Two teams heading in completely different directions square off Sunday afternoon, as the Chicago Bears face the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field.
The 5-1 Bears are in contention for their fourth NFC North title since 2005, with the sixth ranked defense in the NFL and quarterback Jay Cutler is making headlines for all of the right reasons.
Cutler is expected to play Sunday, but was in doubt after the monster hit he took from Detroit Lion’s Ndamukong Suh in Chicago’s 13-7 win Monday night.
Carolina, on the other hand, is in flux, with quarterback Cam Newton facing criticism in his sophomore campaign for his post-game demeanor and overall play.
Losers in four straight games, Newton’s thrown six interceptions compared to five touchdowns, and the 1-5 Panthers fired general manager Marty Hurney after their 19-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday.
Carolina’s streak may get even worse if they fall at Chicago, with their next four games at Washington, Denver, streaking Tampa Bay, and at Philadelphia.
Newton has still flashed his propensity to run the ball, but the Bears are No. 1 in rushing defense, holding opponents to 71 yards per game, and haven’t let up more than 21 points in a single game this season.
Chicago is also fifth in the league in sacks, taking down quarterbacks 21 times this year.
The Panthers’ defense is ranked No. 21 overall, and will have trouble improving with linebacker Jon Beason placed on injured reserve and out for the season with a torn labrum and a knee injury.
Beason missed 15 games last season with a torn Achilles tendon, and Carolina will likely rely on rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly more. Out of Boston College, Kuechly has started the last four games and leads the Panthers in tackles with 51 this season.
The game begins at 1 p.m. EDT and will be shown by FOX, or watch a live stream online by purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket Max.
Betting Odds: Chicago is favored by 9 points
Over/Under: 43 points
Prediction: Newton is capable of taking over a game, but hasn’t done it this season. The Bears will keep him in the pocket like everyone else, and if they hit him early, Carolina will drop their fifth straight game.
Predicted Score: Chicago 21, Carolina 14