A day after getting clobbered 41-21 by the St. Louis Rams, the Chicago Bears revealed that the team will again be without quarterback Jay Cutler in week 13 against the Minnesota Vikings. However, Bears head coach Marc Trestman did say that he's very confident Cutler will return this season:

Coach Marc Trestman said Monday that Jay Cutler is not expected to play and remains week-to-week with a high ankle sprain he sustained Nov. 10 in a loss to the Detroit Lions. 
Josh McCown kept the Bears in Sunday's game by passing for 352 yards and 2 TDs. Trestman also revealed that Cutler likely will return to action at some point in December. After visiting the Vikings, the Bears have four more regular-season games remaining. 
"I'm totally confident he'll play again this season," Trestman said. "I don't have any reason based on what I've been told [to believe otherwise]. It's still week-to-week. I'm confident. I think Jay is confident. You have to leave yourself an opening, but there is no underlying information here. It's week-to-week with the understanding that at some point in time he'll be back."
Source: ChicagoBears.Com

On Monday moring, 670 The Score's Matt Abbatacola tweeted that he heard from a source that Cutler may be done for the year with a torn tendon in the ankle:

However, on 'The Jay Cutler Show' Monday night, Cutler sounded optimistic about returning for the Bears' week 14 Monday Night Football game against the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field (I'm just going to post what I tweeted from the DBN account since it's easier that way):

Also, Cutler was put in a rough spot by Waddle and Silvy with a few questions about his contract status when looking towards the offseason. Cutler handled it very well, and here's a couple notable things he said:



Back to the injury front for the Bears, Trestman also said that linebacker Lance Briggs will miss his fifth straight game this week, but the team is hopeful that Briggs will be able to at least practice in some capacity this week. The Cowboys game still seems like his likely return date.

Running back Matt Forte suffered a slight hyperextension of his left knee against the Rams, and the Bears are waiting to see where he's at when the team returns to practice on Wednesday. Right when the injury happened, I thought it was a severe knee injury for Forte. It looked bad, and Forte then fell straight to the ground in pain after trying to make it to the sideline. However, he was able to return to the game, and the Bears are optimistic he'll be able to play.

The statuses of defensive tackles Stephen Paea (toe) and Jeremiah Ratliff (groin) are up in the air, and we should learn more about them on Wednesday as well. After allowing 258 rushing yards to the Rams, it's safe to say Bears could desperately use Paea and Ratliff's help on the defensive ilne.

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Bear Down On The Bears-Rams Gameday Links

Posted by Matt Clapp | 11/24/2013 10:09:00 AM | ,


I wanted to get some Chicago Bears reading material up for you guys before Sunday's game against the St. Lous Rams, and we're getting close to game time, so I'm just going to post some links without any of my own thoughts added in this time (I'm sure this is just so upsetting to you).

Here you go, and Bear Down:

Here At DBN

DBN Breakdown: Where The Chicago Bears Stand Heading Into Week 12


Around The Web

Marc Trestman Is The Anti-Coach- (670 The Score)

Bears-Rams: Matchups, Picks, What To Watch- (Chicago Tribune)

Bears-Rams: Keys To A Bears Victory- (Bear Goggles On)

Inside The Headset (670 The Score)

Can Bears Keep Pace With Surging Lions In NFC North Playoff Race- (Bleacher Report)

Alshon Jeffery Quickly Becoming A Premier NFL Receiver- (Chicago Bears Huddle)

Hester at CB? Not Out Of The Question- (CSN Chicago)

Bears Go Back To School To Avoid Slow Starts- (670 The Score)

Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery Of Bears Top WR Duo Ranks- (NFL.Com)

Durkin's Playbook: Rams' Power Running Attack- (670 The Score)

Bears' Special Teams Must Stay Disciplined Against Potent Rams (Grizzly Detail)

Aggressive Rams Defense Could Wreak Havoc On Bears- (Grizzly Detail)

No Controversy Between Cutler And McCown (Windy City Gridiron)

Julius Peppers Needs To Be Fresh To Be Julius Peppers-  (Chicago Sun-Times)

An Additional Sentence (Or Two) On Each Defensive Performance Against The Ravens- (Da Bears Blog)

Kyle Long Ready To Face Off With Brother- (The Daily Herald)

Jon Bostic Getting More Comfortable And It Shows In His Play- (Chicago Sun-Times)

McCown's Drawl Draws An Odd Comparison- (ESPN Chicago)

The Third Phase- Ranking The Special Teams- (Pro Football Focus)

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The 6-4 Chicago Bears look to get a win that would go a long way to helping their playoff chances, on the road (but not too far away) against the 4-6 St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

Let's take an overall look at where things currently stand for the Bears as they head into this game, looking at the NFC North and NFC standings in general, the Bears' remaining schedule, the Bears' health situation, statistical leaders on the Bears, and much more (including grades and statistics from Pro Football Focus).

Standings


(Via ESPN.Com)

With the Bears beating the Baltimore Ravens last week at Soldier Field, and the Detroit Lions losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Bears picked a game back up on the Lions in the division.

While it appears on the surface that the teams are tied for first place in the NFC North (you know, going by the whole same record thing), the Bears are essentially still a game behind the Lions, as the Lions locked up the head-to-head tiebreaker by going 2-0 vs the Bears this season. But, it was still big of the Bears to pick up a game on the Lions. Now the Bears are only forced to win one more game than the Lions to win the NFC North.

And let's not count out the Green Bay Packers, provided Aaron Rodgers returns in the near future. The Packers should beat the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau this weekend, and they're hopeful that Rodgers can go vs the Lions in Detroit on Thursday (Thanksgiving, of course). That seems to be on the more optimistic than realistic side right now for the Packers, though.

For the Bears right now, they'd probably rather Rodgers is able to return and help beat the Lions. Then again, we know a Rodgers-led Packers team can go on a major run, and the Bears don't want a red-hot Packers team coming into Soldier for week 17 (potentially with both teams fighting for a playoff spot) either. So, be careful what you wish for as a Bears fan on that front.

Now, let's look at the NFC Wild Card race in regards to the Bears:



The well-documented no-call at the end of the Carolina Panthers-New England Patriots game was a bad thing for the Bears' Wild Card hopes, as they remain a full game behind the Panthers now, with the Panthers 2.5 games up on them in NFC conference record (the tiebreaker) as well. And with that in mind, this upcoming stretch for the Bears (three straight games vs NFC teams) is especially huge for the Bears for conference record.

The San Francisco 49ers lost in week 11 and have some clear issues on offense, but I still have a hard time seeing them win less than 10 games or so.

The Arizona Cardinals are now 6-4, but their last three wins came against the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars. They're 0-3 in the NFC West, and still have three divisional games remaining, with two of those being vs the 49ers (which means one of them has to lose) and Seattle Seahawks.

Remaining Schedule

Week 12- at St. Louis Rams (4-6)

Week 13- at Minnesota Vikings (2-8)

Week 14- vs Dallas Cowboys (5-5); Monday Night Football

Week 15- at Cleveland Browns (4-6); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 16- at Philadelphia Eagles (6-5); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 17- vs Green Bay Packers (5-5); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Not a scary remaining schedule on paper, but given the Bears' injuries and defensive issues, we know every game will be a grind. Every remaining game should be treated as a must-win, but these next three are particularly important for NFC conference record as we said earlier.

