15 tackles in Week Seven against the Cowboys. Fellow linebacker James Anderson added 12 tackles.The Bears are perhaps the most aggressive defense in the league. They specialize in taking the ball away and turning those plays into touchdowns. Outside linebacker Lance Briggs is a tackling machine who can also make plays on the ball. Cornerback Charles Tillman is an expert at forcing fumbles. Defensive end Julius Peppers is still a game-changing player.
- Special TeamsThe Panthers are not getting a lot of big plays from their special teams. Justin Medlock is just an ordinary placekicker while Brad Nortmann is averaging 43.4 yards per punt.Robbie Gould specializes in hitting field goals at Soldier Field, despite the highwinds that whip in off of Lake Michigan. The Bears are still capable of getting excellent returns from Devin Hester. The Bears have solid coverage teams.
On the surface, an athletic quarterback like Newton has the tools to give the Bears problems, but he appears to have taken a step backwards and that won’t get the job done against a solid team on the road. The Bears have the offensiveweapons to take control of this game early and cruise to an easy victory.