Seattle at Chicago (-6 1/2), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Marshawn Lynch comes to the NFC just in time to get stuffed by Brian Urlacher. That will help the Bears overcome a woozy Jay Cutler. Bears 19, Seahawks 6.
Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears - 1p.m.28Jay Cutler is expected back after missing last week with a concussion. How effective will he be? The Seahawks are coming off a bye week, but they've been bad on the road. That stays the same here. Cutler plays well in his return to the lineup and Matt Hasselbeck continues to struggle.18
Noon Seahawks (2-2) at Bears (4-1)
TV: WFLD-Ch. 32
Line: Bears by 6.5 Over/under: 37.5
Seahawks are only team that has yet to score in first quarter. That spells trouble on the road, even against banged-up Bears.
Pick: Bears 17, Seahawks 13
Seahawks to provide special challenge for Bears
Devin Hester is second in the NFC with a punt-return average of 12.8 yards, but Seattle's Golden Tate is first with an 18.0-yard average.
Danieal Manning is second in the NFC in kickoff returns with a 29.8-yard average, but Seattle's Leon Washington is first with a whopping 40.4-yard average, including 2 touchdowns.
It will be a big test, coach Lovie Smith said of the Bears' special-teams coverage units. “Guys know that. It'll be a challenge for us to contain both of their return games. We have two pretty good return guys that we like, too. It'll be a good part of the game to watch and see how that goes.
The Bears' coverage teams are 16th in punt-return average and 18th in kickoff-return average, while the Seahawks are 13th and eighth, respectively.
“It's definitely a challenge, said cornerback Corey Graham, who leads the Bears with 11 special-teams tackles. “These guys have got great returners. But that's what we gear up for. We've just got to show what we are capable of.
As a team, the Seahawks are No. 1 in kickoff-return average and No. 3 in punt-return average. The Bears are No. 5 and No. 4, respectively.
Coach Lovie Smith is satisfied with the performance the Bears have gotten from strong safety Danieal Manning, but ...
“But as Danieal will say, Danieal is capable of having a huge game like he did against Cleveland last year, Smith said. “Interception-wise we're still waiting for him to make a couple plays like that. But I've been very pleased with everything he's done from the off-season all the way. He's one of the guys now and he's ready to take that next step.
The interception Manning had last Nov. 1 has become a bit of a milestone for Bears safeties. It's the only interception by a Bears safety in the last 23 games. Five different safeties started at least two games for the Bears last season Al Afalava, Manning, Kevin Payne, Josh Bullocks and Craig Steltz but they combined for just the 1 pick. And there have been none last year. The last pick prior to Manning's was by Mike Brown on Dec. 11, 2008.
In his fifth season, Manning has 6 career picks, while free safety Chris Harris, a six-year veteran, has 10.
Seattle Seahawks Unlikely To Beat Chicago Bears in Week 6
Going into Week 6, Seahawks fans have a lot of positives to point to as they hope for a win against the Chicago Bears this Sunday.
The backfield has been beastified, and the young receivers have a new mentor. The O-line is almost healthy again. Julius Jones and Deion Branch won't be taking up space. Cutler might still be a little woozy from the brow-beating he got from the Giants' defense two weeks ago (Umenyiora, your thank you card is in the mail), and Whitehurst is all but foaming at the mouth for playing time.
Even with all that hope, the Seahawks won't pull it off.
The Seahawks are coming into this game with some dramatic disadvantages.
Over the last 10 years Seattle has won coming off their bye week exactly twice—in 2005 against the Cardinals and in 2006 against the Rams (barely). 2005 was certainly the Seahawks' best season of that period and one of the worst for the Cardinals, and beating the Rams is rarely noteworthy.
Seattle's away record for the last 10 years is an abysmal 30-50. This season has, so far, proven to be no exception as the Seahawks' two losses (including a thumping by those same non-noteworthy Rams ...!) were both on the road.
How about that freshly augmented backfield? Great.
Except that the Bears have one of (if not the) best run defenses in the league led by Brian Urlacher. Forsett will have to be extra squirrelly to get much positive yardage (which isn't beyond him), and Washington won't be making those big returns he's so well-loved for. Lynch's "beast mode" is certainly the 'hawks best bet here, but, this may not be the week for fans to rest all their hopes and dreams on his shoulders.
And, the receiving corps? Wonderful.
The young'ns who haven't had much chance to shine will be clamoring to prove themselves. Stokely should be a solid presence. But, who will be throwing the passes? Hasselbeck has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this season and sadly has, at times, been more of a liability than a commodity. Even so, Carroll has been unwilling to give Whitehurst any snaps despite the high price tag. (Does anyone know if the return policy at San Diego Chargers is at all similar to the one at New England Patriots?)
