NFL Week 12: Oakland Raiders vs Chicago Bears Game Preview
David Wilson – Nov 24, 2011This is a big game for both the Oakland Raiders and the Chicago Bears, as they both need the win to keep in contention for a playoff spot, and both are looking to maintain winning streaks (Raiders two games, Bears five games). The fixture is probably more important to the Raiders, as they only have a one game lead in the division, and donâ€™t have an easy schedule down the stretch.
Chicago Offense vs Raiders Defense
The big news for the Bears is obviously the loss of Jay Cutler for 6-8 weeks with a broken thumb. I wonâ€™t pretend that this wonâ€™t be a big blow for them offensively. But it doesnâ€™t mean that they still canâ€™t win games.
They have a the 14th ranked rushing offense and Matt Forte has really been getting it done. He already has 926 yards at an excellent five yards per carry. This says a lot for Forteâ€™s talent, as he does not have the benefit of running behind a strong line. Â Chicagoâ€™s front five is the major area of weakness on this team and does not match up well to a powerful Raiders defensive front, especially on the inside with Richard Seymour (if fit), Tommy Kelly and John Henderson.
Oaklandâ€™s inconsistent linebacking corps has been the weak point of this defense all year. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain for one needs to step up.
Chicago backup quarterback Caleb Hanie showed in the NFC Championship game last year against the Packers that he could play (13 of 20, 153 yds, 1 TD), and the Raiders shouldnâ€™t sleep on him in terms of the passing game.
They will match up their 22nd ranked passing attack with Oaklandâ€™s 20th ranked pass defense and a banged up set of Raider cornerbacks. Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz likes to spread the ball around to his wide receivers, and the top five are within seven receptions of each other on the season. He will no doubt continue to do this on Sunday to exploit the Raiders injury problems here (Chris Johnson-doubful, Chimdi Chekwa-IR, DeMarcus Van Dyke-limited).
The Raiders need to key on Forte in the passing game too, as he has almost double the receptions (46) to the next most productive player (24). The Raiders have had problems covering running backs in pass defense this year, and again, it is down to the linebackers.
Raiders Offense vs Chicago Defense
The Bears have been playing good defense all year, but as ever, Oakland will try and force their will in the running game against them. Oakland has the number three rushing offense in the league, Chicago has the number 10 ranked run defense. They are giving up those yards at 4.9 yards per carry though, and Hue Jackson will believe that his team can move the ball on the ground here.
Whether it has been heavy doses of Darren McFadden (injury status uknown), or Michael Bush, this running game has scarcely missed a beat, and their 4.8 yard per rush has been impressive. Fullback Marcel Reece is also a weapon and worth watching, having six carries for 45 yards last week.
The strength of the Chicago defense is very much in its linebackers, where Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs excel, with both currently having great years.
Reece and tight ends Kevin Boss and Brandon Myers are able blockers and will have to be at their best to cope with these two stand-outs. It is a contest that may well dictate how the running game plays out.
For the second time in as many weeks, second year Raider left tackle Jared Veldheer will face one of the elite defensive ends in the NFLâ€”this time in the form of Julius Peppers. Peppers is an outstanding pass rusher and already has seven sacks on the year. Just like last week, Veldheerâ€™s performance will be key to keeping Carson Palmer upright, and if he keeps another clean sheet, then he must surely get some serious Pro Bowl consideration.
Peppers is by far the best player on the Bears defensive line and this is the key match-up for both sides when the Raiders have the ball.
Palmer appears to have settled in well now and has really shown the last couple of weeks that he is his old self and has plenty left in the tank. He performs well under pressure, and always seems to be able to locate the open receiver. If he has a fault he sometimes holds onto the ball too long instead of throwing it away, and this contributed to a couple of sacks against the Vikings.
The Raiders are currently 19th in passing offense (219 yards/game), with Chicago 30th in pass defense (270 yards/game), and 26th in sacks (18.0 total).
Whilst the Bears have conceded yardage, they have also made turnovers, and are second in the league with 15 interceptions. Major Wright and D.J. Moore have both returned picks for touchdowns already in 2011.
Those statistics seem to favour Oakland, but they have serious concerns at wide receiver, with Â Darrius Heyward-Bey (concussion), Denarius Moore (foot) and Jacoby Ford (foot) carrying injuries that could keep them out of Sundayâ€™s game. That would leave the Raiders dangerously thin at the position, and could leave them with only Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy, and TJ Houshmandzadeh as the only three active receivers.
The thing that stands out right away is that the Raider punt coverage unit has already conceded two touchdowns on punt returns this year, averaging 11.8 yards per return (worst in the league), and Chicago has probably the best punt returner of all time in Devin Hester.
While many consider Oaklandâ€™s punter Shane Lechler to be the best at his position, he sometimes has a tendency to out-kick his coverage. If he does that on Sunday, it could well cost seven points and be a game changing moment. Historically, Lechler has kicked well against Hester, but it only takes one slip and Hester already has two touchdowns this year (21.2 yard average, highest in league).
The Raiders will feel that they have the advantage in the kick return game, and will hope Jacoby Ford is fit as he is their best return man by a large margin.
Both teams have top class kickers in Sebastian Jankikowski and Robbie Gould.
SummaryÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
The key to the Raiders winning on Sunday is contain Matt Forte, in both the running and passing game. If they can do that, and get after Caleb Hainey, it should be a long day for the Bears.
Offensively, if Oakland can establish a ground game and let Carson Palmer pass off of play action, then it will be a very successful day. Oakland matches up well against the Bears both offensively and defensively.
The penalties have to stop, you canâ€™t beat a class team like Chicago by racking up over 100 penalty yards per game.
The big danger comes on special teams coverage against Hester, and if they let Matt Forte establish himself. You have to hope the right Raiders defense turns up this week.
Prediction: Raiders 24- 17 Bears
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