With Jay Cutler going down to injury the Chicago Bears will start Caleb Hanie on Sunday. Hanie has played well in short spurts, but will make his first career start on the road. I’m sure the record for quarterbacks in their first career starts on the road isn’t good. The focus shifts on what the Raiders can accomplish on offense versus an opportunistic Bears defense.
Fortunately for the Raiders, the Bears weakness has been against the running game. The Bears rush defense has allowed 4.9 yards per carry to opposing running backs, but only 6 rushing touchdowns. Raiders will want to run the ball in the middle of the field and attempt to pass in the redzone for opportunities to score. Expect Michael Bush to have a big day on the ground, but don’t expect too many touchdowns as the Bears clamp down against the run in the redzone. The Raiders offensive lineman must get to the second level in the running game and put clean blocks on Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher to spring Michael Bush into the secondary.
The Bears linebackers struggle with speed backs as evidenced by Jahvid Best’s 163-yard rushing performance in week five. If Taiwan Jones is healthy enough to play he should get more carries to spell Bush and could finally break off a long run, but the Bears will be looking to force turnovers and Jones needs to focus on ball security or the Raiders will again give Bush 30 carries. Marcel Reece received more carries than normal last week, expect him to be more active in the passing game this week leaving the rushing duties to Bush and Jones. The Bears corners can tackle and the Raiders receivers will need to block and keep them from getting involved in run support.
The Bears primary weapon against the pass in defensive end Julius Peppers. The Raiders counter with Jared Veldheer to keep Peppers away from Carson Palmer. The Bears corners are physical and play short zones close to the line of scrimmage leaving the safeties to help deep. Carson Palmer will need to thread passes between the zones and be mindful of linebackers bailing into coverage. If Darrius Heyward-Bey is able to play, this game suites his abilities. Intermediate outs and slants can decimate the Bears defense if the backs can keep the linebackers sucked close to the line of scrimmage. The backs need to read Briggs and Urlacher bailing into zone and become check-down options for Palmer.
The struggle will be in the redzone as gaps in the zone are more condensed. The Raiders should attack the center of the field with a tight end and the perimeter of the field with Marcel Reece and force the Bears defense to cover the maximum amount of space.
The Bears are a good example of a bend, don’t break defense. The Bears will allow yardage, but force turnovers or the opponents to settle for field goals. It is very important for the Raiders to take care of the football this week. The Bears zone defense is good at creating confusion in the passing game and the Bears defense loves force fumbles when the ball-carrier gets careless. The Raiders run game should carry them once again, but don’t count out the passing game in the redzone.
By The Numbers[table "5" not found /]