Behind Enemy Lines: Part III

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Doug Farrar of Football Outsiders, go Behind Enemy Lines to take a closer look at Sunday's Week 10 matchup between the Bears and Titans at Soldier Field. Let's finish this three-part series with some matchups to watch and final predictions.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: BEARS OFFENSE VS. TITANS DEFENSE
QB Rex Grossman vs. Tennessee Secondary:
The Titans defense, especially its pass defense, is as good as any in the NFL. Not only will Albert Haynesworth make life miserable for opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks – although he'll be missing partner in crime Kyle Vanden Bosch in this game because of a groin injury – there's also the matter of their unheralded secondary. When that amazing pass rush forces goatballs by the opposing quarterback, cornerbacks Nick Harper and Cortland Finnegan and safeties Chris Hope and Michael Griffin are ready to take advantage.

As much as Grossman is known for alternating between big plays downfield and head-scratching mistakes, he'll find a huge challenge in a defense that is currently tied with Green Bay for the most interceptions in the league (13).

Gs Josh Beekman and Roberto Garza vs. DT Albert Haynesworth: The Bears have been much better than anticipated along the offensive line so far this season, both opening up running lanes on the ground and protecting the quarterback. However, they'll face their toughes test of the season Sunday in Haynesworth, arguably the most dominant defender in all of football right now. Not only does rookie Matt Forte need to find some wiggle room in order to move the chains against a sturdy front seven, but Grossman is going to require time to throw if he wants to make some of those signature big plays downfield – and don't forget he tends to hold onto the ball too long at times.

Neither Beekman nor Garza can match up with Haynesworth physically and will be destroyed blocking him one on one, meaning former Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz must provide help at all costs.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: TITANS OFFENSE VS. BEARS DEFENSE
RBs Chris Johnson and LenDale White vs. Chicago's Front Four:
Through their first eight games, the Bears have allowed 81.8 rushing yards per game – good for sixth in the NFL. However, the effectiveness of the Titans' rushing attack will match or exceed that of any other opponent. Led by rookie speedster Johnson and buttressed-but-bruising red-zone threat White, the Titans' run game is the heart of that offense. This is not a team that will look to beat you through the air. They will look to wear you down with brutal drive after brutal drive, and at 149.1 rushing yards per game, it's safe to say that their approach works.


TE Bo Scaife
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Chicago's defensive line and linebackers will find Tennessee's outstanding offensive line to be quite a challenge, as well. Basically, on offense, these guys are the Vikings with an actual NFL-caliber QB in Kerry Collins.

TEs Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler vs. LBs Hunter Hillenmeyer and Nick Roach: The Titans may be the only team in the league with a weaker group of receivers than the Bears, as Brandon Jones is their top wideout in terms of catches with just 19 in eight games. But Collins has been effective at times through the air, mostly thanks to Johnson and White forcing eight-man fronts but also because of Scaife and Crumpler working the middle of the field. Hillenmeyer, who is still recovering from thumb surgery, leaves a lot to be desired in coverage and Roach is relatively inexperienced, plus potentially not having Mike Brown in the secondary because of a calf injury could make a weak pass defense even more vulnerable.

The Bears have shut down some pretty good running games this season and will sell out to take away Tennessee's ground attack Sunday, so Collins should have a few matchups in his favor when he drops back to pass.

THE TITANS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF ...
... Until someone actually beats them, it's safe to say that the Titans will win as long as they don't beat themselves. They will always look to dominate in the trenches – that's something both teams have in common – and no squad has better personnel to do it right now. Job 1 will be to shut down Forte, get a lead, and force Grossman to throw more than he should. Then their opportunistic defense can take advantage.


RB Matt Forte
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

THE TITANS WILL LOSE THIS GAME IF ...
... The Bears have a high interception total, as well (12), and picking off a few Collins passes will be crucial to an upset. Chicago must win the turnover battle to win the game. Of course, turning those turnovers into points is another matter – the Titans currently rank first in Defensive DVOA in both red-zone and goal-to-go situations. Sneaking a few big Devin Hester returns in there would be a help, but I think the Bears face a severe test here.

THE BEARS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF ...
... Forte can out-rush the thunder-and-lightning combo of Johnson and White. This is going to be an old-school football game by all indications, which puts a premium on both running he ball on offense and stopping the run on defense. Not only do the Bears need Forte to have a big day in order to protect Grossman under center, but they need to limit Johnson and White at all costs if the defense is going to be fresh in the fourth quarter.

THE BEARS WILL LOSE THIS GAME IF ...
... Grossman looks anything like the Grossman that was benched after just three starts this past season. The Titans will be putting enough pressure on the former first-round draft pick Sunday, but you can expect even more pressure from a dangerously ornery Soldier Field crowd that seemingly enjoys any opportunity it gets to boo Grossman mercilessly. Tennessee has an aggressive defense that forces mistakes from the opposition, and we all know Grossman can make mistakes with the best of them.

FINAL PREDICTIONS
Doug Farrar:
Not only are the Titans the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL, they seem to be gaining strength with every game. According to Football Outsiders' DVOA stats, their offense has increased in overall efficiency in the last few games, as the defense has gone down from otherworldly to merely dominant. With the new, improved Kyle Orton, I think the Bears would have a chance. But with Rex ... well, which Rex will we see? Good Rex could lose a close game. Bad Rex could be the architect of a blowout in Tennessee's favor. The Medium Rex I think the Titans will see will walk off the field on the wrong end of a 10-point loss. ... TITANS 24, BEARS 14.

John Crist: On paper, the Bears should have a good chance to win this game because of how well they've defended quality running teams so far, plus they've moved the ball fairly consistently on offense all season long. But the Grossman factor simply can't be ignored – even though he led two second-half touchdown drives to come back and beat the lowly Lions last week, he was intercepted once and probably should have been a few more times with all the passes batted down at the of scrimmage. Chicago's D thrives on turnovers, but Tennessee simply does not give the ball away. ... TITANS 20, BEARS 13.

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

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report. Doug Farrar is a Staff Writer for FootballOutsiders.com.


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