Following a beating via the hands of their hated division rivals the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears face a crucial home game against talented rookie Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. For Chicago, it’s already been a tale of two teams. In Week 1, they looked dominant in routing a very solid Atlanta Falcons squad. However following their opening game, the Bears have looked brutal, having been completely out-classed by both New Orleans and Green Bay. Sitting at 1-2, and facing further risk of falling out of the playoff picture, the Bears desperately seek a win at home against a surprisingly competitive Carolina Panthers team.
The Panthers weren’t expected to win many games in 2011. Coming into the season, sportsbooks set their win total at just 4.5, and it has become abundantly clear that if they continue playing at this level, that figure should be surpassed with ease. Former Heisman winner Cam Newton has been quite the revelation in his rookie season, passing for over 1,000 yards in just three starts. His solid play has also contributed to the resurgence of once prominent wide receiver Steve Smith, who has been equally as impressive in the early going. Together the two have formed a dynamic duo and will be a handful for the Bears’ defense on Sunday. The Panthers enter this contest with a 1-2 record, but both losses have been very tight ones coming at Arizona, and home to the defending champion Green Bay Packers.
Carolina vs. Chigago Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Carolina Panthers +7 (-120)
@ Chicago Bears -7 (+100)
Over 42.5 (-110)
Under 42.5 (-110)
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Panthers vs Bears Pick:
If the Bears want to get their season back on track and prevent themselves from falling further behind in the competitive NFC North division they have to protect quarterback Jay Cutler. Say what you want about the guy, question his toughness, the point is Cutler remains a capable NFL quarterback and when he’s on his game, he makes this Bears squad much more lethal on offense. The Bears have been sacked a league-leading 14 times in just 3 games thus far, and without offensive tackle Gabe Carimi this week, it makes the task even more difficult. Carolina comes into Chicago with a potent pass rush, spearheaded by key defensive end Charles Johnson. If Chicago wants to be effective on offense and employing Mike Martz’s attacking scheme, they’ll need to give Cutler time in the pocket, and prevent the Panthers from getting good shots on him in the backfield.
Chicago is again expected to be without key safety Chris Harris against Carolina. He injured his hamstring in practice this week, and will be forced to sit out. This is alarming news considering the Bears have given up 567 yards in the last two weeks through the air, and six touchdowns. Granted these performances came against Brees, and Rodgers, but futility like that will thrust the Bears’ questionable defense into the spotlight on Sunday.
Look for Carolina to exploit holes in the Bears’ defense with their multitude of weapons. Chicago will have trouble stopping the versatility Newton brings, as well as downfield threats Steve Smith, and former Bears tight end Greg Olsen. Their two-headed running attack of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart has gotten off to a slow start, but should improve against a Bears’ run defense that’s allowed 100 yards to both of their last two opponents. I expect the Panthers to continue their string of surprising performances, and enter Chicago covering the touchdown they’re currently being given. Over the past few seasons, Chicago has not responded well to dealing with expectations in front of their boisterous home crowd. They’ve been 0-5 against the spread when they’re favoured in the second of back-to-back home games. After turning in a dismal performance last week at home to the Packers, expect another underwhelming game against Newton and the Panthers.