Chicago Bears (3-1, 2-2 ATS) at Carolina Panthers (0-4, 1-3 ATS), Week 5 NFL,
Sunday October 10th, 1:00PM Eastern Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, N.C
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Chi +1/CAR -1
Over/Under Total: 33.5
The Carolina Panthers nearly scored their first win of the season in a big way last week as they fell ever so slightly to the New Orleans Saints 16-14. The Panthers who have been battling a year of frustration actually showed some signs of improvement as they nearly upset the defending Super Bowl Champions on the road. The Panthers now return home to host the 3-1 Chicago Bears at Bank of America Stadium this Sunday. Chicago suffered their first loss of the season last Sunday night falling to the Giants 17-3 in what was seen as a pitiful offensive performance from the Bears. Chicago was among the few unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL prior to last week with quality wins over Dallas and Green Bay and now look to return to their winning ways on the road against the Panthers.
To start things off, the Bears would certainly like to forget their embarrassing performance last Sunday night. The Bears offensive front relinquished an amazing 10 sacks on the night and starting QB Jay Cutler was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Cutler’s status is day to day going into next weekend. Cutler’s replacement last Sunday was Todd Collins. Collins had a rough night under the extreme Giants pass rush as well completing just 4 of 11 passing for 36 yards. Luckily for the Bears, Carolina has the 2nd worse sacks total in the league with just 4 on the season. Therefore, who ever is behind center should have a bit more time to throw the ball. If Cutler is not able to go, it will definitely be harder for the Bears to move the football with unproven Collins directing the show.
On paper the Bears definitely do not appear to be an offensive powerhouse. Only Denver is averaging less yards per game running the football and starter Matt Forte has just 134 yards on the ground through the first 4 games. Forte does lead the team in receptions with 16 for 209 yards. WR Johnny Knox and Devin Hester get a lot of focus from defenses. So far Knox leads the team with 258 receiving yards and Hester has been rather quiet in his first few outings.
Now Chicago will definitely resort to the air if the running game continues to struggle, but the main concern will be how confident they will be in throwing the football if the backup Collins is in control. However even if there are some questions surrounding the offense, the Bears defense has been solid all year. Despite playing some high power offenses this season, Chicago is holding opponents to just 17 points per game. Chicago has also played very well against the run holding opponents to just 77 yards per game on the ground which will be ever so important in their meeting with the Panthers.
Carolina has had all types of troubles on offense this year mainly in the passing game where they have juggled starting quarterbacks on a near weekly basis. Rookie QB Jimmy Clausen appears to be the starter going forward with the most upside behind center. Last week Clausen threw for 11 of 21 passing for 146 yards while recording his first and only touchdown pass on the season. WR Steve Smith (questionable-doubtful this week) is a big time player on the outside even though his numbers are just 13 catches for 176 yards on the season. Still, that is more of a reflection aimed at the passing troubles in Carolina rather than Smith’s potential.
One area of the offense that did get moving last week was the ground game. The Panthers have relied on their running game in their successful seasons over the past few years and desperately need to get it back. Tailback DeAngelo Williams carried the ball for 13 times while tallying 86 yards with a touchdown last week. Backup tailback Jonathan Stewart is off to a slow start, but keep an eye on him as the season progresses. Despite the passing troubles, the Panthers can be a tough team when they get the ground game going and that has to be a big focus going forward.
The Panthers defense also stepped up last week against that dangerous Saints offense. Carolina held the Saints to 383 yards on the game while forcing two turnovers. Considering the defense was on the field for a solid 38 minutes, those numbers are even more impressive considering the Saints were held to just 16 points. If the offense can just start moving the chains a bit more, the Panthers defense can definitely keep them in the game and position themselves for their first victory of the season.
Jay’s pick to cover the point spread: I expect a SUPER low scoring game here with the UNDER cashing.