The week 16 game in Philadelphia is looking more difficult each week as quarterback Nick Foles currently has that offense rolling. That game, along with the week 17 game vs the Packers, are looking like very possible games to be flexed to Sunday Night Football.

Bears' Injury Report

Jay Cutler, Lance Briggs, Stephen Paea, and Jeremiah Ratliff won't play vs the Rams; we wrote much more about this earlier in the week.

Safety Craig Steltz appeared to suffer a severe concussion against the Ravens, but he was able to participate in practice on Thursday and Friday, and is listed as 'questionable'. The Bears seem optimistic he'll be cleared to play, but you never know with concussion protocol.

Nickel back Isaiah Frey broke a bone in his hand against the Ravens, but it sounds like he'll wear a cast and still play through the injury. He had full participation in practice on Friday and is listed as 'probable'.

TDefensive end Shea McClellin is listed as 'probable' after missing the last two games a hamstring injury, and long-snapper Patrick Mannelly is listed as 'probable' after missing the last two games with a calf injury. Also, offensive tackle Jordan Mills is 'probable' with a calf injury.

Bears' Statistical Leaders

Note: Overall NFL ranking in parentheses; Bears players placed on Injured Reserve are not included.

Passing Stats

Jay Cutler: 167-265, 63.0 Completion %, 1,908 Yards, 7.20 Yards/Attempt, 239 Yards/Game, 13 TD, 8 INT, 12 Sacks Taken, 88.4 QB Rating (10th), 91.11 PFF QB Rating (6th).

Josh McCown: 61-101, 60.4 Completion %, 754 Yards, 7.5 Yards/Attempt, 185.5 Yards/Game, 5 TD, 0 INT, 5 Sacks Taken, 100.0 QB Rating.

Rushing Stats (Top 4)

Matt Forte: 175 Carries (Tied for 6th), 774 Yards (6th), 4.4 Yards/Carry (7th), 77.4 Yards/Game (6th), 7 TD (Tied for 4th), 1 Fumble, 1 Fumble Lost, 40 1st Downs (5th), 34.1 Breakaway Percentage (12th).

Michael Bush: 35 Carries, 74 Yards, 2.1 Yards/Carry, 8.2 Yards/Game, 1 TD, 0 Fumbles, 3 1st Downs.

Jay Cutler: 18 Carries, 92 Yards, 5.1 Yards/Carry, 11.5 Yards/Game, 1 Fumble, 0 Fumbles Lost, 5 1st Downs.

Alshon Jeffery: 12 Carries, 111 Yards, 9.3 Yards/Carry, 11.1 Yards/Game, 0 Fumbles, 6 1st Downs.

Receiving Stats (Top 5)

Brandon Marshall: 64 Receptions (6th), 103 Targets (7th), 828 Yards, 12.9 Yards/Reception, 8 TD (Tied for 6th), 82.8 Yards/Game, 166 Yards After Catch, 44 1st Downs (Tied for 5th), 2.20 Yards Per Route Run Receiver Rating (14th).

Alshon Jeffery: 54 Receptions, 96 Targets (10th), 818 Yards, 15.1 Yards/Reception, 3 TD, 81.8 Yards/Game, 198 Yards After Catch, 37 1st Downs.

Matt Forte: 49 Receptions, 62 Targets, 374 Yards, 7.6 Yards/Reception, 1 TD, 37.4 Yards/Game, 342 Yards After Catch, 15 1st Downs.

Martellus Bennett: 42 Receptions, 64 Targets, 469 Yards, 11.2 Yards/Reception, 4 TD, 46.9 Yards/Game, 257 Yards After Catch, 26 1st Downs.

Earl Bennett: 14 Receptions, 23 Targets, 115 Yards, 8.2 Yards/Reception, 2 TD, 11.5 Yards/Game, 21 Yards After Catch, 6 1st Downs.

Tackling Stats (Top 5)

Major Wright: 71 Tackles (52 Solo, 19 Ast), 0 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles.

Lance Briggs: 64 Tackles (47 Solo, 17 Ast), 8 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles, 11.2 Run Stop Percentage (2nd).

James Anderson: 61 Tackles (51 Solo, 10 Ast), 7 Tackles For Loss, 0 Forced Fumbles.

Chris Conte: 49 Tackles (40 Solo, 9 Ast), 1 Tackle For Loss, 1 Forced Fumble.

Tim Jennings: 36 Tackles (29 Solo, 7 Ast), 0 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles.

Pass-Rushing Stats (Top 4 in Sacks)

Note: QB hit and QB hurry stats are via PFF.

Julius Peppers: 4 Sacks, 2 Quarterback Hits, 19 Quarterback Hurries.

Shea McClellin: 3.5 Sacks, 5 Quarterback Hits, 10 Quarterback Hurries.

Lance Briggs: 2 Sacks, 3 Quarterback Hits, 1 Quarterback Hurry.

Corey Wootton: 2 Sacks, 2 Quarterback Hits, 20 Quarterback Hurries, 9.0 Pass Rush Productivity (13th among defensive tackles if he had enough snaps to qualify).

Coverage Stats

Tim Jennings: 3 INT, 2 INT Returned For TD (Tied for 1st), 9 Pass Deflections, 60.4 QB Rating Allowed (Tied for 8th among cornerbacks).

Chris Conte: 2 INT, 5 Pass Deflections.

Major Wright: 2 INT, 1 INT Returned For TD (Tied for 4th), 3 Pass Deflections.

Zack Bowman: 1 INT, 3 Pass Deflections.

Special Teams Stats

Devin Hester: 30 Kick Returns (1st), 847 Yards (2nd), 28.2 AVG (6th);  12 Punt Returns, 159 Yards, 13.3 AVG, 1 TD (Tied for 1st).

Robbie Gould: 19-20 On Field Goals (95.0 %; 4th), Long Field Goal Of 58 Yards (1st).

Adam Podlesh: 45 Punts, 42.6 AVG, 39.2 NET, Long Punt Of 65 Yards, 17 Punts Inside The 20.

Bears Grades From Pro Football Focus

Before looking at some grades of individual players on the Bears, let's look at Pro Football Focus' cumulative Bears grades (combining the grades of each player that apply) in specific departments through week nine.

Note: Bears players placed on Injured Reserve are not included.

Bears Cumulative PFF Grades

Offense Overall: +20.5 (13th)

Passing Offense: +32.0 (6th)

Rushing Offense: +3.2 (18th)

Pass Blocking: -44.2 (31st)

Run Blocking: +10.5 (5th)

Penalties (On Offense): +19.0 (Tied for 6th)


Defense Overall: -77.5 (30th)

Run Defense: -53.4 (32nd)

Pass Rush: -13.9 (25th)

Pass Coverage: -16.9 (21st)

Penalties (On Defense): +6.7 (21st)


Special Teams: +4.4 (22nd)


And here's some PFF grades of individual players on the Bears...

