Chicago Bears vs. Miami Dolphins: Key Matchups To Look At
By Thomas Galicia
(Dolphins Featured Columnist) on November 16, 2010
They only meet once every four years, but its always entertaining.
Of course I'm talking about the Miami Dolphins and the Chicago Bears.
Believe it or not, its been 25 years since their epic Monday Night game at the Orange Bowl.
The Dolphins (8-4) needed to run the table in order to take command of the AFC East, so even one loss would've forced them out of the playoffs.
The Bears (12-0) wanted to run the table in order to make history: become the first team to finish the regular season 16-0 in route to a perfect season.
The Dolphins ended up prevailing 38-24, in what many consider the finest game of Dan Marino's career.
Fast forward to this Thursday Night, the stakes just as big, well for the Dolphins that is.
They know that their best chance of making it back to the playoffs is to win out, or at the very least go 5-2 in their last seven games.
But while in 1985 they were sure of who their quarterback is, not the case in 2010, when Tyler Thigpen will be their third starting quarterback in the span of eleven days.
The Bears, at 6-3, are tied for first in the NFC North, however they're in the driver's seat as they are already 3-0 within the division.
Will Thigpen bring the magic for the Dolphins this Thursday Night, or will Chicago prevail and launch themselves into the conversation of being one of the best teams in the NFC?
Let's take a look at some key match-ups.
Who would've thunk it, the Dolphins running game has been anemic this season.
For a team that prior to the beginning of the season had the promise of two running backs rushing for 1,000 yards, instead, half way through the season, Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown have a combined 202 rushing attempts for 844 yards, only 4 yards per carry.
Their rushing offense as a whole is 19th in the NFL, and they'll most likely be used more on Thursday than before due to issues at offensive line and Tyler Thigpen getting the start.
Meanwhile the Chicago Bears are 2nd in the NFL in Rushing Yards allowed, giving up on average 82.3 yards per game.
Just based off of the Dolphins O-line issues and the Bears stout run defense, I'm going to have to go:
For a team that plays in the NFC North, in Chicago, this team doesn't exactly run the ball a lot.
In fact the total amount of rushing attempts by the Bears is 225 times for a combined 855 yards, and thats as a team. On the year they're averaging 95.0 yards per game.
Meanwhile the Dolphins are 16th in run defense, allowing 110.2 yards per game.
Will Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz exploit this weakness in the Dolphins defense, or will he continue his pass-wacky ways?
I've seen Mike Martz, something tells me that again, he will disappoint those who own Matt Forte in fantasy.
Advantage: Dolphins (by default since Martz will probably not run it like he should.)
Will the Dolphins open up their passing game with Thigpen in as quarterback?
Statistics say they should: The Bears, while second in the NFL in Rushing yards allowed, rank 13th in passing yards allowed at 219.6 yards per game.
Chicago isn't weak against the pass, but you'd rather pass against them than run against them. Let's see what Thigpen can do, but for now, too many vairables to really call this either way.
The Dolphins pass defense is one of the top passing D's in the NFL, ranking 6th.
This same pass D has held Randy Moss to one catch in two games against them.
Wait, this passing defense is in trouble?
Well, in the secondary, even though Vontae Davis continues to prove himself. He should be in the Pro Bowl this season.
But the Dolphins pass rush does have 23 sacks this season, and Cameron Wake, with his 8.5 sacks, will be available for Thursday's game.
Here's a video of Devin Hester.
I'd put a video of the Dolphins Special Teams this season, but Snuff Films are illegal.
I expect to see him breaking one off against the Dolphins still porous special teams.
As for the kickers, Gould and Carpenter are two of the best in the NFL.
Now I'm tempted to call this a push and call it a day.
I'm not a Sparano fan (mainly because of Henning) but I've seen some Lovie Smith-Coached teams that just make me pound my head against the wall.
But last week, I saw something magical: Tony Sparano outcoached Jeff Fisher.
If that could happen then no way Lovie Smith out-coaches Sparano right?
Again, Tony Sparano outcoached Jeff Fisher last week, which is more likely to mean that Lovie Smith can out-coach Tony Sparano.
I have a headache, let's look at the offensive coordiatnors.
On one side you have a guy who likes to gamble at the wrong times.
On the other side you have a guy who likes to gamble all the time.
Thursday could potentially be a comedy of coaching errors, and the funny thing is these two teams are a combined 11-7 this season.
I'm going with Sparano, he's the better coach and has a more talented team.
I know I already looked at Run D vs. Running game and Pass D vs. Passing game, but let's take this micro and look at the match-up of Jake Long vs. Julius Peppers.
They've only met once before, ironically on a Thursday night last season when the Dolphins traveled to Charlotte to take on the Panthers.
Peppers has a quiet game. So quiet his stats don't even show up in the box score on profootballreference.com.
But this time its different. For all we know Peppers was just biding his time until he got the chance to leave Carolina, and Long was healthy.
This time, not so much, in fact we're still not even sure that Long is going to play.
For the Dolphins, Pennington is on IR. Had he emerged uninjured from the Titans game, he would've been the starter.
Henne will still be available to play on Thursday, but he sat out of practice on Monday and Tuesday.
We already mentioned Jake Long's injury.
Yeremiah Bell was limited in practice on Monday, however he's listed as probable with a toe injury.
For the Bears, no one is expected to really miss any time.
However the Dolphins look to be a deeper team.
We've gone through Thigpen as QB already, we can speculate, and I have no problem doing that (that's what my prediction later on is for) but again, we don't know.
Just based off of pure depth, I'm going with the Bears.
I wanted to get a picture of a good Sun Life Stadium crowd.
This was the best I could do.
But Sun Life Stadium at night is usually rocking, until the Dolphins get killed, which I don't see.
Plus take a look at the game forecast: a warm 74 degrees, but not too humid.
Well, I guess Sun Life Stadium doesn't exactly have any semblance of home field advantage. But its been thirteen years since the Bears last won there.
Granted they've only faced each other in Miami once after that, but still.
I'll still go with the Dolphins here because they will be a touch more used to the Heat.
As long as Miami's pass rush takes advantage of Mike Martz' propensity to never run the ball under any circumstances and knock Cutler down a few times, then they should be fine on defense.
Devin Hester will possibly account up to ten points on special teams for the Bears, however I only see the Bears offense accumulating another seven.
For the Dolphins expect plenty of trickery and an opened up offense with Thigpen under center. Expect him to make some plays with his feet as well as his arm behind a suspect offensive line. I do see Jake Long playing, and while he'll only be at about 50%, I see him handling Julius Peppers.
My pick will then be...
MIAMI (-2.5) over Chicago
The Miami Dolphins will pull out the victory at home over the Bears in a close and exciting game where Tyler Thigpen will officially have his coming out party.
Dolphins 24 Bears 20.
More NFL picks to come Thursday Night following Dolphins-Bears.
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Take this article for what it is; a Miami Beat writer, but it's a nice perspective from the other side.
I'll take their cheerleaders over ours by default... :lol-027: