Chicago comes into the game ranked in the Top 10 in the NFL in both scoring offense and defense. They are one of four teams in the league to be ranked in the Top 10 in both categories, and not to get all Bears fan overexcited, but the last time Chicago accomplished this feat was 2006.
They're coming off an emotional 23-22 win against a lowly Carolina Panthers team and hope to ride that high past a 3-5 Tennessee Titans team that's coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
The key for the Bears in this one will be to stop running back Chris Johnson. Johnson has started to come alive after being nonexistent in the first few games for the Titans, gaining 90 yards or more in four of his last five games. The Bears defense ranks amongst the best in the NFL this year, and held Johnson to just eight yards the last time the two met.
If Chicago can shut down the running game, it means that Matt Hasselbeck will have to throw into a defense that has come away with plenty of interceptions this year. It's tough to say one part of the defense has been key for Chicago this year, but how about the cornerback duo?
Tillman has two defensive touchdowns this year, and quarterbacks have just a 44.7 passer rating when throwing in his direction. He also has yet to allow at touchdown. Jennings has picked off a pass in six of his last eight games, and returned his most recent interception for a touchdown in last week's win against Carolina.
They will be challenged this week by the combination of Nate Washington, Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright at wideout. The three receivers have a knack for getting open, but will really have to work against the Bears.
Chicago's offense needs to win the game this week. Usually, the defense helps out, but the Bears must find a way to put up points on the 21st ranked defense in the league.
The way to do that would be to feed running back Matt Forte. Forte signed a long-term contract extension over the summer, but the feature back has only touched the ball more than 20 times in two games this season. Chicago must utilize their greatest offensive weapon more if they want to score more points.
Jay Cutler needs to stop making mistakes as well. Last week, he contributed three turnovers in the first half which kept Carolina in the game — actually leading for all but the final tally. That won't fly against Tennessee as the Titans own a 3-1 record this season in games decided by seven points or fewer and a 3-0 mark in outings decided by three or fewer. Granted their one loss came just seven days ago, they're a team that knows how to win a close, gritty game.
Chicago must get out to an early lead, and play from ahead, as that's when Cutler and the offense are at their best.
We at Bears 101 believe Chicago will execute this week after a sloppy performance against Carolina last week and improve to 7-1, really improving their odds at a playoff berth. Prediction: Bears 27, Titans 10.
*Note: Help with the Hurricane Sandy relief effort. Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to go towards the Red Cross Disaster Relief.Tags: Charles Tillman, Chicago, Chicago Bears, Chris Johnson, Football, Jay Cutler, Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt, Matt Forte, Matt Hasselbeck, Nate Washington, NFL, Tennessee Titans, Tim Jennings