Bears Individual Player PFF Grades

Top 5 Overall Grades On Offense: 

1. WR Brandon Marshall, +19.0 (1st)
2. QB Josh McCown, +13.3 (7th, if Qualified)
3. WR Alshon Jeffery, +8.4 (16th)
4. QB Jay Cutler, +7.5 (10th)
5. OG Matt Slauson, +7.0 (14th)

Bottom 5 Overall Grades On Offense:

1. OT Jordan Mills, -25.4
2. HB Michael Bush, -5.2
3. TE Martellus Bennett, -4.8
4. OG Kyle Long, -3.0
5. WR Earl Bennett, -2.2

Top 5 Overall Grades On Defense:

1. DT Stephen Paea, +2.8
T-2. LB Lance Briggs, +2.5
T-2. DE Cheta Ozougwu, +2.5
4. CB Tim Jennings, +2.1
5. DT Christian Tupou, +1.3

Bottom 5 Overall Grades On Defense:

1. S Major Wright, -20.9
2. DE Shea McClellin, -14.0
3. DT Landon Cohen, -9.3
4. S Chris Conte, -7.4
5. LB James Anderson, -4.8

Top 3 Overall Grades On Special Teams:

1. K Robbie Gould, +14.3
2. LB Blake Costanzo, +5.5
3. KR Devin Hester, +4.5 (+3.0 as kick returner; +2.0 as punt returner)

Bottom 3 Overall Grades On Special Teams:

1. P Adam Podlesh, -5.4
2. HB Michael Ford, -4.6
3. CB Zack Bowman, -3.5

Our Overall Take

Last week's victory over the Ravens in overtime was huge, particularly when you consider that the Bears trailed 10-0 in the game, and with the Ravens having first and goal on the final drive of regulation (we all thought the Ravens were coming away with a game-winning touchdown there). Add in the Lions losing to the Steelers, and it was a pretty good week for the Bears.

But, the injuries keep piling up, and can we trust Josh McCown to keep playing this well while Jay Cutler is out? Well, I'm done doubting the guy, at least in this Marc Trestman offense and with all of the offensive weapons in place to help McCown succeed.

The Lions (face the 2-8 Buccaneers at home) and Packers (face the 2-8 Vikings at home) are each likely to come away with wins this week, so the Bears really need to find a way to come away with a win against the Rams to keep pace in the NFC North.

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In his Monday press conference following the Chicago Bears' 23-20 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday (a wet and windy five and a half hour day at Soldier Field), Bears head coach Marc Trestman revealed that quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs will remain out for the team's week 12 game against the St. Louis Rams due to injuries.

Trestman specifically called Cutler "week-to-week" and said that Briggs "is still a couple weeks away".

Trestman also said that injured defensive tackles Stephen Paea and Jeremiah Ratliff are "week-to-week", and while he did not officially call the players "out" for Sunday like he did for Cutler and Briggs, I'm going to go ahead and translate "week-to-week" to Paea and Ratliff not playing on Sunday.

Cutler is dealing with a high-ankle sprain (and likely still a torn groin) suffered in week 10 vs the Detroit Lions.

Monday evening, NFL Network's Rebecca Haarlow reported that she's hearing from a team source that Cutler should be good to go by the Bears' week 13 game vs the Minnesota Vikings:


However, on 'The Jay Cutler Show' (his ESPN Radio show), Cutler said when informed of the report, "Uh... I don't know. I'm not going to say 'no'... I hope I am... I really don't know."

Cutler added that NFL Network "may have missed the boat on that one".

And then Cutler went into much more detail that adds doubt to a potential week 13 return, specifically being concerned about ligament damage to the ankle:







When asked about this again at the end of his radio show, Cutler said, "Yeah that's up in the air... week-to-week... I don't know where that (report) came from."

So, it's probably a "wait and see" situation for Cutler and he hasn't ruled out the Vikings game, but his comments certainly are concerning. You never want to hear about worrisome ligament damage.

Also, Trestman made it clear that Cutler will be the starting quarterback whenever he returns, regardless of how well Josh McCown has played:



As for the other injured players, Briggs hasn't played since suffering a fractured shoulder in week seven against the Washington Redskins, and it was initially expected that he would miss around six weeks. The Bears' Monday Night Football game against the Dallas Cowboys on December 9th seems like the target return date for the seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker.

It also seems likely that Ratliff (groin) returns/makes his Bears debut by the Dallas game, as part of the reason he apparently signed with the Bears was to get the chance to play the team he had a had a messy break-up with, so to speak. I'm sure he would like to have at least one game under his belt going into that one, though.

Paea aggravated a turf toe injury in Sunday's win, and missed two games earlier in the season due to the injury. The third-year defensive tackle has been a solid part of a Bears defensive line that has been destroyed by injuries, so hopefully he isn't out too long.

In some rare good news on the Bears' injury front (and on the aforementioned defensive line), the team is hopeful that Shea McClellin (hamstring) is able to practice on Wednesday after missing the last two games. McClellin had his best game as a pro with three sacks against the Green Bay Packers right before suffering the injury, so hopefully he can get back on the field soon and continue to progress.

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Sunday at Soldier Field, the Chicago Bears take on the Baltimore Ravens in what may be some wild weather conditions.

Let's take an overall look at where things currently stand for the Bears as they head into the possibly wet and very windy game, looking at the NFC North and NFC standings in general, the Bears' remaining schedule, the Bears' health situation, statistical leaders on the Bears, and much more (including grades from the outstanding Pro Football Focus).

Standings

(Via ESPN.Com)

The Bears blew a chance to take over sole possession of first place in the NFC North with their loss to the Detroit Lions in week 10, and now are essentially two games behind the Lions, as the Lions locked up the head-to-head tiebreaker by going 2-0 vs the Bears this year. It was a huge blow to the Bears' divisional hopes, especially given that the Lions have the easiest remaining schedule based on win-loss record.

Now, in order to win the division, the Bears likely can't afford more than a loss or two (although the Lions still have self-destructing tendencies and as we've seen in recent weeks, there are no gimmes in the NFL). And on Thanksgiving, it appears Bears fans need to be rooting for the Packers to beat the Lions in Detroit (and possibly without Aaron Rodgers).

The Packers looked awful without Rodgers in week 10 against the Eagles at Lambeau, and they enter their week 11 game against the Giants as underdogs. They'll need Rodgers back within the next few weeks if they want to be considered legitimate NFC North contenders still.

But most realistically, the Bears' best chance to get into the playoffs now is probably through the Wild Card route. Here's a look at the entire NFC playoff picture to get a better idea of the Wild Card race:


So the Bears currently find themselves one game out of the Wild Card race for each the fifth and sixth spots. behind the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers. The Panthers surprisingly went into San Francisco in week 10 and knocked off the 49ers, and their defense looks like it may be the best in the league. They're playing better as the year goes on, while the 49ers aren't quite looking like the team everyone thought they'd be, but it's still hard to see them not getting one of the Wild Card spots.

It's also worth noting that the Panthers are 6-2 against NFC opponents, which could end up being the tiebreaker if the Bears finished with the same record as them, and the Bears are just 3-4 against NFC teams (but still have five games remaining vs NFC teams).

The Bears just need to finish very strong and worry about themselves, and hopefully these other NFC contenders lose some games.

Remaining Schedule

Week 11- vs Baltimore Ravens (4-5)

Week 12- at St. Louis Rams (4-6)

Week 13- at Minnesota Vikings (2-7)

Week 14- vs Dallas Cowboys (5-5); Monday Night Football

Week 15- at Cleveland Browns (4-5); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 16- at Philadelphia Eagles (5-5); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 17- vs Green Bay Packers (5-4); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Every remaining game on the Bears' schedule is very winnable on the surface, especially over the next five weeks, so the Bears need to take advantage of it.

The Sunday night flex choices for weeks 16 and 17 are unlikely to be announced for a few weeks, so how the Bears (and the Eagles and Packers) perform in that time should decide if the Bears get a game moved to primetime. Right now, each of those games are looking very possible to be flexed.

