Behind Enemy Lines: Part III

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Brian McIntyre of Northwest Football, go Behind Enemy Lines for a closer look at Sunday's matchup between the Bears and Seahawks at Soldier Field.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: BEARS ON OFFENSE
RB Matt Forte vs. Seahawks' screen defense

Two of the three 40-plus-yard passing plays the Seahawks have allowed this season have been on screens to running backs. Both screens set up touchdowns, including a 21-yard TD by the Rams' Kenneth Darby. Chicago's leading receiver hasn't been as involved in the passing game the last three weeks, but that could change against a defense that hasn't realized there's probably a reason three players have clear paths to the quarterback.

WRs Devin Hester and Johnny Knox vs. CBs Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings
Despite playing in Mike Martz's high-flying passing attack, Hester and Knox have only combined for 24 catches, 398 yards and one touchdown in five games. A lot of that has to do with quarterback Jay Cutler spreading the ball around liberally, as Forte (18 receptions) and tight end Greg Olsen (15) are actually the leading receivers on this team, but it's time for Hester and Knox to deliver some explosive plays downfield. While Knox is second in the league in yards per catch (20.9) among players with at least 10 receptions, Hester is averaging a tight end-like 11.5.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: BEARS ON DEFENSE
DE Julius Peppers vs. OTs Russell Okung and Sean Locklear

If Seattle has any chance to win Sunday, they'll need to account for Peppers. Okung will be making his second NFL start and figures to be a frequent, but not exclusive, target of the 6-7, 283-pound Peppers. He'll also line up across from Locklear, who has struggled in his return to the right side this season. Both tackles figure to receive plenty of help from tight ends Chris Baker and John Carlson.

LB Brian Iwuh vs. RBs Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett
With five-time Pro Bowl pick Lance Briggs sitting out practice both Wednesday and Thursday, there's a good chance the ankle injury he suffered toward the end of the Panthers game last Sunday will sideline him in Week 6. Iwuh, signed as a free agent after impressing the organization during a minicamp tryout, has been little more than a special-teams contributor in Chicago thus far. The weak-side linebacker is asked to cover the running back on passing plays a lot in Lovie Smith's version of the Cover 2, and the combination of Lynch and Forsett catches the ball very well.


RB Justin Forsett
Otto Greule Jr./Getty

THE SEAHAWKS WIN IF...
... Matt Hasselbeck has time to make plays in the passing game and doesn't turn the ball over. Seattle has played two "winnable" road games this season. But Hasselbeck has struggled, turning the ball over four times, including two inside the opponent's red zone, and Seattle has lost both games by three scores.

THE BEARS WIN IF...
... Cutler suffers no ill effects from last Sunday's concussion and gets back to throwing the ball as well as he did the first three weeks of the campaign. The Seahawks surrender just 72.8 yards per game on the ground, good enough for No. 2 in the NFL, but their 302.0 yards allowed through the air is 31st out of 32 teams, as even rookie Sam Bradford had his best day as a pro when he faced Seattle in Week 4: 23 of 41 for 289 yards with two TDs and one INT. Forte and Chester Taylor aren't going to be able to top 200 yards rushing like they did in Carolina, so it's up to Cutler to be the focal point of the offense once again.

THE SEAHAWKS LOSE IF...
... Hasselbeck struggles and Seattle's linebackers and safeties leave gaping holes in their zone coverage, allowing Cutler to make plays with the mid-range passing game. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers picked this defense apart to the tune of 455 yards, and much of that was due to him finding holes in the secondary. Cutler has the ability to light up an opposing defense on any given Sunday, and if he does that this week, the Seahawks are in trouble.

THE BEARS LOSE IF...
... their D starts to show some of the same flaws it did in 2009, when it couldn't force enough turnovers or get off the field on third down. Of course, the addition of Peppers has helped both the run defense and the pass rush, and his presence has had some residual effect on players like Israel Idonije, who had three sacks in Week 5 – he had nine in his entire career before that game. Hasselbeck is a rhythm passer if there ever was one, so if he gets time in the pocket and starts to feel it, he's the kind of veteran that won't mind nickel-and-diming the Bears do death.

FINAL PREDICTIONS
Brian McIntyre:
This should be a winnable road game for the Seahawks, so it won't be a major upset if they found a way to win. However, after watching some really bad clock management and offensive play-calling, where it seems Pete Carroll is still trying to impress voters instead of putting valuable points on the scoreboard, it's impossible to pick the Seahawks to win a road game at this point. With a determined Cutler looking to send a message to Jeremy Bates ... BEARS 27, SEAHAWKS 13.

John Crist: For one reason or another, the Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the league at home but one of the NFL's worst teams on the road, in part because Seattle is a long way from pretty much everywhere else in the country. It doesn't help them that this is a noon game Central time, which translates to 10:00 in the morning back in the Emerald City, so Carroll is trying to combat that by traveling to Chicago on Friday instead of Saturday. So long as Leon Washington doesn't return two kickoffs for touchdowns, like he did when the Seahawks beat the Chargers in Week 3, Chicago simply looks to be the better. ... BEARS 23, SEAHAWKS 13.

To go back and read Part I of this Behind Enemy Lines series, where John answered five questions from Brian, Click Here. To read Part II, where Brian answered five questions from John, Click Here.


Agree? Disagree? Let your voice be heard on our message board RIGHT HERE.


John Crist is the publisher of BearReport.com. Brian McIntyre is the editor of NorthwestFootball.net.


Bear Report Top Stories