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Chicago Bears to get rare road win in Cleveland

Running back Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears offense look to keep rolling against the Cleveland Browns.

Running back Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears offense look to keep rolling against the Cleveland Browns.

After a 45-28 shellacking of the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14, coupled with a Detroit Lions loss, the Chicago Bears (7-6) find themselves tied with their division rivals atop the NFC North.

Since the Lions own the head-to-head tiebreaker, however, the Bears find themselves in a must-win situation as they head to Cleveland in Week 15 to take on the slumping Browns, who have lost four straight and seven of eight to fall to 4-9.

On paper, the Chicago Bears are the better team and should win this game, but they are not good enough to take any victory for granted, especially with their injury-depleted defense.

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is expected to return to action this week.

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is expected to return to action this week.

Cutler returns

Starting quarterback Jay Cutler is expected to return to the lineup this week after missing the last four games with a high ankle sprain. He will be tasked with keeping the momentum going after the offense put up its best performance in years against the Cowboys last week.

Cleveland appears to have a solid defense: they are seventh in the NFL in yards per game allowed and 19th in points per game.

But they have been struggling lately, giving up at least 27 points in each of their last four games. If the offensive line can keep a fierce Cleveland pass rush (37 sacks on the year, ninth in the NFL) at bay, Cutler should be able to find success.

Who will Haden cover?

One player to keep an eye on is Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden, who has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL this year. According to  ProFootballFocus, quarterbacks have completed only 55.6 percent of passes thrown his way for an incredibly stingy 5.5 yards per target. He has also added four interceptions, tied for fifth in the NFL.

But Hayden is only one man and can therefore only cover one receiver, whereas Chicago has two dangerous pass catchers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Marshall went into the season as the clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver, while Jeffery has exploded onto the scene in his second season and has more yards than Marshall so far this year.

I expect Haden to spend the majority of the game lined up on Marshall, but it will be interesting to see how much the Browns switch him onto Jeffery.

Contain Josh Gordon

The primary player the defense needs to be worried about is wide receiver Josh Gordon. Like Jeffery, Gordon is enjoying a breakout sophomore season, currently leading the NFL with 1,400 receiving yards despite being suspended the first two games of the season.

Gordon has been incredible lately, exploding for an NFL record 774 receiving yards in his last four games. It will fall to cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Zach Bowman, with help from safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright, to keep Gordon in check.

Something’s gotta give

Outside of Gordon, the main problem will be stopping the run. Chicago is far and away the worst run defense in the NFL, having given up an average of over 200 yards per game over the last seven weeks.

Cleveland is not a good running team, averaging 84 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry this year, and will likely be without starting running back Willis McGahee as he recovers from a concussion.

But the Bears, who are still waiting the return of linebacker Lance Briggs from his shoulder injury, were run over by the Baltimore Ravens a few weeks ago — and they’re worse running the ball than Cleveland.

Cleveland's Josh Gordon is the hottest wide receiver in the NFL right now.

Cleveland’s Josh Gordon is the hottest wide receiver in the NFL right now.

Cleveland running back Chris Ogbonnaya, averaging 5.3 yards per carry this year in limited action, is expected to get the start.

I don’t normally give fantasy football advice, but if you’re in the fantasy football playoffs, I highly recommend you grab Ogbonnoya off waivers if possible and start him. Any running back getting carries against the Chicago Bears is going to have a big day.

Prediction

This is a difficult game to predict.

It is impossible to know how the Chicago Bears offense will perform with Jay Cutler back under center; he has played a total of 3.5 quarters in the last eight weeks and could be rusty.

It’s also difficult to say how the weather could potentially impact the game. We witnessed firsthand last weekend how outdoor games in December can add a layer of complexity to the game, and the weather forecast right now calls for snow showers around game time.

With all that said, I’m going with Chicago here. This game means more to the Bears than the Browns, and while both teams feature struggling defenses, Chicago has more offensive firepower than Cleveland. I expect a somewhat high-scoring game with the Chicago Bears coming out on top.

Final score: Chicago Bears 31, Cleveland Browns 27

1481 comments
mountaineer4life
mountaineer4life

Greetings watercooler bloggers ...... nice article Robertj ....

JJ CAROL1NA PANTHERS
JJ CAROL1NA PANTHERS

ha RobertJ you are actually an embarrassment to Panthers fan so shut the fuck up..

robertj72
robertj72

So let me get this straight mild yard differences dont matter but that is the strength of the argument against me. 