Bears' Injury Report

We wrote about the official Bears-Ravens injury report on Friday. Looking more than just this week, the status of Jay Cutler, Lance Briggs, and Jeremiah Ratliff are the concerns. And if I had to guess right now (note that I am not a doctor, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night), all of them will miss next week's game in St. Louis as well.

Cutler is dealing with a high-ankle sprain, which is usually an injury that requires multiple weeks to heal, and has been seen in a walking boot at Halas Hall over the last few days.

Briggs and Ratliff still seem a couple weeks away from returning, and the Bears' defense will be thrilled to add each player to help with a struggling front-seven.

And then there's of course the loss of star cornerback Charles Tillman (torn right triceps) for the regular season at least (he could theoretically return for a second-round playoff game). These injuries just keep pilling up for the Bears.

Bears' Statistical Leaders

Note: Overall NFL ranking in parentheses; Bears players placed on Injured Reserve are not included.

Passing Stats

Jay Cutler: 167-265, 63.0 Completion %, 1,908 Yards, 7.20 Yards/Attempt, 239 Yards/Game, 13 TD, 8 INT, 12 Sacks Taken, 88.4 QB Rating (10th), 91.11 PFF QB Rating (7th).

Josh McCown: 42-70, 60.0 Completion %, 538 Yards, 7.70 Yards/Attempt, 175.7 Yards/Game, 4 TD, 0 INT, 3 Sacks Taken, 103.2 QB Rating.

Rushing Stats (Running Backs Only)

Matt Forte: 157 Carries (9th), 691 Yards (7th), 4.4 Yards/Carry (7th), 76.8 Yards/Game (9th), 7 TD (Tied for 3rd), 1 Fumble, 1 Fumble Lost, 37 1st Downs (Tied for 4th), 33.1 Breakaway Percentage (8th).

Michael Bush: 32 Carries, 69 Yards, 2.2 Yards/Carry, 8.6 Yards/Game, 1 TD, 0 Fumbles, 3 1st Downs.

Receiving Stats (Top 5)

Brandon Marshall: 60 Receptions (5th), 93 Targets (6th), 786 Yards (9th), 13.1 Yards/Reception, 6 TD (Tied for 10th), 87.3 Yards/Game, 142 Yards After Catch, 41 1st Downs (4th), 114.4 PFF Wide Receiver Rating (4th).

Alshon Jeffery: 47 Receptions, 85 Targets, 735 Yards, 15.6 Yards/Reception, 3 TD, 81.7 Yards/Game, 154 Yards After Catch, 33 1st Downs.

Matt Forte: 44 Receptions, 56 Targets, 332 Yards, 7.5 Yards/Reception, 0 TD, 36.9 Yards/Game, 284 Yards After Catch, 13 1st Downs.

Martellus Bennett: 40 Receptions, 62 Targets, 421 Yards, 10.5 Yards/Reception, 4 TD, 46.8 Yards/Game, 219 Yards After Catch, 25 1st Downs.

Earl Bennett: 13 Receptions, 22 Targets, 114 Yards, 8.8 Yards/Reception, 2 TD, 12.7 Yards/Game, 12 Yards After Catch, 6 1st Downs.

Tackling Stats (Top 5)

Major Wright: 67 Tackles (48 Solo, 19 Ast), 0 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles.

Lance Briggs: 64 Tackles (47 Solo, 17 Ast), 8 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles, 11.2 Run Stop Percentage (2nd).

James Anderson: 53 Tackles (44 Solo, 9 Ast), 6 Tackles For Loss, 0 Forced Fumbles.

Chris Conte: 44 Tackles (36 Solo, 8 Ast), 0 Tackles For Loss, 1 Forced Fumble.

Tim Jennings: 33 Tackles (26 Solo, 7 Ast), 0 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles.

Pass-Rushing Stats (Top 5 in Sacks)

Note: QB hit and QB hurry stats are via PFF.

Shea McClellin: 3.5 Sacks, 5 Quarterback Hits, 10 Quarterback Hurries.

Lance Briggs: 2 Sacks, 3 Quarterback Hits, 1 Quarterback Hurry.

Julius Peppers: 2 Sacks, 1 Quarterback Hit, 16 Quarterback Hurries.

Corey Wootton: 2 Sacks, 2 Quarterback Hits, 20 Quarterback Hurries, 9.0 Pass Rush Productivity (8th among defensive tackles if he had enough snaps to qualify).

James Anderson: 1 Sack, 1 Quarterback Hit, 3 Quarterback Hurries.

Coverage Stats

Tim Jennings: 3 INT (Tied for 10th), 2 INT Returned For TD (Tied for 1st), 8 Pass Deflections, 65.7 QB Rating Allowed (Tied for 8th among cornerbacks).

Chris Conte: 2 INT, 5 Pass Deflections.

Major Wright: 2 INT, 1 INT Returned For TD (Tied for 2nd), 3 Pass Deflections.

Zack Bowman: 1 INT, 3 Pass Deflections.

Special Teams Stats

Devin Hester: 29 Kick Returns (1st), 819 Yards (2nd), 28.2 AVG (5th);  11 Punt Returns, 159 Yards, 14.5 AVG (5th), 1 TD (Tied for 1st).

Robbie Gould: 16-17 On Field Goals (94.1 %; Tied for 6th), Long Field Goal Of 58 Yards (1st).

Adam Podlesh: 39 Punts, 43.3 AVG, 39.5 NET, Long Punt Of 65 Yards (Tied for 8th), 15 Punts Inside The 20.

Bears Grades From Pro Football Focus

Before looking at some grades of individual players on the Bears, let's look at Pro Football Focus' cumulative Bears grades (combining the grades of each player that apply) in specific departments through week nine.

Note: Bears players placed on Injured Reserve are not included.

Bears Cumulative PFF Grades

Offense Overall: +20.4 (12th)

Passing Offense: +28.3 (7th)

Rushing Offense: +4.2 (15th)

Pass Blocking: -39.3 (31st)

Run Blocking: +9.1 (7th)

Penalties (On Offense): +18.1 (Tied for 4th)


Defense Overall: -75.0 (30th)

Run Defense: -52.2 (32nd)

Pass Rush: -14.9 (26th)

Pass Coverage: -16.4 (21st)

Penalties (On Defense): +8.5 (15th)


Special Teams: +4.5 (20th)


And here's some PFF grades of individual players on the Bears...

Bears Individual Player PFF Grades

Top 5 Overall Grades On Offense: 

1. WR Brandon Marshall, +20.0 (1st)
2. QB Josh McCown, +9.7 (9th, if qualified)
3. WR Alshon Jeffery, +8.6 (Tied for 15th)
4. QB Jay Cutler, +7.5 (10th)
5. OG Matt Slauson, +6.7 (Tied for 14th)

Bottom 5 Overall Grades On Offense:

1. OT Jordan Mills, -26.3
2. HB Michael Bush, -4.7
3. OG Kyle Long, -2.3
4. TE Martellus Bennett, -2.2
5. WR Earl Bennett, -2.1

Top 5 Overall Grades On Defense:

1.LB Lance Briggs, +2.5 (11th)
2. DT Stephen Paea, +1.9
3. CB Isaiah Frey, +0.8
4. CB Tim Jennings, +0.5
5. CB Zack Bowman, -0.3

Bottom 5 Overall Grades On Defense:

1. S Major Wright, -21.6
2. DE Shea McClellin, -14.0
3. S Chris Conte, -7.0
4. DT Landon Cohen, -3.6
T-5. DE David Bass, -3.1
T-5. DT Zach Minter, -3.1

Top 3 Overall Grades On Special Teams:

1. K Robbie Gould, +12.0
2. WR Eric Weems, +4.7 (Tied for 8th)
3. LB Blake Costanzo, +4.5 (Tied for 12th)

Bottom 3 Overall Grades On Special Teams:

1. HB Michael Ford, -4.0
2. LB Jon Bostic, -3.0
3. P Adam Podlesh, -2.9

Our Overall Take

The Bears sit in a more precarious situation than they did going into last week's game. Winning that game would've allowed the Bears some room to slip up, but now they really need to finish strong, and they'll need the other NFC playoff contenders to lose some games (unless the Bears were to stunningly run the table, of course).

