The Chicago Bears, clinging to playoff life after two straight division losses, look to bounce back against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Arizona is hoping to gain momentum from its 38-10 rout of the Lions, a win that snapped a nine-game losing skid for the Cards.
In a battle of two atrocious passing games, which team will come out on top? These three factors will tell the tale:
1. Whose defense will score more points?
The Bears are accustomed to winning with defensive touchdowns, of which they have seven in 14 games this season. Arizona, though, has an opportunistic defense of its own to throw at a struggling Jay Cutler.
The Cards picked off Matthew Stafford three times last week, returning two for scores. Don’t be surprised if the big plays in this game all come from the defensive side of the ball.
2. How sharp will Matt Forte be?
With stalwart backup Michael Bush on injured reserve, Matt Forte gutted out a hard-fought 20 carries in last week’s loss to Green Bay. Add in five receptions, and Forte took an awful lot of punishment against the Pack.
The Bears need their star rusher at his best against Arizona’s 28th-ranked run defense. If Forte can’t keep the Bears out of obvious passing situations, Cutler could easily give the game away to Patrick Peterson and company.
3. Can Larry Fitzgerald save the Cardinal offense?
With a rookie quarterback in Ryan Lindley and no running back with more than 338 yards on the season, Arizona has precious few weapons on the offensive side of the ball. One obvious exception is spectacular wideout Larry Fitzgerald, whose numbers this year—61 catches for 674 yards and four scores—have only been limited by the revolving door under center.
Tim Jennings is likely to be on the sidelines again for Chicago, and Charles Tillman has been playing through injuries of his own. If Fitzgerald can break off a big play or two against the banged-up Bear secondary, he could turn the tide in a defensive contest.
Prediction: Bears 10, Cardinals 9
Cutler has been erratic at best, but at least he has more touchdowns thrown than interceptions—not to mention a functional ground attack. The same can’t be said of Lindley (zero scores and six picks), who won’t be able to take advantage of the injuries that have rendered the Chicago defense mortal.
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