In a meeting of two first place teams, the outcome will come down to strength vs. strength, weakness vs. weakness.
BEARS GAME PLAN
As they did against the Lions, the Bears will seek to neutralize the Bengals' explosive passing attack by disrupting QB Carson Palmer
. That will be much more difficult with DLE Wale Ogunleye out or playing hurt. However, MLB Brian Urlacher
already has three sacks, WLB Lance Briggs
has one and rookie FS Chris Harris
had multiple QB pressures last week.
Offensively, the Bears will focus on running against a Bengals defense that is dead last in average gain allowed per running play. The Bears want to give starter Thomas Jones and first-round pick Cedric Benson enough work to keep both happy, so the running game will be a priority, especially with rookie QB Kyle Orton still feeling his way.
BEARS MATCHUPS TO WATCHThe Bears' secondary, which has three of the team's five interceptions last week, vs. Bengals WR Chad Johnson, who led the AFC with 1,274 receiving yards last season. Johnson has 16 catches for 230 yards and one TD this season, while the Bears are No. 10 in passing yards allowed.
The Bengals' No. 2 scoring offense against the Bears' No. 3 scoring defense. One trend will have to end, as Chicago is allowing 7.5 points per game and Cincinnati is averaging 32 points per contest.
Bears QB Kyle Orton, who has thrown just one interceptions this season, against Bengals CB Deltha O'Neal, who has three picks. The Bengals lead the NFL with a plus-seven in turnover takeaway ratio, while the Bears are tied for second at plus-six.
BENGALS GAME PLAN
The Bengals have followed a similar pattern in their two victories: Get an early lead, thanks to their high-powered offense, and force the opposing offense to pass more than it would like. The Bengals have a 36:27 average possession time in their two games, which keeps the defense off the field.
Chicago has the best defense of the Bengals' three opponents, so the Bengals will want to avoid turnovers, especially early, and convert opportunities for touchdowns. The Bears also have the best run offense the Bengals will have seen, and a Cincinnati lead could make the Bears call more pass plays for rookie quarterback Kyle Orton.
BENGALS MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Bengals CBs Deltha O'Neal and Tory James vs. Bears QB Kyle Orton. O'Neal and James have four of the team's seven interceptions, and their 44 combined interceptions since the start of 2001 are the most for two teammates in the league. O'Neal has excellent hands, and James makes the most of errant throws.
Bengals DT Bryan Robinson vs. Bears C Olin Kreutz. They are good friends and will greet each other before the game. But, Robinson said, once the game starts, Kreutz will be "public enemy No. 1." Kreutz is a key to the Bears run game and protecting rookie quarterback Kyle Orton. The Bengals are improved against the run, witnessed by their No. 9 ranking (86 yards a game). But they are worst in the league with their 5.4-yard average allowed per rush attempt. The Bears will run both Thomas Jones and rookie Cedric Benson at the Bengals.
Bengals QB Carson Palmer vs. the Bears secondary. The Bears have six interceptions, and while Palmer is on a blistering five-game run with 14 touchdown passes, he has thrown seven interceptions, too. The Bears' secondary, like that of the Bengals, will make Palmer pay for bad passes. Unlike the past two games when he threw interceptions in the end zone for touchbacks, Palmer can't afford to waste a red zone opportunity against the Bears.