Who: Chicago Bears (1-3) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3)
Where: Arrowhead Stadium
When: Noon CTTV: FOX
Radio: WBBM 780 AM & 105.9 FM
Meeting for the 12th time, the Bears hold a slight 6-5 overall advantage in the series. The Chiefs won the last meeting 10-3 in 2011 at Arrowhead.
The series has been very close, with seven of the previous 11 contests decided by a touchdown or less, including six decided by four points or less (Chicago has been victorious in five such meetings). The Chiefs hold a slight 3-2 edge in games played in Kansas City, including a 31-3 victory in 2003, the largest victory in the series by either team.
Sunday's contest will mark the first of four road contests over a five-game stretch for the Bears (six weeks including the bye). The Chiefs are the second consecutive AFC Wst opponent after Chicago defeated the Raiders 22-20 last Sunday. The Bears head to Detroit to take on the Lions next week.
Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub held the same role with the Bears from 2004-12. During his tenure in Chicago, Toub helped five different players to eight Pro Bowl berths: Devin Hester (2006-7 and 2010), Johnny Knox (2009), Brendan Ayanbadejo (2006-7), Robbie Gould (2006) and Corey Graham (2011). Toub helped the unit to a No. 1 overall ranking in 2006 and 2007.
Chiefs director of football operations Chris Ballard spent 12 seasons in Chicago's personnel department, first as a Southwest Area Scout (2001-11) and then as director of pro scouting (2012).
Head Coach Comparison
|JOHN FOX||ANDY REID|
|120-92 (.566)||Regular Season Record (pct.)||151-108-1 (.583)|
|14th||Years as NFL head coach||17th|
|1st||Years as team's head coach||3rd|
|9-1||Career vs. Team||6-4|
The Bears have 16 players on the injury report. T Jermon Bushrod (concussion) has been ruled out, while S Antrel Rolle (ankle) is doubtful.
The following Chicago players are listed as questionable:
CB Alan Ball (groin)
QB Jimmy Clausen (back)
QB Jay Cutler (hamstring)
T Tayo Fabuluje (ankle)
WR Alshon Jeffery (hamstring)
T Kyle Long (back/ankle)
LB Shea McClellin (elbow)
CB Sherrick McManis (hamstring)
LB Pernell McPhee (shoulder)
OL Patrick Omameh (ankle)
DL Jeremiah Ratliff (ankle)
WR Eddie Royal (ankle)
DL Will Sutton (elbow)
Probably for the Bears is P Patrick O'Donnell (knee).
Cutler and Ratliff are expected to play, while Royal and Jeffery did not practice this week and are not expected to play.
For the Chiefs, LB Josh Mauga (groin/Achilles) has been ruled out, while WR Albert Wilson (shoulder) is questionble. Tight ends Travis Kelce (groin/thumb) and James O'Shaughnessy (hand) are probable.
|BEARS (NFL RANK)||CHIEFS (NFL RANK)|
|17.0 (28th)||Points Scored||25.0 (10th)|
|313.5 (26th)||Total Offense||357.8 (14th)|
|123.5 (11th)||Rushing Offense||108.0 (15th)|
|190.0 (29th)||Passing Offense||249.8 (13th)|
|31.3 (T-31st)||Point Allowed||31.3 (T-31st)|
|309.0 (7th)||Total Defense||397.0 (29th)|
|119.3 (24th)||Rushing Defense||101.5 (14th)|
|189.8 (4th)||Passing Defense||295.5 (28th)|
|-2 (T-19th)||Turnover Ratio||-4 (T-27th)|
The Cutler Files
In three starts this year, Cutler has thrown for 626 yards, 4 TDs and 3 INTs. He's completed 61.4 passes and has an 83.8 QB rating.
Overall, he's played fairly well, particularly last week when he led the offense on a 12-play game-winning drive in the final minutes against the Raiders. It was an impressive performance by Cutler, who could not scramble out of the pocket due to a bad hamstring.
Cutler's hamstring still isn't 100 percent and he's listed as questionable, but he's fully expected to start against the Chiefs' 29th-ranked pass defense.
“Going back and looking at the film, I kind of had the mindset going into it I was going to stay in the pocket and just work from there," Cutler said this week. "Even when I stepped up a few times and threw it, my mindset was just get rid of the ball and let these guys do it. This week I think I’ll be able to move around a little bit more. We still want to stay in the pocket and deliver the ball from there. If I’ve got to get out, I think I can get out.”
Life won't be easy for Cutler, who will be without two-fifths of his offensive line and his top two wide receivers.
"It's hard. It's hard as a play-caller, especially when you don't know who you're going to have Sunday, who you're going to have available on a Wednesday and Thursday putting in plays, who's going to be up who's not going to be up," said Cutler. "But we're making do. [Offensive coordinator Adam Gase] does a good job of kind of making these plays friendly for everybody and just moving pieces around. We're so multiple in formations and personnel that we mix and match."
