Carolina Panthers vs. Chicago Bears Preview and Prediction:

The Carolina Panthers (1-5) are now one third of the way through the 2012 season, and have little to show for it. With the recent firing of General Manager Marty Hurney, Panther’s fans hope it’s not too late to turn things around. A win against the Chicago Bears this Sunday could go a long way in doing just that.

A losing environment has surrounded the Carolina Panthers franchise over the past four years, making it a clear decision something needed to change. This leaves Hurney as the odd man out. It’s a tuff pill to swallow for the Panthers as many players held a close relationship with the long time GM. They even accepted responsibility for his firing, knowing this came as a result of their recent play on the field.

Players such as defensive end Charles Johnson backed up his former General Manager with statements on Twitter: "Marty wasn't the reason we are losing! ... Unbelievable!"

To make matters worse quarterback Cam Newton has become an emotional basket case. As a winner his smile can be seen from miles away, drawing the hearts of many. However, when he loses, Cam looks defeated and depressed. His demeanor has slowly begun to irritate those around him. He knows it’s becoming a real issue with his coaches and teammates. As his mentor, wide receiver Steve Smith will be the first to acknowledge Cam needs to foster a positive mentality if he wants to improve as a player and a person.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Chicago Bears (5-1) have enjoyed much success through the first seven weeks of the season. The Bears have hit full stride after an immaculate defensive performance in Monday night’s primetime win against the Detroit Lions. Led by the 6th overall defense in the league, the Bears look like a real contender in the NFC.

Quarterback Jay Cutler has been brilliant at times, but much like Cam Newton, Cutler’s attitude continues to pose a problem. Likewise, his decision making will need to improve if the Bears have any chance at making a strong push for the playoffs.

Running back Matt Forte is fully healthy and ready to ease the burden on his quarterback. When Forte is at full strength, the Bears offense can be nearly unstoppable. Cutler has found new life with the offseason acquisition of his former teammate Brandon Marshall and the duo have successfully shouldered a heavy load on offense to this point.

Can they continue their hot play against a Panthers defense that ranks 21st in yards allowed per game?

The Panthers have struggled early and often, but have managed to keep things close for quarterback Cam Newton down the stretch. However, Newton has been unable to finish close games, resulting in four straight losses. It won’t be any easier this week for Carolina, a team that will now be without starting middle linebacker Jon Beason and shutdown cornerback Chris Gamble for the rest of the season.

It’s a story of two teams moving in opposite directions, and is unlikely to change after this Sunday. With gaping holes across the Panthers defensive threshold, I expect Cutler and the Bears to dominate this one.  The over/under for this matchup is set at a low scoring 43, with the Chicago Bears a -7.5 favorite.

Prediction: Bears 27, Panthers 13


Key Injuries:

Out- LB Jon Beason (shoulder,knee) CB Chris Gamble(shoulder) DE Antwan Applewhite (thigh)

Doubtful- DE Thomas Keiser (elbow)


Out- WR Alshon Jeffery (hand)