And again... these damn injuries. It's just gotten out of hand in that regard and it's especially getting hard to overcome on the defensive side of the ball.

The Bears are now starting two rookie linebackers (Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene), a seventh-round rookie (that they didn't even draft) at defensive end (David Bass), their No. 4 cornerback (Zack Bowman) as a starting cornerback for the rest of the year with Charles Tillman out, Corey Wootton at defensive tackle instead of defensive end (although he's been great at DT so far), etc.

Needless to say, the Bears' offense needs to keep putting up points, and likely with their backup quarterback under center for multiple games. McCown's certainly been up to the task so far, though.

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We already know the Chicago Bears will be without quarterback Jay Cutler, linebacker Lance Briggs, and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff for the team's game on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens at Soldier Field (and don't forget that they just placed cornerback Charles Tillman on Injured Reserve).

And it appears the Bears could be missing a few other key players for the game as well.

Defensive end Shea McClellin (hamstring) and longsnapper Patrick Mannelly (calf) are listed as 'doubtful' to play in the game, while tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle) is listed as 'questionable', and right tackle Jordan Mills (quad) is listed as 'probable'.

McClellin and Mannelly each missed the Bears' game this past Sunday against the Detroit Lions, and neither player participated in practice this week. So, they should be considered very doubtful to suit up for this one.

Bennett didn't participate in practice on Thursday, but was able to participate in limited fashion on Friday. The Bears are hopeful their highly productive tight end will be able to play in Sunday's game:

“He (Bennett) worked probably 50 percent of the practice,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We were trying to be smart with him, but he got work in today and did well. Hopefully with 48 hours (until kickoff on Sunday) he’ll feel even better. But we got some execution done with him, so it was good.”
Source: ESPN Chicago

For the Ravens, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee), linebacker Daryl Smith (thigh), cornerback Ladarius Webb (groin), safety James Ihedigbo (toe), wide receiver Marlon Brown (knee), and cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin) are all listed as 'questionable'. So, the Ravens may be without some key players just like the Bears will be for this game.

Here's more on the statuses of those Ravens players:

Nose tackle Haloti Ngata is the Baltimore Ravens' biggest injury concern heading into Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears. 
Ngata is listed as questionable after missing every practice this week. This could be a situation in which the Ravens are simply resting him because he injured his right knee early in Sunday's win over the Cincinnati Bengals and returned to play. 
He is one of five defensive starters who are listed as questionable on the injury report. But cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (groin) and linebacker Daryl Smith (thigh) both returned to practice Friday after sitting out two days. Cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin) and safety James Ihedigbo (toe) have been limited all week but both played with their injuries last Sunday. 
Wide receiver Marlon Brown (knee) was added to the injury report as questionable after not practicing Friday. He's been dealing with a knee injury recently.
Source: ESPN

The Ravens also list linebacker Terrell Suggs (neck), defensive end Chris Canty (knee), running back Bernard Pierce (toe, knee), and wide receiver Brandon Stokley (thigh) as 'probable'.

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After placing cornerback Charles Tillman (torn right triceps) on Injured Reserve (with the designation to return), the Chicago Bears signed safety Derrick Martin to a one-year contract on Wednesday:
Martin, 28, spent training camp with the Bears and appeared in two preseason games.

The 5'10", 198-pound safety has played in 66 games (four starts) over his seven-year career, recording 37 tackles, three interceptions, eight pass deflections, one sack, and one fumble recovery. He has two Super Bowl rings as a reserve safety while with the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants.

The Bears' safety play has been downright abysmal this season (although Chris Conte had a very nice game aon Sunday), so it's possible Martin finds playing time on defense at some point, but for right now he'll just provide veteran depth at the position and perhaps contribute on special teams.

The Bears now have five safeties (Martin, Conte, Major Wright, Craig Steltz, and Anthony Walters) and four cornerbacks (Zack Bowman, Tim Jennings, Isaiah Frey, and Sherrick McManis) on the 53-man roster.

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The Chicago Bears have a big, big game on Sunday against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.

Let's take an overall look at where things currently stand for the Bears as they head into the game, looking at the NFC North and NFC standings in general, the Bears' remaining schedule, the Bears' health situation, statistical leaders on the Bears, and much more (including grades from the outstanding Pro Football Focus).

Standings


(Via ESPN.Com)

After the surprising events on Monday night that resulted in a Bears victory over the Green Packers at Lambeau Field, the Bears, Packers, and Lions enter week 10 in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC North.

Obviously, at least one of those teams will lose on Sunday with the Bears and Lions playing each other. And an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team will have their hands full against a Philadelphia Eagles team capable of lighting up the scoreboard.

So it goes without saying that the Bears have a huge opportunity here to create some separation between themselves and at least one team in the NFC North. And a loss would be a big hit to the Bears' divisional chances as well.

Since the Lions already beat the Bears once this season (week four in Detroit), a Lions win on Sunday would essentially give them a two-game lead over the Bears, as they'd hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

So, we're basically talking about an immediate three-game swing here for the Bears if they win this game rather than lose it: A win and they have a one-game lead over the Lions; a loss and they're one game behind the Lions and would lose the tiebreaker to the Lions.

Additionally, if the Bears win this game, they would hold a better record within the NFC North than the Lions (Lions lost to the Packers), and the divisional record is the next tiebreaker after head-to-head record to decide the division champion.

I think you get the point: This game will have major implications on the NFC North and the Bears would be in the driver's seat with a win. They'd be one game ahead of at least the Lions, and even if the Packers win on Sunday, keep in mind that the Bears beat the Packers, so the Bears currently hold that tiebreaker.

Looking at the NFC Wild Card race (another way the Bears could potentially get into the playoffs), the Bears are currently seventh (one spot outside of the playoffs) as the Carolina Panthers would get the sixth seed due to the conference-record tiebreaker (Panthers are 5-2 vs NFC teams; Bears are 3-3). The San Francisco 49ers currently have the first Wild Card spot at 6-2, and it seems like a borderline lock that the second-place team in the NFC West (the 49ers or the 8-1 Seattle Seahawks) takes one of the Wild Card spots.

Obviously the Lions and Packers are both worth keeping in mind for the Wild Card race as well. The 4-4 Arizona Cardinals and 4-5 Eagles certainly can't be counted out either. But, after the top-10 teams in the NFC, no other teams in the NFC record have a record better than 3-6, so in reality it's 10 NFC playoff contenders with six slots to be had.