Expect the Bears to lean on the run game in order to take some of the weight off Cutler's shoulders but they'll still need to pass the ball, which could be difficult. Cutler needs to be lights out and must avoid turnovers if Chicago's passing attack is to move the ball with any consistency.
Bears on Offense
Matchups to Watch
RT Kyle Long vs. OLB Justin Houston
Justin Houston led the NFL last season with 22.0 sacks and has 3.0 sacks already this year. He's one of the best edge rushers in the game and has the second most QB hurries (16) amongst 3-4 outside linebackers (per Pro Football Focus). Houston isn't a one-trick pony either, as he's very stout against the run. Kyle Long leads the team in sacks allowed (3) and QB hurries allowed (8) and has hit a few rough patches in his transitioin to right tackle. The cast on his left hand came off last week, so that should help Long, who must be exceptional on Sunday to keep Houston out of the backfield.
DL Jaye Howard vs. OL Matt Slauson
Matt Slauson will either start at center for the injured Will Montgomery or at his usual left guard spot. Whatever position he plays, Slauson and the rest of Chicago's interior blockers must lock up Jaye Howard on run downs. Howard has been outstanding against opposing rushing attacks this year and has benefited from the presence of NT Dantari Poe, who eats up space inside. The Bears will be without two starters along the offensive line, which will make it difficult to keep Poe and, more importantly, Howard from clogging holes at the line of scrimmage. If Matt Forte is going to have any luck on the ground, Slauson must play one of his best games.
Keys on Offense
-With Jeffery and Royal expected out, that makes WR Marquess Wilson the top pass catcher for the Bears. Wilson is coming off his best game as a pro (6 catches for 80 yards against the Raiders) and must build on that peformance. He'll likely square off against Marcus Peters, who has already allowed five touchdowns on the season and has a 101.2 QB rating against. That's a matchup of which Wilson must take advantage, particularly on deep balls, to enable to the offense to pick up big chunks through the air.
-OL Patrick Omameh (ankle) did not practice this week and is unlikely to play. That will thrust thrid-round rookie Hroniss Grasu into the starting lineup, either at center or left guard. Grasu struggled in the preseason and did not appear ready for prime time, but that doesn't matter now, as he'll be forced into action due to injuries. If Grasu can surprise everyone and use his athleticism to keep the interior pass rushers from collapsing the pocket, it would be a huge boost to Chicago's passing game.
-Opposing offenses are averaging nearly 400 yards through air against Kansas City's defense. TE Martellus Bennett needs to take advantage of a weak, banged up secondary, just as he did last week (11 catches, 83 yards, 1 TD). The Chiefs will be without starting ILB Josh Mauga, meaning rookie Ramik Wilson will make his first career start. That's a juicy matchup for Bennett, who should be Cutler's preferred target all game.
-Veteran OLB Tamba Hali isn't the player he once was but he can still bring it off the edge. LT Charles Leno will make his second straight start, following a Week 4 game in which he performed better than expected. Leno needs another strong game to keep Hali out of Cutler's hair.
Bears on Defense
Matchups to Watch
OLB Lamarr Houston vs. LT Donald Stephenson
The Chiefs have allowed a league-high 19 sacks so far this season. LT Donald Stephenson has struggled, allowing two sacks and 13 QB hurries - 2nd most in the NFL among NFL offensive tackles (per PFF). Lamarr Houston's snaps have increased each week as he recovers from his ACL injury. Against the Raiders, he had two QB hits and two QB hurries. He, along with Sam Acho, must exploit Stephenson and destroy the pocket from the left side.
NT Eddie Goldman vs. LG Ben Grubbs
Ben Grubbs is a sieve in pass protection (he's given up four sacks in four games) but he's a quality blocker in the run game. The Chiefs will be looking to pound RB Jamaal Charles between the tackles, meaning Eddie Goldman needs to eat up space and clog holes. Goldman was outstanding against the Raiders last week and will once again be tasked with shutting down a tough NFL rushing attack.
Keys on Defense
-Pernell McPhee was a surprise addition to the Friday injury report and may not be able to play due to a shoulder injury. That would mean a substantial increase in reps for OLB Willie Young, who has just one tackle on the season. Young reportedly wants to be traded. The best way for that to happen is for him to explode in this game and show the rest of the league he still has something left in the tank.
-Jeremy Maclin is Kansas City's top receiver. He's caught 28 passes for 398 yards and a TD so far this year. Cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Kyle Fuller must respect Maclin's speed and now allow him room over the top. Yet they can't sleep on Chris Conley, who will be the Chiefs' No. 2 wideout this week. Conley is 6-3, 205 and ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. If Chicago's secondary pays too much attention to Maclin, Conley could make them pay.
-The Bears will be without S Antrel Rolle in this game and it's unclear who will replace him. Along with Adrian Amos, Chicago's new starting safety must pay close attention to TE Travis Kelce, one of the most dangerous pass-catching tight ends in the league. Kelce has 21 catches for 293 yards and two touchdowns this year, and is a favorite target of Chiefs QB Alex Smith. If Kelce gets loose, he's going to hurt the Bears' defense.