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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
November 16, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
DET at DAL NO at NE Sun 4 PM PIT at BAL* MIN at GB*
IND at CIN OAK at WAS SEA at SF* Updated* Times ET

Prediction: Carolina 20, Chicago 13

The battle between two division leaders gets played in Chicago where the wind was so strong last week that field goal attempts were landing in the stands - the seats in line with the goal line that is. The Panthers are on a six game winning streak and have waxed their last three opponents by at least a 20 point winning margin while the Bears rarely ever score even 20 points in the game. This will be two great defenses to be sure, but only one team has a passing game and the NFL leader in receiving yardage.

Carolina Panthers (7-2)
1 20-23 NOR 10 30-3 NYJ
2 27-17 NE 11 Nov 20 @CHI
3 24-27 @MIA 12 Nov 27 @BUF
4 32-29 GBP 13 Dec 4 ATL
5 24-20 @ARI 14 Dec 11 TBB
6 21-20 @DET 15 Dec 18 @NOR
7 Open Bye 16 Dec 24 DAL
8 38-13 MIN 17 Jan 1 @ATL
9 34-14 @TBB . MON SAT
CAR at CHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Delhomme 0 0 200,2
RB DeShaun Foster 20 0 0
RB Stephen Davis 50 10 0
TE Kris Mangum 0 10 0
WR Steve Smith 0 80,1 0
WR Keary Colbert 0 30 0
WR Rod Gardner 0 20 0
WR Ricky Proehl 0 50,1 0
PK John Kasay 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Panthers have feasted on what has become a rather light schedule but even in their recent game in Tampa Bay, they stomped the divisional rival Bucs. The offense has been clicking and the defense has been top notch not only stopping the opponent but with sacks and turnovers. They bring the #3 defense against running backs and that's about all that the Bears have to offer on offense. But the Panthers also face a defense that is top five in almost every category - their toughest match-up of the season so far.

Quarterback: Jake Delhomme had gone through a hot streak when he had five straight games with multiple touchdowns and good yardage but the last two match-ups, both against good defenses of the Bucs and Jets, he only had one passing score and minimal yardage. Once Steve Smith is taken from the equation, the passing yards dip down but it's been rare for Smith to stay quiet for all sixty minutes every week.

Running Backs: Stephen Davis not only continues to be a touchdown machine, he comes off a 27 carry game with 81 yards for a season high. Davis has 12 scores on the year which is already a franchise record. DeShaun Foster offers some relief for Davis but has only produced around 25 yards in each of the last two games going against those tough defenses. Foster also has not scored this season. Going against a Bears defense in Chicago this week, it should continue to be more Davis and less Foster.

Wide Receivers: Steve Smith turned in only 34 yards on three catches last week and that is the third time this season that he's been taken out of the passing game by the secondary. In every other game he's gone over 100 yards and scored at least once. There is no middle ground with Smith. Either he is blanketed and does very little or he goes off on the defense and scores. Keary Colbert had a score last week but only two catches for 29 yards. The passing game is all about Smith and the only time any other wideout has any significant yardage is when Ricky Proehl catches one long pass.

Tight Ends: When facing a top defense, the tight ends here only have one catch per game. There's too much to do with blocking.

Match Against the Defense: This will be a fascinating game to watch because the Bears rushing defense has been outstanding this year. They have only allowed one rushing score and that was on the road. The Panthers prefer to work the ball down the field and have Davis take the plunge into the endzone but that just doesn't fit the pattern of what the Bears like to allow. Look for mediocre rushing numbers here and likely only the third game of the year that Davis does not score.

The Bears pass defense has been great statistically too but much of that has come from facing a lot of the worst quarterbacks in the league. The best parallel here is that Carson Palmer had 169 yards and three scores in Chicago, so look for Delhomme to crank up the passing game and notch at least one score if not two. The defense will naturally key on Smith but the likely depressed rushing numbers will force Delhomme to throw more and that benefits Smith and the other wideouts.

Chicago Bears (6-3)
1 7-9 @WAS 10 17-9 SFO
2 38-6 DET 11 Nov 20 CAR
3 7-24 CIN 12 Nov 27 @TBB
4 Open Bye 13 Dec 4 GBP
5 10-20 @CLE 14 Dec 11 @PIT
6 28-3 MIN 15 Dec 18 ATL
7 10-6 BAL 16 Dec 25 @GBP
8 19-13 @DET 17 Jan 1 @MIN
9 20-17 @NOR . . .
CHI vs CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Kyle Orton 0 0 140
RB Thomas Jones 100,1 10 0
TE Desmond Clark 0 30 0
WR Muhsin Muhammad 0 50 0
WR Justin Gage 0 30 0
WR Bobby Wade 0 20 0
PK Robbie Gould 2 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Bears rise to 6-3 in the NFC North and now have a two game lead over the Lions who they have already swept this season. The division is theirs in all likelihood. But this week will be one of the toughest match-ups of the season and after playing DET, NO and SF, the game will take a far different look when a top defense is going against them. With this game, a trip to Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh left to play, the Bears have some big bumps still left in the road but the two meetings with the Packers and one with the Vikings will assuredly be all they need to win to take the division title.

Quarterback: Kyle Orton chugs along this year, throwing for one touchdown in almost every game and yet topping 150 yards only once. In the two games against better than average defenses this year, he threw for about 140 yards against both Baltimore and Washington. He has seven touchdowns on the year against ten interceptions but five of those pick-offs came in one game - against the Bengals.

Running Backs: Thomas Jones sat out last week to rest his bruised ribs but he's expected back on the field for this game. Cedric Benson took the start against the 49ers and looked sharp gaining 50 yards on 12 carries before having his leg turn into a grotesque "L". The Bears say that it is only a sprain to his medial collateral ligament and that he may be back this year. I say the guy must be the second coming of Gumby to have not torn anything. Adrian Peterson stepped in and laid the hurt on the 49ers for the rest of the game, gaining 120 yards and one score. The offensive line has been blocking extremely well this year and any back that runs there has been successful.

Jones has largely been a home field phenomena this year. He's gained either 100 yards or scored a touchdown if not both in every game in Chicago.

Wide Receivers: Muhsin Muhammad has been the only wideout that mattered this year and he was held to only one catch for three yards against the 49ers but that was largely due to the rushing game doing well and the windy conditions. He's typically been having around 50 yards in a game. There's only been three scores thrown to wideouts this year and one went to Mark Bradley who is on injured reserve now. The team thrives on running and defense, not passing.

Tight Ends: Desmond Clark had two catches for 43 yards last week but that follows two games with only one catch and less than 10 yards. Notable here is that Clark's better efforts have come against the Redskins and Ravens, the two toughest defenses so far and most like the visiting Panthers.

Match Against the Defense: The Panthers have been tremendous in limiting rushers this year and only once have they allowed a runner to go over 75 yards in a game though much of that is because the game situation forced the opponent to pass. Only twice has an opponent had 20+ carries in a game against the Panthers and those efforts (McAllister and Ronnie Brown) produced a total of three scores and almost 200 yards. With Jones back, he should get near the 100 yard mark from sheer volume alone and likely will have one score.

The Panthers secondary has been weak in a few games this year but the Bears are not likely to throw much or all that well. Look for the standard 140 from Orton with a low chance that he could toss one score but the Panthers have been great against tight ends and that only leaves Muhammad. The Panthers can cover one guy. Don't expect a passing score here.