The Bears (2-3) host Baltimore (2-3) on Sunday in a rare late afternoon (3:15 PM CT) home contest. The Bears are coming off a 28-3 victory over the Vikings, while the Ravens dominated the Cleveland Browns in a 16-3 triumph. Both teams are working through some injuries. Let's take a closer look at their impact on the game.
S Cameron Worrell (IR-shoulder); LB Marcus Reese (IR-shoulder); LB Rod Wilson (IR-knee); WR Airese Currie (NFI-foot); FB Jason McKie (NFI-pectoral); FB Bryan Johnson (PUP-foot); CB Alfonso Marshall (PUP-knee); LB Joe Odom (IR-ankle).
C Drew Caylor (foot); DE Dan Cody (IR-knee); DT Gary Gibson (IR-back); CB Cash Mouton (back); FB Musa Smith (PUP-leg).
Rookie quarterback Kyle Orton gets his sixth start in place of the oft-injured Rex Grossman. Orton has done a much better job of limiting turnovers since his five interception disaster against Cincinnati. He hasn't thrown for many yards the last two weeks, but has three touchdowns versus only one interception. Running back Thomas Jones battled through a knee injury to grind out two touchdowns against the Vikings last week. Rookie Cedric Benson is waiting in the wings for his opportunity. Fullback Marc Edwards has been a steadying force since his signing during the preseason. He's almost assured of a roster spot when Bryan Johnson and Jason McKie return from the PUP list. Edwards will have his biggest challenge of the season when it comes to blocking middle linebacker Ray Lewis. McKie has just begun practicing with the team. Tight end Desmond Clark was very sick as last week progressed, but felt well enough to play, scoring two touchdowns against the Vikings. Left tackle John Tait (ankle) and left guard Ruben Brown (pectoral) sat out last week's game. John St. Clair and Roberto Garza filled in well for both, respectively. Tait appears to be slightly closer to returning than Brown. Whoever gets the start at left tackle will face off against Terrell Suggs, who was transitioned to defensive end since the Ravens switched to a 4-3 alignment this season. Place kicker Robbie Gould has replaced the recently cut Doug Brien. He didn't get any opportunities to kick field goals last week, but has provided a field position boost with his depth and hang time on kickoffs.
Safety Ed Reed suffered a high ankle sprain in last week's victory. Reed is one of the dominating players in the league. Chad Williams is his backup. Williams has been very impressive as a role player for the Ravens (7 career interceptions). Defensive end Anthony Weaver (toe) is still out. His absence means Jarret Johnson will see action against right tackle Fred Miller.
The Ravens have been especially difficult to throw and run against. Like the Bears, they typically only allow points as a consequence of offensive breakdowns. The conservative run-first philosophy the Bears have employed in the last two weeks is likely going to be utilized again. Short passes that get the ball quickly out of Orton's hands will continue to be the theme, in spite of it drawing the ire of the home faithful. The Ravens defense is very good. However they have not forced many turnovers (only 3 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles).
BEARS DEFENSE vs. RAVENS OFFENSE
Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye has had a mild ankle injury that has resulted in a dropoff in his play the last two weeks. Ogunleye is not listed on the report this week which is hopefully a good sign. He'll face off with Orlando Brown. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris has recorded a sack in each of the last two games. He's finally putting some aches and pains behind him (ankle, knee, back). Punter Brad Maynard aggravated a calf injury last week that had bothered him throughout the preseason. Gabe Lindstrom was signed to the practice squad and could become active if the injury proves serious. Lindstrom did most of the kicking during the Bears' preseason and had a good camp. B.J. Sams is Baltimore's punt returner and leads the AFC in that category (Bobby Wade leads the NFC and NFL).
Anthony Wright gets the start at quarterback for the Ravens, since Kyle Boller (toe) has been injured since early in the season. Boller is expected to begin practicing shortly. The offense has struggled under Wright, only averaging a little more than 12 points per game. Like the Bears, the Ravens have had trouble keeping their fullbacks healthy. Musa Smith is getting close to returning from the PUP list. Alan Ricard is gradually regaining form after suffering a calf injury. Ovie Mughelli suffered an ankle injury last week and will need to be watched closely. Rookie wide receiver Mark Clayton also suffered an ankle injury last week. Clarence Moore will see additional playing time if Clayton is not up to full strength.
The Ravens will expect to find Thomas Jones as the focus of the offense. Ray Lewis and company will seek to shut down the running game, and force the Bears to beat them by throwing the ball. Kyle Orton will face his stiffest challenge when he encounters a Ravens secondary that features the talent of Samari Rolle, Chris McCallister, and Deion Sanders. The Bears will have to be patient, not only with the short passing game but also with running the ball even if there isn't much success early on.