Two teams trending in polar opposite directions square off Sunday as the disappointing Cam Newton takes his Panthers team on the road, to do battle with a red-hot Chicago Bears squad. The Bears have won four straight contests, and are well aware they can’t lose focus as the Green Bay Packers remain hot on their heels for the NFC North divisional crown.
Jay Cutler has been stellar this season, and the rest of his team has fed off of that. However in his last start against the Lions, Cutler did seem a bit banged up so it will be intriguing to monitor his status throughout this game. As good as Chicago’s attack has been this year, their defense is what spearheaded their resurgence. It’s a fierce unit, and simply one of the best in the NFL. Over the past few weeks, it’s wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks, and Cam Newton will need to be aware of the very opportunistic Bears secondary. As far as injuries go, rookie wide-out Alshon Jeffery remains out with a hand fracture, and Jay Cutler will play through a rib injury.
Meanwhile, the Panthers enter this contest as one of the more disappointing teams in the NFL to date. Many pundits thought this was the year for a young Carolina squad to take a real step forward, and perhaps challenge for the NFC South divisional crown. However, after seven weeks in the Panthers have imploded, and are bordering on disaster. Cam Newton has regressed in his sophomore season, and the Carolina defense is incapable of stopping a college team. They fired their General Manager on Monday and the organization seems in complete disarray at the moment. Coach Ron Rivera has made it clear that everyone is playing for jobs, but it remains to be seen if that can motivate this group. Against a tough and red-hot Bears squad, it won’t be easy to pick up a huge road victory. On the injury front, Carolina will be again without Chris Gamble and Jon Beason, two massive losses on defense. Defensive end Charles Johnson may play, but is battling a tough hip injury at the moment. If he can’t go, Cutler will have ample time in the pocket, likely adding to all that ails this Carolina team.
Panthers vs. Bears Betting Odds:
Carolina Panthers +8.5 (-120)
@ Chicago Bears -8.5 (+100)
Over 42 (-110)
Under 42 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Panthers vs. Bears Pick:
It will be very intriguing to see which Carolina Panthers squad shows up in Chicago Sunday afternoon. This is already a defeated group, seemingly always at a loss for words when trying to explain why they’ve been so awful in 2012. After the firing of their General Manager, and the temperamental outbursts of Cam Newton, will the Panthers respond to adversity, or buckle under the pressure?
My guess is that this group is far too talented to just pack it in for the remainder of 2012. The Panthers aren’t as bad as they currently look, and though the Bears are a solid team, this is a tough spot for a group that is likely a tad overrated at the moment. Add in the fact that Cutler enters this contest with questions about his injury status, and the Panthers might just be able to hang with the Bears on Sunday.
The Bears’ defense will pose problems for Newton and his teammates, but look for this to be the week where Newton returns to the form he displayed in his rookie year. When Newton is on, he’s a huge mismatch problem for all defensive coordinators, and expect Newton to turn in a much more impressive performance this week. It’s time for a bounceback effort after his plethora of breakdowns in the media, and look for an inspired performance out of Cam Newton against a tough Chicago defense.
On the other side of the football, Carolina’s defense remains pretty weak. The Panthers rank 21st in yards allowed per game, so look for the Bears to have minimal difficulty moving the football up and down the field against a depleted defense. But, the injury to Cutler makes things much more difficult. Cutler had to leave parts of last week’s game against Detroit, and if Carolina can get to the Bears’ quarterback with some regularity, knocking Cutler out of the game doesn’t seem out of question.
The Panthers have a knack of hanging around against some good teams. They’ve lost to the Cowboys, Seahawks, and Falcons by a combined 11 points, and it’s time for them to get a big victory. While I don’t think Newton and the Panthers will necessarily win, they’re catching the Bears at an ideal time, and should keep things close on Sunday.
PICK = Carolina +8.5 (-120)