Remaining Schedule

Week 10- vs Detroit Lions (5-3)

Week 11- vs Baltimore Ravens (3-5)

Week 12- at St. Louis Rams (3-6)

Week 13- at Minnesota Vikings (2-7)

Week 14- vs Dallas Cowboys (5-4); Monday Night Football

Week 15- at Cleveland Browns (4-5); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 16- at Philadelphia Eagles (4-5); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 17- vs Green Bay Packers (5-3); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

After the Lions, the Bears don't play another team with a winning record until the Monday nighter against the Cowboys at Soldier Field on December 9th. It's certainly not an intimidating schedule. But with the Bears' defensive woes, and the uncertainty at the moment of just how healthy Jay Cutler's groin is (we'll of course get a better feel about that after Sunday's game), you can't get overly confident about a single game on the schedule either.

I've already knocked weeks 11-13 out of Sunday night flex consideration (and the NFL already moved the Chiefs-Broncos to week 11 anyway... not sure if they have made any other decisions yet), and week 15 seems doubtful, unless the Browns continue to hang around a crappy AFC North. And the same thinking goes for the Eagles/NFC East in week 16, although that flex option just feels more realistic to me at the moment (with more ratings appeal than the Browns carry as well).

Then there's week 17, which as we've said weekly, makes all the flex sense in the world if the Bears and Packers are each alive in the playoff race heading into that week (and even if only one of them is, Bears-Packers will always draw viewers regardless).

Bears' Injury Report

Second-year Bears defensive end Shea McClellin had three sacks and his best game as a pro on Monday night against the Packers, but suffered a hamstring injury in practice that has him 'doubtful' for the Lions game. The severity of the injury is unknown. Rookie David Bass will start in McClellin's place at defensive end on Sunday, and defensive end Cheta Ozougwu will be active as well.

Long-snapper Patrick Mannelly, who has played more games than any Chicago Bear in franchise history, is out Sunday with a calf injury that suffered against the Packers. He's considered "week-to-week" according to Marc Trestman. The Bears signed free-agent Jeremy Cain to replace Mannelly's long-snapping duties for week 10 (and potentially longer). You may remember Cain, as he began his NFL career with the Bears in 2004 as a linebacker with primary duties on special teams. Cain played in eight games for the Bears over 2004-2005, recording 10 tackles.

And wide receiver Joe Anderson (abdomen) was placed on Injured Reserve. Anderson's primary duties were as a special teamer; he didn't have a catch on the season at wide receiver and only played 13 snaps on offense.

For some encouraging injury news, Jay Cutler will start at quarterback on Sunday (link to our write-up) after originally being expected to miss at least another game or two, due to the torn groin he suffered in the team's week seven loss vs the Washington Redskins.

On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) and recently signed defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (sports hernia surgery; hamstring) should be ready to play within the next few weeks. So, some much-needed help on the defensive side of the ball is on the way for the Bears.

Bears' Statistical Leaders

Note: Overall NFL ranking in parentheses; Bears players placed on Injured Reserve are not included.

Passing Stats

Jay Cutler: 146-225, 64.9 Completion % (Tied for 7th), 1,658 Yards, 7.37 Yards/Attempt, 237 Yards/Game, 12 TD, 7 INT, 10 Sacks Taken, 91.7 QB Rating, 93.38 PFF QB Rating (5th).

Josh McCown: 36-61, 59.0 Completion %, 476 Yards, 7.80 Yards/Attempt, 238 Yards/Game, 3 TD, 0 INT, 2 Sacks Taken, 100.2 QB Rating.

Rushing Stats (Running Backs Only)

Matt Forte: 140 Carries (7th), 658 Yards (6th), 4.7 Yards/Carry (7th), 82.3 Yards/Game (5th), 7 TD (Tied for 3rd), 1 Fumble, 1 Fumble Lost, 36 1st Downs (Tied for 4th), 34.8 Breakaway Percentage (8th).

Michael Bush: 31 Carries, 69 Yards, 2.2 Yards/Carry, 9.9 Yards/Game, 1 TD, 0 Fumbles, 3 1st Downs.

Receiving Stats (Top 5)

Brandon Marshall: 53 Receptions (5th), 81 Targets (Tied for 8th), 647 Yards, 12.2 Yards/Reception, 6 TD (Tied for 10th), 80.9 Yards/Game, 135 Yards After Catch, 35 1st Downs (Tied for 7th), 108.2 PFF Wide Receiver Rating (6th).

Matt Forte: 40 Receptions, 49 Targets, 316 Yards, 7.9 Yards/Reception, 0 TD, 39.5 Yards/Game, 228 Yards After Catch, 13 1st Downs.

Alshon Jeffery: 38 Receptions, 67 Targets, 621 Yards, 16.3 Yards/Reception, 3 TD, 77.6 Yards/Game, 127 Yards After Catch, 26 1st Downs.

Martellus Bennett: 36 Receptions, 56 Targets, 392 Yards, 10.9 Yards/Reception, 4 TD, 49.0 Yards/Game, 190 Yards After Catch, 23 1st Downs.

Earl Bennett: 11 Receptions, 19 Targets, 104 Yards, 9.5 Yards/Reception, 2 TD, 13.0 Yards/Game, 12 Yards After Catch, 6 1st Downs.

Tackling Stats (Top 5)

Lance Briggs: 64 Tackles (47 Solo, 17 Ast) (6th), 8 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles (Tied for 10th), 11.2 Run Stop Percentage (4th).

Major Wright: 61 Tackles (44 Solo, 17 Ast), 0 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles (Tied for 10th).

James Anderson: 47 Tackles (39 Solo, 8 Ast), 4 Tackles For Loss, 0 Forced Fumbles.

Chris Conte: 41 Tackles (37 Solo, 4 Ast), 0 Tackles For Loss, 1 Forced Fumble.

Charles Tillman: 36 Tackles (27 Solo, 9 Ast), 3 Tackles For Loss, 3 Forced Fumbles (Tied for 3rd).

Pass-Rushing Stats (Top 5 in Sacks)

Note: QB hit and QB hurry stats are via PFF.

Shea McClellin: 3.5 Sacks, 5 Quarterback Hits, 10 Quarterback Hurries.

Lance Briggs: 2 Sacks, 3 Quarterback Hits, 1 Quarterback Hurry.

Julius Peppers: 2 Sacks, 1 Quarterback Hit, 14 Quarterback Hurries.

Corey Wootton: 2 Sacks, 2 Quarterback Hits, 19 Quarterback Hurries, 11.2 Pass Rush Productivity (1st among defensive tackles if he had enough snaps to qualify).

James Anderson: 1 Sack, 1 Quarterback Hit, 3 Quarterback Hurries.

Coverage Stats

Tim Jennings: 3 INT (Tied for 9th), 2 INT Returned For TD (Tied for 1st), 8 Pass Deflections, 60.1 QB Rating Allowed (9th among cornerbacks).

Charles Tillman: 3 INT (Tied for 9th), 3 Pass Deflections.

Major Wright: 2 INT, 1 INT Returned For TD (Tied for 2nd), 3 Pass Deflections.

Zack Bowman: 1 INT, 3 Pass Deflections.

Chris Conte: 1 INT, 2 Pass Deflections.

Special Teams Stats

Devin Hester: 25 Kick Returns (1st), 705 Yards (2nd), 28.2 AVG (5th);  10 Punt Returns, 143 Yards, 14.3 AVG (5th), 1 TD (Tied for 1st).

Robbie Gould: 14-15 On Field Goals (93.8 %; Tied for 7th), Long Field Goal Of 58 Yards (1st).

Adam Podlesh: 34 Punts, 43.4 AVG, 39.0 NET, Long Punt Of 65 Yards (Tied for 8th), 15 Punts Inside The 20 (Tied for 8th).

