Both teams bring extending winning streaks into today's game. Get the keys to the matchup along with the latest personnel news.
Sunday, 12:00 CT
FOX, Sam Rosen, Bill Maas
3rd meeting. Series tied 1-1. In the last meeting on Dec. 22, 2002, the Panthers got two rushing touchdowns from Dee Brown and capitalized on four fumbles by the Bears, allowing Carolina to finish 4-4 at home that season.
2005 RANKINGS: Panthers: offense 22nd (24th rush, 16th pass); defense 8th (2nd rush, 21st pass). Bears: offense 28th (5th rush, 30th pass); defense 1st (8th rush, 3rd pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: This figures to be the game Bears rookie QB Kyle Orton is finally pressed into making plays downfield. Chicago's offense has survived by pounding the ball on the ground, but Carolina is second in the league, allowing 81.0 rushing yards per game. RB Thomas Jones (ribs) will start, but Orton will have to do his part to soften the run defense. He has thrown for more than 150 yards just once, and Carolina CBs Chris Gamble and Ken Lucas have a combined eight interceptions.
The story is the opposite for the Panthers' offense, which has a big-time playmaker in WR Steve Smith. The Bears will focus on neutralizing him with the belief their stout run defense can contain RB Stephen Davis, who is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry. If strong winds return to Soldier Field, it could wreak havoc with Carolina's pass-heavy offense.
FAST FACTS: Panthers: Have no individual 100-yard rushing games this season. ... Seek to tie the franchise record with a seventh consecutive victory. Bears: Have one more victory than they had all of last season. ... Seek sixth consecutive victory. ... Orton needs three touchdown passes to break Jim McMahon's (nine, 1982) rookie team record.
PANTHERS PERSONNEL NEWSDE Mike Rucker leads a Carolina defense that has caused more turnovers since the start of the 2003 season than any other team in the league.
DE Julius Peppers said he may play without a cast on his right hand this week, depending on how it feels. Peppers broke a bone in his hand prior to the bye week, but it hasn't slowed his production. He has 4 1/2 sacks in the last two weeks.
TE Kris Mangum was downgraded to doubtful on Thursday, so don't expect him to play this week.
TE Mike Seidman will be activated and could have a few balls thrown his way this week. Seidman has been inactive four of the last six games because the team has only gone with two tight ends.
WR Steve Smith looks to bounce back against the Bears after catching just three passes for 34 yards against the Jets. It will be interesting to see how the Bears defend Smith. It seems anything less than rolling a safety over the top on every play is a risky move for a defense trying to defend Smith.
RB Stephen Davis goes for his 13th touchdown of the season against the Bears on Sunday. He has yet to rush for more than 81 yards in a game and could have a tough time against the league's top-ranked defense.
CB Chris Gamble has three interceptions in the last two weeks.
BEARS PERSONNEL NEWSLG Ruben Brown (chest) was removed from the injury report after practicing on Thursday.
RB Thomas Jones practiced for the second straight day on Thursday and
is not listed on the injury report for the first time in a month.
C Olin Kreutz (elbow) returned to practice Thursday and was removed from the injury report.
RT Fred Miller practiced again on Friday and is expected to start despite having Nov. 7 surgery for his fractured jaw, which had a steel plate inserted into it.
CB Charles Tillman, who should spend most of his time covering Panthers WR Steve Smith, returned to the field Friday after missing Thursday's practice with a sprained ankle.