Five Things to Watch Sunday

Bear Report is covering the afternoon matchup in Week 12 between the Bears and Broncos at Soldier Field in Chicago, and here are the top five things to be on the lookout for that could have a major effect on the final score.

1. Can Benson continue the good vibes he finally started to feel in Seattle?
Cedric Benson has been a colossal disappointment on every level as the starting running back in place of the departed Thomas Jones this season, averaging only 3.0 yards per carry and never producing a run longer than 16 yards through the season's first nine games. But he finally showed some life last Sunday in Seattle, racking up 63 yards and a touchdown on his first two attempts albeit ultimately in a 30-23 loss to the Seahawks at Qwest Field. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner took some of the blame in Benson only getting 11 rushes in that contest because of the coaching staff's previous decision to get backup Adrian Peterson more involved in the offense, so look for Benson to once again be The Man in the backfield Sunday against the Broncos.

Since Denver is just 29th in the NFL defending the run at 149.2 yards allowed per game on the ground, Benson once again should have every opportunity to succeed and prove to everyone that he can be a franchise back.

2. Will this be the game that proves Anderson over Brown was a bad idea?
Alex Brown has never been an elite defensive end in this league and never will be, but he's always been a well-rounded player who puts decent pressure on the quarterback and holds the point of attack against the run quite well. Mark Anderson was a rookie sensation last year, producing 12 sacks off the bench as a rush specialist and eventually wrestling the starting gig away from Brown opposite Adewale Ogunleye during the offseason program. But not only has Anderson looked to be nothing short of a liability defending the run this season, he doesn't appear to be an every-down pass-rusher either since he's only come up with 4.5 sacks in 10 games.

We all know that Denver has had the most consistent running game in the league ever since Mike Shanahan took over as head coach in 1995, so look for a whole bunch of stretch plays to the left with that zone-blocking scheme taking full advantage of the undersized – and maybe overmatched – Anderson.

3. Could Grossman be walking into a trap against the likes of Bailey and Bly?

QB Rex Grossman
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images
It just isn't in Rex Grossman's DNA to be one of those Trent Dilfer-like game-managing quarterbacks, that's all there is to it. The reason he went from Bloomington as a prepster all the way to Gainesville as a collegian in the first place was so that he could sling the ball all over the field in Steve Spurrier's pass-happy offense at the University of Florida. Grossman has played pretty well since taking over for Brian Griese again midway through the Oakland game in Week 10, and he's done so by challenging secondaries down the field just like he always has.

Both cornerbacks for the Raiders – Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington – were injured and Seattle's combination of Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings had somewhat of an off day, but Denver's deadly duo of Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly don't have many off days – they've combined for a ridiculous 78 interceptions in their stellar careers.

4. Is Tillman going to bounce back after that rude awakening in Week 11?
Charles Tillman has never been to the Pro Bowl, but he's still respected by his peers as a top-flight cornerback and arguably the most physical player at his position in the entire league. However, Matt Hasselbeck wasn't overly impressed this past Sunday in Seattle and took advantage of Tillman all day long en route to 337 yards passing. Even with seventh-round rookie Trumaine McBride on the other side of the field, Hasselbeck put on a clinic in that 30-23 victory and made Tillman look bad most of the afternoon no matter who he was covering.

Look for Tillman to be matched up with the 6-4 Brandon Marshall most of the day because he poses the most immediate threat on the outside, plus he's also been Jay Cutler's favorite target this season since Javon Walker has been absent with a knee injury.

5. How will the Bears get off this Jekyll-and-Hyde roller coaster ride?
The Monsters of the Midway failed for the fourth time to put together their first two-game winning streak of the season last Sunday in Seattle. One week it seems like the offense is nothing short of rudderless and isn't giving the defense enough support, and then the next week the offense looks like they're getting it together just in time to watch yet another defensive collapse. This team has played 10 football games thus far in 2007, and not one time can you say that it played well for four quarters.

Head coach Lovie Smith finally put aside his one-game-at-a-time mantra/cliché this week and talked about finishing the schedule on a six-game tear, but there is little evidence on either side of the ball that would lead fans to believe that a season-saving run like that is even possible.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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