Bears Grades From Pro Football Focus

Before looking at some grades of individual players on the Bears, let's look at Pro Football Focus' cumulative Bears grades (combining the grades of each player that apply) in specific departments through week nine.

Note: Bears players placed on Injured Reserve are not included.

Bears Cumulative PFF Grades

Offense Overall: +28.5 (Tied for 10th)

Passing Offense: +26.8 (7th)

Rushing Offense: +6.0 (10th)

Pass Blocking: -32.9 (31st)

Run Blocking: +13.5 (4th)

Penalties (On Offense): +15.1 (8th)


Defense Overall: -67.1 (30th)

Run Defense: -49.6 (32nd)

Pass Rush: -12.5 (26th)

Pass Coverage: -13.3 (20th)

Penalties (On Defense): +8.3 (15th)


Special Teams: +5.7 (20th)


And here's some PFF grades of individual players on the Bears...

Bears Individual Player PFF Grades

Top 5 Overall Grades On Offense: 

1. WR Brandon Marshall, +16.1 (2nd)
2. OG Matt Slauson, +9.7 (Tied for 4th)
3. WR Alshon Jeffery, +8.7 (12th)
4. QB Josh McCown, +8.2 (12th)
5. HB Matt Forte, +6.4 (13th)

Bottom 5 Overall Grades On Offense:

1. OT Jordan Mills, -23.5
2. HB Michael Bush, -4.5
3. OG Kyle Long, -2.3
4. TE Martellus Bennett, -1.8
5. WR Earl Bennett, -1.1

Top 5 Overall Grades On Defense:

1. DL Corey Wootton, +2.9 (+4.8 at DT, -1.9 at DE)
2. LB Lance Briggs, +2.5 (9th among OLB)
3. CB Isaiah Frey, +1.6
4. CB Tim Jennings, +1.1
5. DE David Bass, +0.2

Bottom 5 Overall Grades On Defense:

1. S Major Wright, -21.0
2. DE Shea McClellin, -14.0
3. S Chris Conte, -9.1
4. CB Charles Tillman, -5.0
5. DT Landon Cohen, -4.6

Top 3 Overall Grades On Special Teams:

1. K Robbie Gould, +12.3
2. LB Blake Costanzo, +5.5 (Tied for 3rd in ST coverage)
3. KR Devin Hester, +4.3 (+5.1 as a returner, tied for 4th)

Bottom 3 Overall Grades On Special Teams:

1. HB Michael Bush, -3.5
2. P Adam Podlesh, -3.1
T-3. LB Jon Bostic, -3.0
T-3. TE Dante Rosario, -3.0

Our Overall Take

After the loss to the Redskins in week seven, the Bears were 4-3, and it appeared would be without their starting quarterback for at least a month (and some of us feared for the entire season). Things looked quite bleak for the Bears' playoff chances.

Well, after a bye week, the team was able to go into Lambeau Field with their backup quarterback and beat the Packers on Monday Night Football, to create a three-way tie in the NFC North. On that night, we also learned that Jay Cutler could return for the Lions game, just two weeks after suffering his groin injury, when it was originally assumed he would be out at least four weeks.

From Cutler being out at least a month and the Bears hoping to just somehow hang in the playoff race while he's out, to Cutler only missing one game and the Bears beating the Packers in Lambeau Field in his absence. Quite a turn of events for the Bears.

So now the Bears have quite an opportunity at their hands that we didn't think was possible less than a week ago. And even if the Bears lose to the Lions, things still look better for the Bears' overall playoff chances than we figured they would after Cutler's injury.

Regardless of Sunday's outcome, the Bears will enter week 11 with a winning record, their starting quarterback, and an offense improving constantly in a modern-day NFL where it's about putting points on the board. Now, it would obviously be nice if the Bears could prevent the opposition from doing the same constantly, of course, and it's hard to see things getting much better on that side of the ball anytime soon (until Lance Briggs and Jeremiah Ratliff join the defense to potentially help things, at least). But given how fortunate we should consider things right now, we'll save the freak-out about the defense for another week

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Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (groin) participated in practice on Thursday, and has been cleared to play for the Bears in their game against the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field:
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported to the surprise of everyone on Monday night that, according to a Bears team source, Cutler was expected to start vs the Lions, after the initial reports upon Cutler suffering the torn groin were that the quarterback would likely be out four-to-six weeks.

Returning for the Lions game would mean Cutler just missed two weeks (and only one game, as the Bears had their bye in week eight).

But, it turns out the info Mortensen got was spot-on (as it usually is with him), and it's great news for the Bears... assuming Cutler is indeed 100%. He claims to be:


Bears head coach Marc Trestman added more on that topic:
"The last couple of days he's done through an extensive protocol to make sure that he was, by doctor's evaluation, cleared to play the game on Sunday," Trestman said. "This morning, they cleared him to play. He practiced the entire practice. He took every rep and had a good practice, and I'll leave it at that. I expect him to start on Sunday."
"The doctors had told us that the injury was what it was; it was a legitimate four-week injury," he said. "Jay took it upon himself, like I said, literally 24/7 doing everything he could to rehab. 
"Jay is unique. He really understands his body. He really understands how to take care of himself. He's a unique athlete, and I'm sure some of that came into effect. But an incredible amount of hard work went into it; that he put in just to get a chance to get to this point. We're excited about it. It says a lot about his commitment to the team." 
Since suffering the injury, Cutler worked extensively with team chiropractor Josh Akin and trainers Chris Hanks and Bobby Slater. The veteran quarterback, who cancelled a scheduled trip home to Nashville during the bye week, was treated by an accelerated recovery performance (ARP) machine that stimulates the nervous system to help relax and elongate muscles. 
Source: ChicagoBears.Com

The Bears enter Sunday's game in a three-way tie with the Lions and Green Bay Packers for first place in the NFC North, and keep in mind that the Lions already beat the Bears once, so if the Lions win on Sunday as well, they essentially have a two-game lead over the Bears.

This game will be huge, and with all due respect (tons and tons of it) to Josh McCown after he played tremendously the last six quarters for the Bears, the Bears will be happy to have their starting quarterback under center as they try to take over sole possession of first place in the NFC North.

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ESPN's Chris Mortensen is hearing from a Chicago Bears team source that quarterback Jay Cutler (torn groin) is expected to start on Sunday in the Bears' week 10 crucial matchup against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field:
Cutler suffered a torn groin in the Bears' week seven loss to the Washington Redskins and was expected to miss 4-6 weeks with the injury, so returning in week 10 would obviously be beating that timetable.

Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall has been saying all along that Cutler would be back for the Lions game, but his "diagnosis" was met with much skepticism and assumed to be just No. 15 being optimistic rather than reasonable or having good information on the injury, but perhaps he was on to something.

Whatever the case, the sooner Cutler returns (provided he's healthy, of course), the better for the Bears' playoff hopes. And the game vs the Lions (who have already beaten the Bears once) is obviously a huge one for NFC North and NFC Wild Card implications.

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Game: Chicago Bears (4-3) vs Green Bay Packers (5-2)
Location: Lambeau Field; Green Bay, Wisconsin
Time: Monday, November 4, 7:30 PM CT
TV: ESPN

Bears' Passing Game vs Packers' Defense 

While I'm certainly skeptical of how Josh McCown will perform in comparison to Jay Cutler, I still think he'll do a solid job running the offense and do his part in giving the Bears a chance to win games. Also, Marc Trestman will do everything he can with the play-calling and scheming to put McCown in a position to succeed.

