I’ll get this weeks thread started with just tonight’s game.
Thursday, Nov. 12
SAN FRANCISCO 3 Chicago 43½
I haven’t yet finished my Bears mid-season review in the NFC North thread yet but anyone interested in my blathering is welcome to track it down. Hopefully it won’t be too redundant with this.
This game has a bunch of interesting storylines. The most publicized one is probably the matchup of Mike Singletary coaching against his beloved former team. When he decided to get into coaching he called the Bears and they couldn’t find a spot for him. When he went to the Ravens and was able to soak in that system his value went up more and when we fired Rivera after the Super Bowl I though he was a guy we needed to get. For whatever the reason the Bears weren’t at all interested. I suspect Lovie was deathly afraid that he’d be upstaged in the locker room and in the press. Glad to see that he’s having some success, I wager most Bears fans will root for him under just about any circumstance and will take some solace if they beat the Bears tonight.
The other big talk is about how this game is a must win for two teams who are slipping in the same way. Each has a division leader that’s close to running away with the title and both teams are dramatically underachieving. Each is in the midst of an awful, embarrassing losing streak and desperately needs to save some face with the national attention. The team that steps up tonight will take the first step to saving their season. The team that loses might have to forget any playoff hopes.
The matchups are interesting. Both teams have very good tight ends who have been gold in the redzone. The Niners are better equipped to handle Olsen than the Bears are with the injuries to the LBs and Safeties. The QB situation in heavily in the Bears favor though, the Niners seem to have married themselves to Alex Smith for the time being and he lacks that big arm. He’ll rely on being mistake free and using his weapons methodically and the Bears defense will have to generate some big plays to get them off the field. The Niners lost Clements and this should loosen things up ever so slightly for Cutler and Hester who’ve been coming on lately. Cutler will need to have a big game for us to have a chance at all in this one. Defensively the Niners even without Clements are solid and especially stout through the middle which could make life hell for Forte and Olsen, two of the Bears most critical pieces. I have no idea how the Bears can hope to get Forte moving with Willis on the other side, we might see him catching 7 or 8 passes this week which could be a good thing.
Defensively it’s not much better with Frank Gore returning to his old self and the Bears looking like a sieve lately. Tommie Harris will be playing and I’m hoping against hope that this talk of “making it up to us” will be legitimate. He’s a shadow of his former self and does very little against the pass these days, but when he’s not out there our run defense gets dramatically worse…and it wasn’t that great to begin with. The backup LBs will need to play the game of their lives here. They’ll have to get Gore to the ground on first contact and make throwing to Vernon Davis a risky proposition for Smith, hopefully forcing him to check down. The Bears will probably be without Al Afalava and Kevin Payne this week and meaning the deep middle with be horribly undermanned and our backups tackle even worse than our starters…which is a scary thought. Tillman will probably play with his sore shoulders which is a relief but it’s unclear if he’ll be at a 100%. Presumably his coverage should be steady and Crabtree might struggle to get off but it’s the tackling that worries me. There could be a rash of big plays this week.
The only way the Bears win this game is if 3 of these 4 things happen. 1) Cutler plays nearly flawless football. We need a huge game from him in primetime for a change and the O-line has to give him enough time to operate. 2) The D Line needs to come up huge. Harris needs to have his best game of the year and the ends need to get a ton of penetration. The Niners O-line is not great and if we can step up we’ll slow Gore, force Davis to block more and force Smith into mistakes. 3) Alex Smith and Shaun Hill need to make mistakes. I list them both because we need to get to Smith early and often and force turnovers potentially making Singletary pull another QB switch. 4) Matt Forte somehow goes off. This one is a long shot and there’s not much reason to predict it but if lightning strikes and last years Forte shows up and the O-line suddenly gels they could simply outscore the Niners sometimes shaky offense.
The Pick: Bears 27 - 49ers 24
Yeah, I’m a homer. Sue me!