MATCHUPS TO WATCH: BEARS OFFENSE VS. BROWNS DEFENSE
WR Devin Hester vs. Defensive Backs: This will be an interesting challenge. Due to the Browns' inability to pressure the QB, often the team will blitz safeties and cornerbacks and leave openings in the defensive backfield. Due to Hester's speed, the Browns may be inclined to match up CB Eric Wright exclusively on Hester, but the Cleveland defense often rotates the corners and leaves the WRs to match up against a LB under and a S over in coverage. With Hester's speed and QB Jay Cutler's ability to create time in the pocket, the Cleveland defense could be susceptible to big plays in the seam and between the deep Cover-2 scheme.
LG Josh Beekman vs. NT Shaun Rogers: Taking over for the totally ineffective Frank Omiyale, who looks like a waste of $14 million in free agency at this point, Beekman gets the starting job back that he never should have lost in the first place. The third-year pro is a little short and a bit light to be a difference maker at guard in Chicago's man-on-man blocking scheme, which will be stone-cold obvious when he is charged with the responsibility of moving around Rogers. Conservatively listed at 350 pounds, Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner said Wednesday he believes Rogers is closer to an even 400 and understands all too well that he's a handful to deal with on running downs.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: BROWNS OFFENSE VS. BEARS DEFENSE
QB Derek Anderson vs. CBs Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman: Anderson has struggled since being thrust back into the starting role. Limited offensively due to the lack of playmakers,
Anderson often looks to rookie WR Mohamed Massaquoi as his down-field threat, which has not been overly successful since the trade of WR
Braylon Edwards. Against the Bears, the Cleveland offense should look to gain man coverage opportunities against Tillman and Bowman. Both Chicago CBs have shown to be suspect at times this season, and the Browns have worked overtime this week in gaining timing and continuity between the QB and WRs. Another aspect of the game which the Browns are expected to focus on is interior running game, with DT Tommie Harris being a question mark and the inside linebackers of the Bears suspect due to injury issues. The Browns will look to single Nick Roach, as they are a better strong-side rushing team.
RT John St. Clair vs. DE Adewale Ogunleye: When both Ogunleye and fellow defensive end Alex Brown were asked Thursday about their former teammate, all they could say about St. Clair is that he tries hard and was always a good guy in the locker room. Not exactly high praise, but it does give fans a better idea why the Bears didn't make more of an effort to re-sign him this past offseason and replaced him with ex-Brown Kevin Shaffer without batting an eyelash. Brown is going to have a difficult time getting any pressure on Anderson since he's matched up against two-time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas, so it will be up to Ogunleye to beat St. Clair consistently and get the pass rush going again.
OT Joe Thomas
Getty Images: Kevin Terrell
THE BROWNS WIN IF ...
... the offense would have to attack
the perimeter of the Bears defense in the passing game, while exposing the LBs in the running game. Execution has escaped this Browns offense, with the Bears playing Cover 2 a significant amount of the time, getting Anderson and an array of young receivers on the same page to recognize the seams upon release by Tillman and Bowman between the corners and safeties. When the Bears load the box and press the LBs, Anderson must make quick and decisive reads and put receivers
into position to make plays. With TEs Robert Royal and Steve Heiden potentially returning from injury, the Cleveland offense will have options in the short to intermediate passing game. Utilizing the TEs in clearing or seam routes could prove to be an aspect of this game to
relieve potential inside pressure coming from Roach, Hunter Hillenmeyer or a safety. The Browns have been offensively challenged throughout
the season and would need to capitalize on injuries, indecision and mistakes by the Chicago offense and defense.
THE BROWNS LOSE IF ...
... they continue to display the inability to gain
consistency, make numerous mental errors and fail to capitalize. This is a Cleveland team which lacks top-tier talent, confidence and imagination on the offensive side of the ball, while the defense has not displayed the ability to get off the field nor top the opposition in any facet of the game. Cutler is a multi-faceted player. He can make all the throws, which against a Cleveland defense that plays soft Cover 2 often due to the inability to man cover effectively, Cutler has the opportunity to do what many others have done in the 2009 season: pick the Browns' secondary apart. Looking to create pressure off the blitz, LBs are often required to drop into the short zones within the Cleveland defensive scheme, which quicker receivers like Hester and rookie Johnny Knox can exploit. Additionally, teams with a strong TE presence, such as the case with the Bears in Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark, have found success in matching up against rookie Kaluka Maiava and veteran Eric Barton.
THE BEARS WIN IF ...
... their defense picks itself off the turf after a 45-10 beatdown at the hands of the Bengals and plays as well as it's capable of playing against a Cleveland offense that's downright offensive. Anderson is playing historically bad at quarterback, Jamal Lewis is running on fumes in the backfield and the receivers are all decidedly average with Edwards no longer there. Since the Browns have scored a grand total of four offensive touchdowns all year season, it would be an embarrassment if the Midway Monsters surrendered more than one at Soldier Field.
THE BEARS LOSE IF ...
... turnovers continue to be an issue, both giving the ball away on offense and taking the ball away on defense. Cutler threw his fair share of interceptions in Denver, so it shouldn't come as a total surprise that he's been picked off 10 times in six games, but he won't be forced to take so many chances downfield if Chicago can actually sustain a ground attack and build a lead in the first half. On D, coach Lovie Smith's version of the Cover 2 is predicated on takeaways, and the chances of getting those takeaways only increase with better pressure on the enemy passer.
Lane Adkins: This Browns team is looking for anything positive to build upon in what has been an extremely disappointing season. Controlling the clock with an effective running game and some complementary plays in the passing game, the Browns could make this a competitive effort in
Chicago. But this Browns offense is as inconsistent as any in the league, and there is little belief the execution will be a challenge
for 60 minutes on Sunday. Unless the unexpected occurs, the Browns defense will start fairly well, the offense will struggle to move the
chains and the Chicago offensive weapons will take over the game. BEARS 27, BROWNS 10.
John Crist: I was pretty sure Chicago was a better football team from 1 to 53 than Cincinnati a week ago, but I was proven wrong when the Bengals thrashed the Bears 45-10 at Paul Brown Stadium. But finally coming back home after a bye week and two straight roadies, the Monsters of the Midway are unquestionably more talented than a Cleveland ballclub that is in total disarray in every phase of the game – with the exception of Josh Cribbs returning kicks. If Cutler and Co. find a way to lose this one, panic buttons will be pressed all over the Windy City. BEARS 23, BROWNS 13
To go back and read Part I of this Behind Enemy Lines series, where Marc answered five questions from John, Click Here. To read Part II, where John answered five questions from Marc, Click Here.
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John Crist is the publisher of BearReport.com. Lane Adkins is a football analyst for TheOBR.com.