MATCHUPS TO WATCH: BEARS OFFENSE VS. JAGUARS DEFENSE
OT John St. Clair vs. DEs Reggie Hayward and Derrick Harvey: St. Clair was little more than a backup and emergency starter last season, but he was forced into the starting lineup after first-round draft pick Chris Williams went down in training camp with a bad back. The veteran St. Clair has played pretty well for the most part this year, although he was exposed by Pro Bowler Jared Allen last week in Minnesota and got beat for three sacks. While neither Hayward nor Harvey is near the pass rusher Allen is, another poor performance by St. Clair could mean even more pressure from outside sources wanting Williams, who has returned after surgery, to finally take over at the all-important left tackle spot.
Kyle Orton still isn't all the way back from the sprained ankle he suffered in Week 9 against Detroit, hence the need for better protection from his blockers.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: JAGUARS OFFENSE VS. BEARS DEFENSE
OT Khalif Barnes vs. DEs Alex Brown and Mark Anderson: Barnes had a rough outing in Houston on Monday Night Football, getting whistled for a handful of penalties in addition to being totally manhandled by Mario Williams off the edge. The Bears, on the other hand, don't have a pass rusher nearly as good as Williams, although Brown has gotten credit for one sack in each of the last two games. Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard has been holding on to the ball too long this season because his receivers can't consistently get open, which is all the more dangerous for the Jaguars since their offensive line is seriously depleted at this point.
The stars are aligned for Brown to have a good day on defense, and it would be an extra bonus if Anderson, a runner-up for Defensive Rookie of the Year not too long ago, can finally get his first sack of 2008.
THE JAGUARS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF ...
THE JAGUARS WILL LOSE THIS GAME IF ...
THE BEARS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF ...
THE BEARS WILL LOSE THIS GAME IF ...
John Crist: The Bears are kicking off a three-game homestand that could get them back in the NFC North picture, especially since division-leading Minnesota just lost Pro Bowl defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams to a suspension. While I don't expect Lovie Smith and Co. to sweep these next three contests, if there's one game they should win going away, it's this one. The Jaguars have nothing to play for, and it showed in the Lone Star State ... BEARS 26, JAGUARS 17.
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