After losing to the Texans last week in a battle of one-loss teams, the (7-2) Chicago Bears face yet another daunting task as they visit Candlestick Park to take on the (6-2-1) San Francisco 49ers in a week 11 match-up (Monday, 8.30pm ET).
Both teams have recently been very successful in Monday night games and come into this game with first place standings in their divisions. They are also in a good position to battle the Atlanta Falcons for home field advantage throughout the NFC Championship game. That said, the road to the playoffs will certainly be easier for whoever walks away the victor of this game.
(CHI) Jay Cutler and (SF) Alex Smith Battle Concussions; Status in Doubt
In what turns out to be a bit of irony, it is possible neither the Bears nor 49ers will have an advantage when it comes to the man their opponent is starting at quarterback.
How Does Cutler’s Absence Affect the Chicago Offense?
Now in his seventh year in the league, the 29-year-old quarterback out of Vanderbilt has seemed to find a sense of comfort ability in his fourth season with the Bears. He has played well since being traded from the Denver Broncos, including recording the second best year of his career in 2009.
Although Cutler has played well, he has struggled at times and has faced numerous criticism of his commitment to his teammates and his physical toughness. He was also called out for his inaccuracy and the tendency to make mistakes in high pressure situations. Critics questioned if he could ever take the Bears to a Super Bowl and at that, if he could lead the team to victory,
Entering 2012, Cutler was given a chance to silence these critics as the Broncos acquiring his old friend and battery mate in wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Immediately the two reconnected and Cutler soon found that Marshall was his best and most reliable target. This is evidenced in the numbers Marshall has put up including his 67 receptions (2nd best in the NFL), 904 total yards (3rd best) and 100.4 yards per game (3rd best). On the season, Cutler has twelve touchdowns, seven of which have gone to Marshall.
As had become the norm this season, Marshall diced up the Texans defense to the amount of 107 yards on 13 targets and eight receptions. Most of his however, came before Cutler sustained a nasty hit, knocking him out of the game and out for at least this week.
There is no guarantee that Cutler’s absence will hamper Marshall’s production and chances at career numbers. What is certain however is that if Marshall is affected in any way by the quarterback change, that the Bears will have a tough road in order to beat San Francisco.
Marshall leads a crop of very talented wide receivers that includes Earl Bennett, now in his fifth year out of Vanderbilt and Devin Hester, one of the best return specialists in the game. Although Chicago is ranked near dead last in the passing game, it is the threat of Marshall that really opens up the offense for Cutler and for running back Matt Forte, who heads the league’s ninth best rushing attack. If that threat is taken away, which could happen as a result of San Francisco boasting the 5th best passing defense, Forte and the run game of Chicago could also be hampered as the 49ers also have the league’s 6th best rushing defense.
What does it mean for the 49ers if Smith Can’t Play?
While the Bears offense is no doubt going to be impacted with Cutler’s absence, the same cannot exactly be said for the 49ers. Although Alex Smith is a very important part of the San Francisco attack, the team that is ranked at or the near the top in both defensive and offensive categories, can and likely will be fine without him.
Smith anchors the league’s 28th best passing offense but where the 49ers really have their bread and butter is in running back Frank Gore. Gore ranks eighth in the NFL in yards (753), yards per game (83.7) and touchdowns (5). In amassing these stats, Gore has also helped the Niners to the league’s top ranked run game, averaging over 170 yards a game.
As of right now it is looking like Smith will play. He has been practicing and if he passes his contact test will be good to play Monday night. Even though, the 49ers Colin Kaepernick is a suitable backup, San Francisco will definitely have the advantage against Chicago if they can start their number one QB.
Dominating Defenses Will Be Front and Center
Putting aside the quarterbacks and other offensive personnel of the two teams, the game could truly be decided on the opposite side of the ball. Both the Niners and Bears boast two of the best defenses in the league but when it comes to defensive touchdowns and interceptions, the Bears take the cake.
Chicago’s defensive backs have been near unstoppable this year no matter what quarterback they have faced. No matter which quarterback ends up going for San Francisco, this defense should be up to the task. They hold opponents to just 196.8 yards a game (5th best) and just 14.8 points a game as well (2nd best).
San Francisco’s defense is just as good if not a little better. They may not have the defensive touchdowns or high turnover margin but they do have the best defense in points allowed (14.1), third best in total yards allowed (292.1) and sixth best in opponent’s rushing yards (95.3).
Chicago Bears v San Francisco 49ers Betting Picks Verdict
- San Francisco is favored by seven points in this match-up, but I am unwilling to count out the Bears even without Cutler taking the snaps under center. For this reason, take Chicago +7pts on the spread @ -115 with BetOnline Sportsbook.
- Also with most of San Francisco’s games playing low this year, go under 36.5 points on the points total spread @ odds of -110 with BetOnline.
- NOTE to Non-Americans: Place these bets with Bet365.