Of course, there's the officiating to consider. The Bears, this year have been beneficiaries of at least one questionable call and the Seahawks, as we know, are certainly no strangers to poor officiating.
If the Seahawks are able to board the plane home with their pride intact Sunday night, it will be because rookie safety Earl Thomas will have had a repeat performance of Week 3 against the Chargers. That night he had two game-changing interceptions, including one on the Seahawks' 5-yard line while the clock dwindled. If Cutler's concussion has him throwing at all like he threw last season (26 interceptions), Thomas will have plenty of chances to pad his stats.
After Week 4's embarrassing trouncing, the 12th man is certainly looking for a reason to keep donning the blue and green each Sunday and not getting embarrassed by the team ranked fifth overall might just do it. For most of the Pacific Northwest, a close game here may be enough for a moral victory and strong play from the new acquisitions and the underperforming veterans could create new drive for both the players and those of us watching from couches and sidelines.
Seattle vs. Chicago Preview: Can Seattle Overcome the Dominant Chicago Defense?
The Seattle Seahawks come off their bye week in good spiritsóthey are 2-2 and still in the hunt for a playoff spotóand they welcome in the newly-acquired RB Marshawn Lynch.
Unfortunately, Seattle has to immediately suit up and play one of the better NFC teams this week: the Chicago Bears. With the Bears defense being one of the better units in the league, Seattle has to snap up their chin straps super tight this week.
I will say with confidence and non-embarrassment that the Bears defense is the best unit in the NFC. That is with apologies to the players in Minnesota, New York, Atlanta and Philadelphia.
With the addition of Julius Peppers and the healthy Brian Urlacher, Chicago has been dominant on D side of the ball (the side that matters if a team is series about making a SB run). With the way that the Bears have been playing on that side, they are a serious contender for the Super Bowl. They have contained Green Bay, New York and Dallas. Defense matters!
What does this mean?
It means that it is pretty scary for Seattle to go up against them and win the ball game. Chicago has been getting C+ performances by Jay Cutler and F performances by the Bears offensive line, but it doesnít really matter this season.
But letís talk about the Seahawks.
For all of the fans pumped to see Lynch take the field and play well, I would suggest waiting and extra week. Bears D are third in the league in stopping the run. They were able to contain Jahvid Best in Week One and the Jones/Barber duo in Week Two; I donít think this spells too well for Mr. Lynch.
Iím excited to see Marshawn play and I think he can play very well in 2010, but Seattle will have to take a lot of chances through the passing game if they are going to squeeze this out.
In terms of Seattle on the defensive side of the ball, it hasnít been great this season. However, there are things to look forward to this game. So far this season, the Seahawks have been great covering the run (second in the league) and terrible in the pass (31st in the league). The Bears are a team that has the most success with Matt Forte getting the ball in his hands.
If they can shut Forte down and keep him from getting long gains, which they will, they will have to be worried about Cutler. Cutler, after skipping a week because of a concussion, will look to be careful early in the game.
With the horrible state that the Chi offensive line is in, Cutler most games is usually running around back there like a goose with its head chopped off in most games. Keep him running around, and he will get frustrated.
The worst-case scenario with Cutler is if they start executing screens with Forte. Forte can break for long distances if he gets out in the open field, and he is one of those backs who so far in 2010 has been absolutely dominate with the ball in his hands and the open field ahead of him. He has broken off some huge 60-80 yard pass plays that have broken the game open.
Seattle needs to keep this game as close as possible. They are going to need to force a lot of turnovers as well. That is what doomed the Chi-NYG game a couple of weeks ago. The Bears D played a good game, but New York was constantly starting drives with terrific field position and eventually it wore the Bears down.
If Seattle can repeat that then the game can be theirs.
Although, I donít believe they can. Chicago is just too talented of a team.
Final Score Prediction: Chicago 27 Ė Seattle 10
Julius says: It's time for Hasselbeck to retire.
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31-14, Bears Season: 2-3
Potash's breakdown: Bears vs Seahawks
WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL
ON THE GROUND
Can Matt Forte back up his career-best rushing game last week (22 carries, 166 yards, 2 TDs) with another productive effort? With Jay Cutler expected to start, the bigger question is whether he'll even get the chance. Forte and Chester Taylor combined for 40 carries with Cutler out last Sunday -- nearly as many as they had in the previous three games (43). Bears rushed for 218 yards at Carolina, most in a game since 1990. The Panthers were 19th in the NFL against the run. The Seahawks are No. 2 (73 yards/game, 2.7 yards/ carry). They shut down Frank Gore (17-38). Offensive-line jumble could pay off if the Bears put the right guys in the right place.
J'Marcus Webb vs. Chris Clemons
Webb was good enough by Bears standards in his first start. The 6-7, 328-pound rookie fits the mold of previous overlooked small-school players (West Texas A&M) the Bears have had success with. Clemons isn't the most dangerous DE Webb will see, but he had two sacks against the Rams.
IN THE AIR
The Bears insist they will not alter the game plan to account for the fact that Cutler is playing two weeks after suffering a concussion -- which is fine as long as they can keep Cutler on his feet. Cutler has been shaky since opening the season with big games against the Lions (372 yards, 108.3) and Cowboys (277 yards, 136.7). The Seahawks are 31st in the NFL in pass defense (301 yards per game). Kyle Orton threw for 307 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs (117.2 rating) against them. Philip Rivers threw for 455 yards against them. Even rookie Sam Bradford burned them for 289 yards. Seahawks also present opportunities for RBs to get involved in the passing game.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL
ON THE GROUND
The Seahawks are hoping Marshawn Lynch -- acquired in a trade with the Bills on Oct. 5 -- can provide a boost for their 29th-ranked run game (80 ypg). But Brian Urlacher wasn't fazed. ''Not a big deal,'' he said. ''It's the same running game. There's a different guy back there getting the ball. That's about it.'' The Bears' fourth-ranked run defense (79 ypg) isn't invulnerable -- DeAngelo Williams had a 23-yard gain and Jonathan Stewart a 24-yarder early last week, but Bears held Panthers to 21 yards on 20 carries after that. LB Brian Iwuh, who might start for Lance Briggs (ankle) is a disciplined gap defender who makes the plays he can make.
Julius Peppers vs. Russell Okung
Even without a sack, Peppers was a destructive force against the Panthers with a batted pass, a pick, 6 tackles and 4 QB pressures. He has a chance for another big day against Okung, the sixth pick of the April draft who played in his first NFL game vs. the Rams on Oct. 3.
IN THE AIR
Without the run game he had in the Mike Holmgren/Shaun Alexander/Steve Hutchinson era, veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck is at a point where the more he's asked to do, the less effective he is. A big key is keeping him out of favorable conditions -- good field position, working with a lead, etc. Hasselbeck is completing 61.1 percent of his passes, but he's 29th in passer rating (70.7) with 4 TDs and 6 INTs. TE John Carlson leads the Seahawks in receiving (14-160, 1 TD), but with Deion Branch traded to New England, rookie Golden Tate and ex-Lion Mike Williams are his most dangerous weapons. RB Justin Forsett bears watching on third downs.
Since his days on mediocre teams at Vanderbilt, Cutler has been used to getting pounded. But his ability to take a hit will be the focus more today than ever in his first game since suffering a concussion against the Giants on Oct. 3, when he was sacked nine times in the first half. Cutler is not expected to hold anything back, which means he'll probably leave himself vulnerable to more big hits. If he doesn't last, look for Caleb Hanie to get the call as the No. 2.
SPECIAL TEAMS The battle lines are drawn between Bears' solid coverage teams and Seahawks' explosive return teams. Leon Washington not only had KO returns of 101 and 99 yards against Chargers, he's averaging 25.5 yards on his other eight returns in 2010. Golden Tate, the rookie from Notre Dame, went 63 yards with his first NFL punt return. He also has returns for 31, 19 and 13 yards. Bears counter with Danieal Manning and Devin Hester, who had big returns against Panthers
Five keys to keep an eye on as the Seahawks attempt to pull off a rare 10 a.m. road win against a quality opponent. (Seattle hasn't won a road game against a team that wound up making the playoffs since 2004).
1) Beast Mode vs. Monsters of the Midway
Marshawn Lynch figures to bring a long-missing physical presence to the Seahawks running game, but this won't be the easiest debut given Chicago's formidable front.
The Bears defense ranks third in the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed (78.6 per game) and fifth in fewest yards per attempt (3.5). Lynch has never played against Chicago in his four years in the NFL.
Coach Pete Carroll won't reveal his starting running back until game time, but rest assured that Lynch will get plenty of chances. I'd expect something in the 15-20 carry range assuming Seattle gets doesn't fall way behind early.
Lynch's season highs are 17 carries and 79 yards and he's yet to score a TD, but Buffalo was mixing him in with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
Seattle would love him to be a workhorse back, with Justin Forsett as the counter attack, and the Seahawks hope his increased threat also opens up the passing game by improving the play-action threat and keeping defenses honest.
