Posted by Matt Clapp | 12/13/2013 08:08:00 PM | Andre Smith, Brandon Weeden, Chris Ogbonnaya, Cleveland Browns, Injuries, Jason Campbell, Jay Cutler, John Greco, Josh McCown, Lance Briggs, Philadelphia Eagles, Willis McGahee
The Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns released their official injury reports on Friday for Sunday's game at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Bears' Jay Cutler (ankle) is listed as 'probable' and will make the start at quarterback over Josh McCown, a move that has gotten just a tad of response from many fans and the media.
I'll share what I said on here Wednesday about the Cutler/McCown situation:
Many observers think the Bears should just leave Josh McCown in the starting role even if Cutler is healthy, as McCown is putting up insane numbers with insane efficiency. The 34-year-old McCown's most recent start resulted in a 27-36/348 YDS/4 TD/0 INT/141.9 QB Rating stat line, with the offensive scoring on every single possession (for a total of 45 points). Should they make a change at the position while McCown has the offense rolling?
Well, Marc Trestman has made it clear that when Cutler is healthy, Cutler will go back to being the starter. My opinion is simply this: Putting the Cutler/McCown debate aside, do not start Cutler if he is not 100% (100%-ish, as few players are truly ever 100% healthy). I'm quite confident in the Bears offense with either of these guys, at quarterback, provided they are healthy.
And I think Rotoworld (I assume Evan Silva) summed it up very well:
It's a risky decision to mess with McCown's success, but absolutely the right call if the Bears have any intention of bringing Cutler back for 2014.
If the Bears are considering Cutler as an option for 2014 and beyond, you have to see what he can do over these remaining three games. And if you keep a healthy Cutler on the bench in favor of McCown, you know Cutler's not going to sign a long-term deal.
While Cutler returns to game action from injury, linebacker Lance Briggs will miss his seventh straight game due to a fractured shoulder. Briggs was able to at least practice in limited fashion on Thursday and Friday, and the hope is that he'll at least be able to play in week 16 against the Philadelphia Eagles (quote via Chicago Tribune):
“I’d be much more optimistic that that could happen,” coach Marc Trestman said Friday after practice. “He got more work today, and we’ll see how he is the first of the week, but it raises our optimism, certainly.”
Without Briggs, the Bears' run defense has been historically awful.
In the six games Briggs has missed, the Bears have allowed 100+ yard rushers in every game, tying an NFL record. Opponents have run for a whopping 1,220 yards on 193 carries (6.3 yards per carry) over those six games. As the Chicago-Sun Times notes, that pace over a full season would make the Bears the worst run defense in NFL history.
Briggs is the Bears' best defender against the run (and best defender overall of players remaining on the 2013 active roster, at least), and without him, they're starting two rookie linebackers in Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene that frequently look lost out there.
Summary: The Bears desperately need Briggs back, and especially next week against the Philadelphia Eagles, owners of the NFL's best rushing unit (led by sensational running back LeSean McCoy).
The Browns' running game isn't nearly as good as the Eagles' run game, and will be missing starting running back Willis McGahee (concussion), although the veteran is only averaging 2.7 yards per carry. In McGahee's place will be 27-year-old Chris Ogbonnaya for the majority of the carries, and while Ogbonnaya is averaging 5.3 yards per carry, he's yet to have more than eight carries in a game this season. If the Browns felt very confident in Ogbonnaya helping their rushing attack, you'd think he'd get more carries when the usual starting running back is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry.
But, like we keep saying when it comes to facing this Bears run defense: Does it really matter what running back they go up against? I mean, obviously if it's an Adrian Peterson or LeSean McCoy, you feel even worse about things going in, but the Bears' run defense hasn't shown they can stop anyone in Briggs' absence. Brandon Jacobs ran for over 100 yards and two touchdowns against this group.
Getting back to the injury report, the Browns will also be without left guard John Greco (knee) and tight end Andre Smith (calf). The Browns list a whopping 13 players as 'probable' for the game, including quarterback Brandon Weeden (concussion). Weeden missed the Browns' week 14 game, but will be the No. 2 quarterback behind Jason Campbell on Sunday.
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