Bears-Cardinals Matchups to Watch

Three crucial matchups on both sides of the ball that will help decide the outcome of Sunday's contest, one the Bears must win if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Bears on Offense

WR Brandon Marshall vs. CB Patrick Peterson
The Chicago Bears' passing attack goes as far as Marshall takes it. He's third in the league in targets (165), which is more than all of Chicago's other receivers combined. His 107 catches are a franchise record and are currently the most in the NFL, while his 1,398 receiving yards are second in the league. The Arizona Cardinals will attempt to limit Marshall by shadowing him with Peterson, the fifth overall pick in last year's draft. In his second season, Peterson has developed into one of the best cover corners in the league. He's a big (6-1, 219), physical corner with great speed. He has 7.0 interceptions this year, second most in the NFL, including one in each of the last four games. The Cardinals will surely double-team Marshall on most plays, but the onus falls on Peterson to stop him in one-on-one situations. If that happens, the Bears will struggle mightily on offense.

T Gabe Carimi
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

RT Gabe Carimi vs. DE Calais Campbell
Carimi will move back to right tackle in this game – after being benched following the loss to the San Francisco 49ers – as Jonathan Scott (hamstring) isn't expected to play. Carimi started the first 10 games of 2012 at right tackle, yet he was horrible. Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded him as the worst pass blocking tackle in the league over that span, during which he gave up seven sacks and 28 quarterback hurries. Campbell has 4.5 sacks on the season, second most for Arizona. He will give Carimi all he can handle, yet the Cardinals will also bring a number of exotic blitzes out of their 3-4 defense. This will involve linebackers coming from every direction, with plenty of delays, stunts and overloads. Arizona is fifth in the league with 36.0 sacks and has six players with 3.0 sacks or more. If Carimi has another rough outing on the edge, Jay Cutler will get battered.

C Roberto Garza vs. LB Daryl Washington
The chess match between the offensive line and Arizona's front seven will play out on the field between Garza and Washington. Garza makes the calls for Chicago's front five and will be in charge of keeping this week's offensive line – which will feature the fifth different starting combination of the past six weeks – organized and cohesive. Washington is the biggest threat, as he leads the Cardinals with 9.0 sacks. For a middle linebacker, that is very impressive. It shows not only Washington's skill in getting after the quarterback, but also defensive coordinator Ray Horton's creativity in opening rush lanes for his most athletic linebacker. Washington is also 11th in the league with 115 tackles. The Bears have allowed 41 sacks this year, sixth most in the NFL. If Garza loses this chess match, the resulting lack of offense could end Chicago's season.

Bears on Defense

DE Corey Wootton vs. RT Bobby Massie
Massie, a fourth-round rookie out of Ole Miss, struggled mightily in the early part of the season. Through Arizona's first eight games, he allowed 13 sacks and 34 hurries, according to PFF. Yet something changed for Massie in Week 9. Over the past six games, he has not allowed a single sack, while giving up just three total hurries. Also on a hot streak is Wootton, who was named the starter over Israel Idonije in Week 11. Over the past five games, he has 3.0 sacks, which is the most on the team during that span. With DT Henry Melton unlikely to play for the second straight week, Wootton will again have to raise his level of play. If he can get the best of Massie and apply consistent pressure on passing downs, that should be enough to rattle rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley into some costly mistakes.

WR Andre Roberts
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

CB Tim Jennings vs. WR Andre Roberts
We all know Larry Fitzgerald, a six-time Pro Bowler, is Arizona's biggest receiving threat. CB Charles Tillman will likely shadow Fitzgerald, with safety help over the top on most plays. Yet Roberts, a third-year player who has come into his own this season, is actually the club's leader in receiving yardage (697), touchdowns (5), catches of 20-plus yards (10) and first-down receptions (37, tied with Fitz). Jennings (shoulder) missed the last two games but will return this week. He will have his hands full with Roberts, who has big-play ability on every snap. In a game that most predict will be a defensive battle, one or two deep passes to Roberts could be the difference.

LB Lance Briggs vs. RB Beanie Wells
The Cardinals will want to run the ball early and often to take pressure off their inexperienced quarterback. They'll use a combination of Wells and LaRod Stephens Howling to accomplish that goal. Wells has 15 or more carries in three of the last four games and scored three touchdowns against the Detroit Lions last week. Expect Arizona to again give him a heavy workload on Sunday. With Brian Urlacher (hamstring) out for his third straight game, Briggs will again have to do the heavy lifting against the run. He and MLB Nick Roach must work in tandem to fill gaps and keep Wells, a runner who gets better with more carries, from picking up steam.

Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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