Sunday Match-Up: Chicago @ Baltimore

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In the Playoff Hunt

Ravens are coming off a confidence builder as they had a convincing victory over the Detroit Lions. The offense played well and Ray Rice was the game changer; the team is officially in the playoff hunt. The defense is fighting to get back their dominance as they try to find consistency.  In this match-up the Ravens face QB Jay Cutler and a good receiving core who pose a capable passing attack.  

 The Bears

Known for their defense and consistent running game, Chicago has struggled in both areas and it has landed them out of playoff contention. To compound issues, the acquisition of Jay Cutler has had mixed results as he has thrown 22 interceptions so far this season, but has demonstrated that he has the tools to be the franchise quarterback.  Chicago’s record is 5-8 and the team does not want to end the season with double digit losses, they will be motivated to win.

 OFFENSE: The Bears traded away a few first round draft picks and OB Kyle Orton to the Denver Broncos for quarterback Jay Cutler.  Cutler has been inconsistent with 22 interceptions and 20 touchdown passes. However, he possesses the skills to be a top rated Qb and has thrown for just over 3000 yards. Cutler has the ability to make big plays downfield and if he has a few weapons at the receiver position.  WR Devin Hester, WR Johnny Knox, WR Earl Bennet are all capable threats downfield. Hester leads the team with receptions and has over 682 yards receiving. WR Bennett is has over 605 yards and rookie Johnny Know has 498 yards receiving. Knox has added some spark at the receiver position.  Tight End Greg Olsen (463 yards) has been playing well the last few games as he has over 29 receptions in the last four weeks. Olsen is tied with RB Matt Forte for second in receptions with 51.

 The running attack has been inconsistent. They rank near the bottom statistically and are averaging around 89 yards a game. The sluggish running game is in part from an inconsistent offensive line. Also, their have injuries with the alternate backs.   Running back Matt Forte is a work horse and only in his second year has shown a lot of promise. He has a total of 669 yards averaging around 3.4 yards a carry.  Forte has great hands out of the back field with 51 receptions and 450 yards receiving.

 Some of the struggles on offense can be partly been attributed to offensive line problems.  The team signed Orlando Pace but he has had injury problems.  In the last game where Pace missed, the team moved Chris Williams from right tackle to left tackle, Kevin Shaffer filling in at right tackle.  The O-line has allowed 29 sacks.

Lately: The Bears mix in the run, short passes and they do take their shots downfield. TE Greg Olsen has been a popular target the last 4 games.    Though Cutler and the offense have been inconsistent, they are more than capable for the long ball.  Johnny Knox is a receiver to keep your eye on; he has becoming a favorite target for Cutler. Matt Forte is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. 

DEFENSE:  The Bears pass defense ranks 9th against the pass, but 24th against the run allowing an average of 127 yards per game.  The team ranks 21st in points allowed at 22.5 and 16th in total yards at 329. It didn’t help the team when MLB Brian Urlacker was lost for the season with a wrist injury in the season opener and OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa has played in only two games with a knee injury.  Linebackers Nick Roach and Hunter Hillenmeyer have filled for the injured starters. 

LB Lance Briggs is playing well with a combined total of 87 tackles.  Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye is a good pass rusher with 6 sacks.  Ogunleye have 35.5 sacks over a 5 year period with the Bears. Charles Tillman is a sound cornerback, he has success stripping the football from opposing receivers. Rookie safety Al Afalava is aggressive in run support as he tackles well at the line of scrimmage.

Lately: The defense has playmakers in LB Lance Briggs, DT Tommy Harris and CB Charles Tillman. Tillman is a good cornerback with 6 forced fumbles. MLB Urlacker presence is missed as he is out for the season and run defense has struggled. The defensive unit has 22 interceptions and 27 sacks.

 MATCH-UPS: Chalk It Up!

 Ravens offensive game plan: The Bears have difficulty stopping the run and Cam Cameron will try to exploit this weakness. With Cam Cameron it’s all about mismatches and he will look for the offensive line to open up some holes for Ray Rice. As last week’s game was a confidence builder, Flacco will have to throw more passes downfield to open up the underneath routs.

 WR Demetrius Williams vs. Bears Secondary: WR Williams may be what Flacco needs; with Williams in the line up he helps stretch the field which opens up the intermediate routes.  Opposing defenses have been able to clog up the receivers as they don’t fear the deep routs.  The Bears CB Charles Tillman is a player who is a challenge to any receiver.  

Ravens Run vs. Bears LB’s.   Losing MLB Urlacker and OLB Tinoisamoa to injuries has proven to be a big loss as the defense hasn’t recovered in stopping the run.  We might see more of the running formula as we did last week with Ray Rice is the lead tailback. However when McGahee and McClain are involved the Ravens running game is tough to slow down. 

Ravens defensive game plan: This game could spell trouble in that QB Cutler has a good arm and his receivers can get downfield.  As always, putting pressure on the quarterback is important and forcing Cutler into uncomfortable passing situations is key.

 Receivers vs. Secondary: Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Earl Bennet will be a challenge for the Ravens.  Also, as reported, third year player WR Devin Aromashodu finally got an extended look last Sunday, and he responded with eight catches for 76 yards and his first NFL TD in his first start for the Bears and second in the NFL. Tom Zbikowski (starting for Reed) and Lardarius Webb who have contributed well, will need to keep Chicago’s receivers contained and can’t give up the big passing yards.

 Ravens Blitzing vs. QB Cutler:  The team is continually trying to find ways to get pressure on the quarterback. The Bears O-line has struggled but if predictable blitz plays are called, Cutler is more than capable to recognize and then audible. LB Barnes has been getting some pressure on the opposing QB’s, let’s hope he gets some opportunities this week.  

Adewale Ogunleye vs. Michale Oher:  Left Defensive End Ogunleye has 35.5 sacks over a 5 year period with the Bears. This year he has 6 sacks this season. Depending on the status of LT Gaither, Oher may be back at left tackle. However, the O-line must account for Ogunleye.

 Special Teams: The once dangerous returner Devin Hester has been contained this year, yet he is always a threat and has some impressive stats.  Hester is tied for 6th all-time in NFL history with 7 punt return touchdowns and ranks 4th in combined career kick return scores with a Bears franchise-record 11.  Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning have taken over much the duties on kick returns.

Ravens vs. Ravens: The team can’t beat themselves. Mistakes, miscues, penalties are not going to put you in the win column.  The turnover by Rice at the start of the game was unfortunate and could have been costly against a top team.  Giving the ball up or extending drives due to penalties gives momentum to the opposing team.  The team must put themselves in playoff mode, each play is critical.

 

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2 Responses to “Sunday Match-Up: Chicago @ Baltimore”

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