I traded a bit of a scouting report with Chicago's SBN Bears' blog, the Windy City Gridiron. Here's what WCG editor Steven Schweickert had to say:
DK: The Bears have had some hard luck this season with injuries. They're a team that was looking pretty fearsome halfway through the year, but are now limping though the final weeks and may not even make the playoffs. What is the mindset of the team right now? Have you perceived that they've given up or is there still quite a bit of fight left in them?
SS: They've taken some hits, but every team takes hits throughout the year - ours just happened to be devastating and all at once. That's one of the things about Lovie Smith teams, they usually don't get too high or too low. They'll show up, they're still in the race until proven otherwise, so they'll still be fighting like their playoff lives depend on it. Course, mindset isn't everything, they still have to execute plays.
DK: How have the fans handled it? What's the general consensus for the Bears' playoff hopes?
SS: Generally, the record says the Bears still have a chance, but a lot of fans are already writing off the rest of the season. And really, it isn't looking good - never does when you're down a solid starting quarterback and a very good running back - so the fans that think it's over may not be wrong.
Given Atlanta's win on Thursday, this is a must-win for the Bears if they are to have any playoff hope at all. Otherwise, two games behind Atlanta and (potentially) Detroit while losing a tiebreaker to Detroit with two games to play? Yeah, doesn't look good, does it.
DK: What type of gameplan do you expect the Bears to take this week against the Seahawks, both on offense and defense?
SS: Defensively, I expect the Bears to focus on Marshawn Lynch as the focal point of the Seahawks' offense. I'm not sure how seriously the Bears will take Tarvaris Jackson, given how the whole "facing him in Minnesota" thing went for him, but I don't think they'll do anything too risky to allow Doug Baldwin and Co. to beat them.
Offensively though, it's another story. The offense has shown some flashes of ability when they aren't giving the ball away, getting shut down for one or two yards, or failing to convert third downs, and they actually have a bit of a conundrum here. The Seahawks' defense appears more vulnerable to the pass than the run (15th in net yards per attempt vs the pass against 4th in yards per rushing attempt), yet the Bears haven't shown they can do anything through the air (88 yards vs KC, 86 yards vs Denver).
DK: What would you call the Bears biggest weakness in their defense? Do the Seahawks have the horses to exploit this, in your opinion? How have teams beat the Bears this season?
SS: Of the units, I'd say the defensive line, actually, and here's why - the Bears have Julius Peppers, and Henry Melton is having a solid year as a pass-rushing defensive tackle, but the defense is still in the middle of the pack in sacks (even factoring in facing Tim Tebow) and the unit is fairly vulnerable against the run.
Far too often, they have several plays where they just crush the pocket, and several plays where they just may as well all be at the concession stand during halftime. It's a fairly relative thing though, because the defense has generally been excellent the last two games - the secondary's been pretty sharp after an awful early part of the season, and the linebacking corps has still been playing at a high level.
Just for the defensive line being a very strong unit on paper with one of the top ends in the game (possibly "the strength of the team" as I read earlier in the year), you want something better than "middle of the road."
As far as beating the Bears, how teams did it early in the year is with the big play (see, Saints, Lions 1st Edition) and treating Jay like their own personal pinata in the second half. But, since Cutler got hurt, it's been more of the Bears' complete inability to score than anything the opposing team's been doing. Hanie has been overthrowing receivers, underthrowing receivers; receivers have been dropping his throws... You get the idea.
DK: What players have been the biggest surprises for you on this team, this year? Are there any lesser-known Bears to keep an eye on in this one? Any guys you think are sleepers as future stars?
SS: If you'd asked two weeks ago, I'd've said Lance Louis, but he's had an awful pair of games lately at right tackle. That being said, Tim Jennings is having a solid year (if he could actually catch a pick, they'd convert him to receiver, cause he's had so many missed opportunities there) and Chris Conte has so far had a good rookie year, but for his lapse last week against the Broncos when Demaryius Thomas caught the Broncos' only touchdown.
Three Keys Against the Seahawks: Offense - Windy City Gridiron
1) Hold On To The Football And I mean this in more than the "turnovers" sense. The Seahawks are 7th in takeaways with 24, just behind the Bears with 27, and in just three games (actually 2...) Caleb Hanie has almost doubled the team's interceptions given up, so it could apply there as well. But this applies in more ways. First off, the Bears failed to convert too many third down chances - one of the best ways to kill an offense is to not convert third downs. What would also help is being able to get more done on first and second downs. How many times do we see the Bears get one or two yards on first down, nothing on second down and have to convert 3rd and 8 or 3rd and 10? If you're punting more than ten times in a game, you're doing something wrong on offense beyond failure to execute.
Sunday Slugfest? Bears-Seahawks features formidable rush defenses - Windy City Gridiron
Sunday's game could get ugly. Since Cutler and Forte went down the Bears have been in low-scoring, mostly defensive battle-type games. Lot's of field goals, lots of rushing attempts and a few passes. This week's game though, will be different, especially for the offense. Follow me below and I am going to look at some stats and try to draw some conclusions about the Bears chances this Sunday. I'll give you a magic 8-ball preview: Outlook doesn't look good.
Three Keys Against The Seahawks: Defense - Windy City Gridiron
1) Marshawn Lynch is Pretty Damn Good. Marshawn Lynch is not a big play back. What he is is a power back who just hates being tackled to the point of throwing defenders long distances who dare to get between him and the end zone. That often results in big plays. This year he's posting a career high in YPC (well, 4.3...) and is averaging about 80 yards per game, himself, to go with his nine touchdowns on the year. In his last three games, he's run for 111, 148 and 115 yards and 3 TD, and caught an additional touchdown - actually, he's scored a touchdown in each of his last 9 games.
Thanks again to the guys at WCG for trading scouting reports!!