Long story short, Panthers played their game that has them winning 3 of the 4 quarters. Was it stronger in the 1st and milder in the 3rd and 4th..sure. But they did what they do. Over those 3 quarters they held a 13-10 point advantage which is how we win. It was the 2nd quarter where we got our asses handed to us.

I am not taking anything form NOR..the are an offensive machine. You can't give them a full quarter. Hell you can't give them half a quarter. We lost...they won. But they did not dominate the game. They dominated a quarter and that is all a team like that needs.

MIBearFan
MIBearFan moderator

I'm getting my boys Bears jerseys for Christmas. Do I get them current jerseys, Jeffery and Forte, or classic, Ditka and Butkis?

JJ CAROL1NA PANTHERS
JJ CAROL1NA PANTHERS

If UNC is healthy during the tourney...my money is on them to win it all

mountaineer4life
mountaineer4life

@robertj72Oh btw .... to add to your conversation with Allsaintsrow at the bottom about the saints-panthers game, your garbage time TD came with 5.30 min left in the game and that to on 4th and goal at your 17 yd line ... so call it a fluke...... the score was 31-6 until then .... if thats not dominance then I dont know what is ....

robertj72
robertj72

@JJ CAROL1NA PANTHERSJJ is the Saintchicka of Panthers nation. Consider the source!

The source in this case is a broken septic tank in a trailer park.

Ninja Mutant Turtle Teenager
Ninja Mutant Turtle Teenager moderator

@robertj72You said that the Panthers dominated in terms of TOP and yards. They didnt. There is no argument against you, you are wrong.


And to be fair, the only thing the Panthers dominated was the TOP in the first. Yards were almost equal with the Panthers holding a slight edge. 


A full THIRD of your teams TOP was in the first quarter. Of the other 3 the Saints won the 2nd easily and slightly won the other 2.

robertj72
robertj72

@MIBearFanI go middle ground...proven dudes that will still be there...Briggs and Forte.

robertj72
robertj72

@AllSaintsRow@robertj72I said that if you remove the 2nd the Panther dominated the yards and TOP...that is true. I am so happy for you that you got a dozen or so more yards in less time in the 3rd and 4th but the Panthers still did their thing the way they win in all but the 2nd.

JJ CAROL1NA PANTHERS
JJ CAROL1NA PANTHERS

i liked that he has done better at short passes but we need to go deep more often

robertj72
robertj72

@UNCfan Loves His Panthers And Tarheels!@robertj72@AllSaintsRowI do agree our offense will have to be more creative. We have to run and move Cam around more. I appreciate that Shula has improved Cam's short game but we can't act like we are proving we are an old school O or that Cam is a Manning or Brady. We must play to his skills and the opponents weaknesses. 

My orginal post is that I am wondering if we didn't do so because we are dumb or stubborn or did we not because we are holing our cards close to the vest for an advantage in the playoffs

UNCfan And French Andy Are Besties
UNCfan And French Andy Are Besties

@robertj72@UNCfan Loves His Panthers And Tarheels!@AllSaintsRow I haven't seen anyone crying anyway.  It wasn't  just the Saints game   anyway   The Pats  were about to move the ball on us as  well.  They gave teams  a blueprint  on how to attack our defense with  short passes and screens.  The good thing is I defense is good enough   to  adjust but  we need the offense to step up big time  if not we will be going one and done 

JJ CAROL1NA PANTHERS
JJ CAROL1NA PANTHERS

we played like butt the entire game..6 points in the first half and 7 in the 2nd, end of story

robertj72
robertj72

@AllSaintsRow@robertj72No my point is that the Panthers played their style all but the 2nd. I am taking nothing away from the Saints. They owned the 2nd and shoved it down our throats. We cannot beat a team as good as NOR giving up even a quarter but our fans crying over one really badly played quarter after 8 games and 3 quarters of solid play is stupid.

Ninja Mutant Turtle Teenager
Ninja Mutant Turtle Teenager moderator

@robertj72@AllSaintsRowOh so your point is that if you remove the Saints best quarter, your teams numbers look so much better. If thats the case I should have just let you look like an idiot instead of debating with you.


If you removed the first quarter, the Saints embarrassed the Panthers in TOP, yards, cups of gatorade consumed, high fives, and butt slaps.