This is an interesting game to say the least. Last week against the Charger, Jay Cutler suffered a fractured thumb. The injury will sideline Cutler for 6-8 weeks. A significant blow to a team that is right in the middle of a battle for a wildcard spot. After Kyle Orton was released by the Broncos, it appeared that the Bears were going to consider Orton. However, that didn’t come to fruition as the Chiefs claimed him, so the Bears will rely on seldom used Caleb Hanie. The Raiders are also in the playoff picture after Carson Palmer has done a superb job since being claimed.
If aren’t sure who Caleb Hanie is you are probably with the majority. But, Hanie has actually been in the NFL for 4 years now. Hanie started out in the NFL as a Bear as an undrafted rookie in 2008. Since then, the only significant action he saw was last year in the NFC Championship game. If you recall, Cutler’s game was cut short with a knee injury, and second stringer Todd Collins left with a separated shoulder, thus, giving way to Hanie. He did just about as much as you could ask of him given the situation, passing for 153 yards with a TD and INT. So, this is a quarterback that isn’t being thrown to the wolves against the Raiders. Haine doesn’t have the arm strength of Cutler, but he should do a solid job managing the game. The Bears will rely heavily on their defense and Matt Forte that is for sure.
This isn’t the Bears defense of old, but they have stepped up the last two weeks. Especially against the Lions, where they forced turnover after turnover en route to a 37-13 victory. Need it be forcing a critical fumble, or picking Matt Stafford off nearly Lions possession it felt like. The Bears defense turned it up when they had to against the Chargers, intercepting Philip Rivers twice late in that one to seal the win. The Bears defense is going to have to be stingy again this week, as they are facing a Raiders team ranked 3rd in rushing yards. The Bears do have the run stoppers to slow them down, though. Earlier in the year they were getting gashed, but they have stepped up recently. The Bears allow just over 100 yards a game (11th). There are soft spots in the Bears secondary (30th), but the Raiders will be hobbling in the receivers department coming into Sunday.
Carson Palmer will be at the helm for the Raiders this Sunday without some major weapons. Darren McFadden will once again be sidelined, but with Denarious Moore and Jacoby questionable, other players are going to need step up from the receiving core. Even Darius Heyward-Bey is feeling the injury bug with a nagging neck; however, he is listed as probable and will start barring something extreme. The Raiders defense started has been adequate at best during the whole year, but they are started to unravel. In the last three games, the Raiders have allowed an average of 25 points. The last time they held a team under 20 points was October 2nd, against who would have guessed it, the New England Patriots. The Raiders are extremely vulnerable against the ground game, giving up 131.6 yards on the ground per game. Expect the Bears to pound the ball all afternoon long.
Bears vs. Raiders Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Chicago Bears +4
@Oakland Raiders -4
Over 41.5 (-110)
Under 41.5 (-110)
Bears vs. Raiders Pick:
I think many people are going to take a look at this game and think, Caleb Hanie playing in a hostile environment in Oakland is not going to end too well. However, I feel like Hanie isn’t as bad as some people are making him out to be. But, regardless of that, I don’t feel like he is going to need to do much, just limit the mistakes. The Raiders should find it difficult to move the ball with efficiency. Michael Bush will bust off some decent runs, but there simply aren’t enough weapons for Carson Palmer to work with right now. A big reason for the Raiders being ranked as high as they are running the ball is because of Darren McFadden. The Raiders are going to miss McFadden in this one, as I don’t feel like Bush will be able to carry the load for four quarters against a team that wants to prove they can play without Cutler. This is a game that should be close until the end, so take the points.