Behind Enemy Lines: Part III

Our experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Brad Thomas of, go Behind Enemy Lines to take a closer look at Sunday's Week 2 matchup between the Bears and Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Let's finish this series with a few matchups to watch and final predictions.

Matchups to Watch: Bears Offense vs. Panthers Defense
Kyle Orton vs. Carolina defensive line:
The Panthers, who aren't known for their blitzes, rely primarily on their front four to create pressure. Last week, the Panthers dropped defensive end Julius Peppers back into coverage to disrupt passing lanes to Chargers All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates.

This week, look for Peppers to rush the passer more frequently and try to force Orton into mistakes. With Peppers rushing the passer instead of dropping back into coverage, it should open up opportunities for the other players along the line – Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Damione Lewis, Tyler Brayton and Charles Johnson – to get favorable matchups against the Bears offensive line.

TEs Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen vs. S Chris Harris: The Bears don't have a receiver that can beat anybody consistently, but the tight end duo of Clark and Olsen might be the best in the NFC. While they only registered four combined catches in that Week-1 upset of the Colts in Indianapolis, they did put together 82 yards for a scintillating 20.5 yards-per-catch average. Clark is more of a traditional tight end and lines up with his hand on the ground more often that not, while Olsen has the versatility to both split wide as a receiver and drop behind the QB as a fullback.

Harris has quickly become the leader of Carolina's secondary after being acquired from the Bears during training camp a year ago, but he has always been a better in-the-box safety and struggles at times covering quicker players in open space.

Matchups to Watch: Panthers Offense vs. Bears Defense
Carolina running backs vs. Chicago front seven:
The Bears held the Colts to under 60 yards rushing in Week 1. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams combined for 139 yards on 28 carries against the Chargers, 112 of which came in the first half.

RB Jonathan Stewart
Stephen Dunn/Getty

For Carolina to be successful, they will have to run the ball effectively. If the Panthers win this battle, they will win the game.

WR Muhsin Muhammad vs. CBs Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher: Muhammad may have been voted a team captain during his three-year stint in the Windy City, but his proclivity for throwing teammates under the bus – while making sure to pat himself on the back as often as possible – started to wear thin in the locker room. The Bears have been saying all the right things this week when asked about Moose's comments in Sports Illustrated, when he apparently told Peter King that Chicago "is where receivers go to die," but don't be overly surprised if you see a little head-hunting on No. 87 this Sunday. Neither Tillman nor Vasher qualifies as your prototypical shutdown corner, but both of them are physical and come up with their share of interceptions.

Bears killer Steve Smith will be watching this game in street clothes as he finishes serving his two-game suspension, meaning Muhammad should be the target of several Jake Delhomme passes.

The Panthers will win this game if ...
... they can control the line of scrimmage, primarily on offense. They want to run the ball, and without their main weapon in Smith, even more emphasis will be placed on doing so. One of their best linemen, guard Travelle Wharton, likely won't play this week due to a knee injury suffered in the win over San Diego. That means that Geoff Hangartner, a solid-but-not-spectacular pro, will step in to try to fill Wharton's shoes. Rookie right tackle Jeff Otah is also battling a knee injury but is expected to play with a brace. Last week's hero, tight end Dante Rosario, has been limited in practice all week with a foot injury.

RB Matt Forte
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Panthers will lose this game if ...
... they can't run the ball. The Panthers' bread and butter is the run, and if they can't run, they'll fall apart quickly against the Bears defense – especially with a banged-up offensive line.

The Bears will win this game if ...
... Matt Forte proves to be more than just a season-opening flash in the pan and moves the chains consistently with the running game. There is no question that Carolina studied the tape from Week 1 and will make Forte the focal point of their defensive attention Sunday, meaning Orton needs to make a few big plays vertically, as well. However, unless the Midway Monsters have some balance offensively and give their defense adequate time to rest between series, then it could be a long day in Carolina.

The Bears will lose this game if ...
... Williams and Stewart have as much success on the ground as Forte did against the Colts in the season opener. Head coach Lovie Smith is a big believer in the two-back approach on offense, even though he mistakenly put all of his eggs in Cedric Benson's basket last season, and he's on record saying that the Williams-Stewart combo will be one of the best tandems the Bears face on their schedule. If the Panthers can get an early lead and control the clock by forcing the Chicago D to be on the field 10-12 plays at a time, Orton and Co. aren't engineered to come back and win through the air.

Brad Thomas: I don't think the Panthers offensive line will be able to withstand the Bears' blitzes ... Bears 13, Panthers 9.

John Crist: It was a perfect storm for the Bears in Indy – strong running game, no turnovers, shutting down the run, scoring off a takeaway, and solid special teams. Aside from Devin Hester getting too cute in the return game with that second-half kickoff, Smith's club was just about flawless. They're not as good as they looked in Week 1, so look for them to come back to Earth ... Panthers 20, Bears 16.

To go back and read Part I, where Brad answers five questions from John, Click Here. For Part II, where John answers five questions from Brad, Click Here.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report. Brad Thomas is the Publisher of

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