Chicago gave up 189 yards rushing to the NY Giants when Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 129. But the Bears held Detroit to 20 yards on 21 carries, Dallas to 36 yards on 20 carries and Green Bay to 63 on 15.
2) You want some Peppers on that rookie?
Julius Peppers has been just what the Bears were hoping when they signed the free agent defensive end this season to a six-year, $91 million deal. The 30-year-old has nine quarterback pressures, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception to lead Chicago's highly-ranked defense.
At 6-7, 283 pounds, he's a handful for any offensive tackle. And while the Bears flop him from side to side, you can bet he'll frequently find himself lined up opposite Seahawks rookie Russell Okung as Seattle's first-round draft pick makes just his second start since recovering from a preseason ankle sprain.
No, it's not the easiest matchup for Okung this early in career, but they don't let you pick your opponents in the NFL.
"It's like a rodeo," said Seahawks line coach Art Valero. "You've got to ride the bull that comes out of Chute 8. That's yours, whether you want him or you don't. ... You have no choice. If you're afraid, go to church."
Seahawks fans will settle for praying that Okung's ankle is fully healthy and the youngster is ready to deal with one of the game's biggest impact players.
3) Hasselbeck seeks his groove
Quarterbacks always draw the lion's share of blame when things don't go well, so I generally defend Hasselbeck when critics attempt to lay all the team's struggles on his shoulders.
But there's no question Hasselbeck needs to play better if the Seahawks are to have a chance, especially on the road. Some of this falls on the offensive line's need to protect better in noisy crowd situations, but Hasselbeck's QB rating in the two road games has been 51.2 and 58.9 compared to 108.3 and 77.6 at Qwest this season.
That's largely the result of four interceptions and one TD on the road vs. three TDs and two picks at home.
Hasselbeck's veteran smarts and experience might be the one thing holding together an offense with so many new players being added even with the season underway, but he hasn't looked as sharp this year and could use a big game in a tough situation.
This one figures to be as tough as they come, given the Bears' ability to pressure and force mistakes. Hasselbeck always has an interesting mind-game matchup with middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who tries to read his audibles and fake audibles and engage in pre-snap chess matches.
4) Hang on to the rock
Coach Pete Carroll's constant mantra is protect the football on offense and force turnovers on defense.
It's not exactly a new theory, but Carroll is as big on winning the turnover battle as any coach.
The Bears' defense happens to lead the NFL in turnovers forced with 14, so that indeed will be a critical detail Sunday.
Since coach Lovie Smith took over in 2004, Chicago has forced the most turnovers in the league with 214, so the Seahawks know what's coming.
"Julius Peppers is probably the defensive player of the year by far after the first five games," said Seahawks receiver Brandon Stokley, one of Seattle's numerous newcomers trying to help ignite the offense. "Urlacher and (Lance) Briggs are great linebackers. They're fast, quick and cause a lot of turnovers. We need to hold onto the ball. I think that'll be the most important thing for us."
5) Don't let The Cutler do it
Seattle's defense has been stunningly successful at stopping the run this season, ranking No. 2 in the league. That means they should be able to contain Matt Forte, who ran for 166 yards last week against Carolina.
One major concern there is the health of defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who suffered a significant calf strain in practice this week and will be a game-time decision. Mebane might be the most underrated player on the Seahawks and is a force inside.
Mebane missed one game last year -- the game Frank Gore ran for 207 yards for the 49ers -- and was sidelined in the second half this season against San Diego when the Chargers' offense went wild.
But presuming the Seahawks can do a capable job against Chicago's run, this one is going to come down to whether Seattle lets Bears quarterback Jay Cutler be the good Jay or the bad Jay.
The Bears have big problems with their offensive line (Cutler was sacked nine times in the first half alone two weeks ago against the Giants before suffering a concussion), but Seattle rarely gets much heat on quarterbacks in road games.
The Seahawks need Aaron Curry to be more of a force and join Chris Clemons as a consistent threat, while also unleashing blitzes from various angles to keep Cutler off balance.
Otherwise he has the ability to carve up a Seahawks defense that has given up 455 yards passing to Philip Rivers, 307 to Kyle Orton and 289 to Sam Bradford in the last three weeks.
Cutler has a tendency to force things at time, but he was very good in Chicago's first three games before getting knocked out by the Giants. The Bears beat Carolina 23-6 last week despite a miserable four-interception performance by backup Todd Collins.
If Cutler has time to carve up Seattle in tandem with the Bears' dominant defense, it could be a long day for the Seahawks. But if they can pressure him into making mistakes -- and the Bears have given up an NFL-high 21 sacks -- that would go a long way toward making this game interesting indeed.