Kickoff: Sunday, 3:15 CT
Television: CBS – Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf
Series: 13th meeting. Broncos and Bears are tied 6-6 in the series. The last meeting was 2003, when Kordell Stewart led Chicago to a 19-10 victory at Denver.
KEYS TO THE GAME
The Broncos' offensive confidence has increased along with the maturation of QB Jay Cutler, who is managing the game well on the field and emerging as a leader off it. Cutler is completing 71.8 percent of his passes with six TDs on third down, which is going to be critical with the team unsure of who will be able to line up in the backfield. And Cutler's arsenal will only grow if WR Javon Walker is able to suit up Sunday. ... RB Cedric Benson is coming off his best game of the year, and the Bears would be in great shape if he can exploit the league's No. 30-ranked run defense to open up the passing lanes like he did against Seattle. But Benson has been far less than dependable this season, and most likely QB Rex Grossman is going to have to work against CBs Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly for Chicago's offense to have consistent success.
Bears: QB Brian Griese (shoulder) should be healthy enough to be Grossman's backup; CB Nathan Vasher (groin) is expected to miss his eighth straight game; DT Tommie Harris (knee) continues to play at less than 100 percent.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan is 31-19 (.620) against the NFC. ... Bears WR Bernard Berrian is averaging 36.7 yards per touchdown catch.
CB Charles Tillman
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images
Bears: Vasher (groin) will miss his eighth straight game. He did not practice Thursday for the second straight day. ... CB Charles Tillman, who tied for the team lead last season with five interceptions, doesn't have any picks this year. ... CB Ricky Manning Jr., who missed Wednesday's practice with an illness, returned to full capacity on Thursday. Manning tied for the team lead with five interceptions last season but doesn't have any this year. ... Benson upped his average per carry to 3.3 yards with last week's 89-yard effort on just 11 carries, but he still has the lowest average of the top 25 rushers in the NFL. ... TE Desmond Clark has just four catches for 42 yards combined in the past three games. In the three previous games he caught 11 passes for 142 yards.
Broncos: FB Kyle Johnson, who was Denver's normal starter at fullback from 2004-06, was re-signed by the team. Denver has many injuries at tailback and fullback, including to fullback Paul Smith, and Johnson knows the offense so he can step right in and contribute. ... Henry was out of practice again Thursday with a knee injury. Henry hasn't bounced back quickly from the knee injury and could miss his third straight game. ... Young didn't practice Thursday. He has a knee injury. The Broncos hope he can play, but he would probably have to practice Friday to have a realistic shot to handle a full workload. ... OL Isaac Snell was released to make room for Johnson. Snell provided depth but hadn't played in a game for the Broncos. ... FB Mike Bell could move back to tailback to provide depth against Chicago. Bell was a tailback last year but was moved to fullback late in the preseason and has been there since. Cecil Sapp could also move from fullback to tailback and see carries.
Bears 27, Broncos 24.
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