We'll likely see a lot of quick, efficient throws to the Bears' very talented group of skill-position players on offense (Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Earl Bennett, etc), relying on those guys to do their thing.

Marshall, Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett particularly cause matchup problems for most any defense, and can turn seemingly inaccurate throws into big plays with their length and ability to go get the football. Additionally, McCown is fortunate to have a terrific receiver out of the backfield in Forte that can turn screens and "dump-off" passes into big gains.

The Packers come into this game with Pro Football Focus' worst cumulatively-graded pass-rushing unit, and their pass coverage hasn't graded too much better (PFF's 23rd unit). They'll also be without linebackers Clay Matthews (obviously a big deal) and Nick Perry which should hurt their pass rush.

We obviously don't have a good grasp on how McCown will perform, but I still think the Bears having a slight edge in this area even with Cutler out, due to the playmakers surrounding McCown, and a vulnerable Packers pass-rush and secondary.

Advantage: Bears


Bears' Running Game vs Packers' Defense 

The Bears are averaging 4.7 yards on the ground (seventh in the NFL), and Matt Forte certainly knows the importance of his role with Jay Cutler sidelined.

The Packers will likely stack the box frequently early in the game and make Josh McCown show he can make plays in the passing game. But with our assumption that the Bears are at least decent in the passing game in this matchup, running lanes should be opened up for Forte to be effective as well.

Green Bay is allowing just 3.7 yards per carry (tied for sixth in the NFL), but with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry out, the Packers' run defense (on paper) takes a hit like their pass-rushing does. PFF has graded Matthews (+4.6; second) and Perry (+2.3; eighth) as two of the Packers' eight best defenders vs the run this season. And the Bears' run-blocking unit has been very impressive this season, with PFF grading it as their sixth-best team in that department thus far.

Advantage: Bears


Packers' Passing Game vs Bears' Defense

A team (Bears) with a terrible pass rush so far on the season, vs arguably the best quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) on the planet? Yikes.

Due to injuries, the Packers are without electrifying wide receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley, but wide receiver Jordy Nelson is playing better than ever, and second-year receiver Jarrett Boykin is impressing. And Rodgers is so good that it really doesn't make a massive difference who he has to throw to.

Rodgers has 15 touchdown passes on the season, compared to just four interceptions, and has the NFL's second-best quarterback rating at 108.0. He also has a 102.7 quarterback rating in his career vs the Bears, and with most all of those games vs much better Bears defenses than the unit he'll face in this game.

Nelson has 39 receptions for 649 yards and seven touchdowns, and has graded as PFF's third-best wide receiver this season at +14.2. Rodgers has an insane 148.2 quarterback rating when throwing Nelson's way.

Boykin has been very impressive in essentially being Cobb's replacement, with 13 receptions, 192 receiving yards, and one touchdown over the last two games.

Veteran wide receiver James Jones is also expected to play in this game after missing the last two games due to injury. The 29-year-old Jones had a whopping 14 touchdowns for the Packers last season.

The Bears' pass-rush and safety play have been abysmal (and those two things frequently go hand in hand), and although Charles Tillman is likely to play in this game, he hasn't been close to 100% healthy a single game this season, so we can't expect him to be the Peanut we're used to seeing.

It's hard to imagine anything but a very productive game from the Packers' passing offense in this matchup (and most any matchup).

Advantage: Packers


Packers' Running Game vs Bears' Defense

Maybe the scariest thing about this game to me is that I'm as concerned about the Bears' ability to stop the Packers' running game as much as I'm concerned about the Bears' ability to stop the Packers' passing game.

The Packers' first-round pick in 2013, Eddie Lacy, looks very good in his rookie season. The 5'11", 229-pound back has 112 carries for 446 yards (4.0 yards per carry), and is extremely difficult to bring down, while still being very dangerous in space.

Meanwhile, the Bears' run defense has been awful this season (PFF's second-worst overall unit vs the run in 2013). There have been missed tackles left and right, from the defensive line to the safeties.Making matters worse, the Bears will be without star weak side linebacker Lance Briggs for at least a few weeks, and are now starting two rookies at linebacker in Jon Bostic at middle linebacker (replacing D.J. Williams who was lost for the season) and Khaseem Greene at weak side linebacker.

Also keep in mind that the Bears will likely be in their nickel package a lot on defense to try to slow down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' passing attack, which would only open up for more room for Lacy to run.

Advantage: Packers 


Special Teams 

The Bears have disappointed in this department in 2013, likely due in large part to brilliant special teams coordinator Dave Toub departing to Kansas City in the offseason after the firing of Lovie Smith. But Devin Hester was able to get a punt-return touchdown in the team's week seven loss against the Redskins, with some terrific blocking setting up a free sideline for the league's best-ever returner to run free on. A Hester return touchdown against the Packers would be huge for the Bears in this matchup. And it would take place on his 31st birthday, too (Happy birthday Devin).

The coverage unit, though, has had far too many missed tackles and assignments (again, miss you, Toub), with Blake Costanzo and Eric Weems being the only consistent contributors in the group.

The Packers' Micah Hyde had a 93-yard touchdown return in week eight against the Vikings, so the Bears' coverage unit needs to do their job, or else Hyde, like Hester, could take one to the house.

After a nightmare 2012 season, Packers kicker Mason Crosby has made 17 of 19 field goal attempts. And the Bears' Robbie Gould is as good as good of a kicker as anyone in the business.

Bears punter Adam Podlesh was on the verge of being cut after terrible performances in weeks four and five, but he's been good in recent weeks. Packers punter Tim Masthay is solid, but doesn't even see the field much because of the team's juggernaut offense.

Advantage: Even


Coaching 

The Packers are 10-5 against the Bears under head coach Mike McCarthy, and defensive coordinator Dom Capers has done a remarkable job in scheming to bring the worst out of the Bears (and particularly Jay Cutler) in his time with Green Bay.

Marc Trestman's been impressive in his first season as the Bears' head coach, particularly with his impact on the offensive side of the football. However, there's been a major drop-off in the productivity of the Bears' defense under new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and with the team's special teams unit under new special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis. Injuries have certainly played a part in the Bears' struggles in those departments, but the performance has still been disappointing.

Advantage: Packers


Overall

Going into Lambeau is always tough for a road team. Especially for the Bears in recent years. Especially in primetime.

Add in that the Bears' defense is playing as badly as anytime we can remember (and will be without arguably their best player on that side of the ball in Lance Briggs)... it's hard to see them slowing down Aaron Rodgers and this Packers offense. And without Jay Cutler at quarterback, it's going to be mighty tough on the offensive side of the ball for the Bears to keep up with the Packers' scoring.

There's just no reasonable argument for picking the Bears to win this game. It's certainly possible that they can pull this off (hell, look at the winless Buccaneers almost beating the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday) , but it will likely take things happening that we can't predict (bounces going their way, special teams touchdowns, etc.). Hopefully, they can find a way though, and if so, it would be the biggest regular season Bears win in years.

DBN's Pick: Packers 38, Bears 24

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The Chicago Bears have agreed to a one-year deal with veteran defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, according to reports:








The 32-year-old Ratliff was a seventh-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys out of Auburn, and was a starter for the Cowboys from 2007-2012. He has not played a game in 2013, due to sports hernia surgery and a hamstring injury, and was released by the Cowboys two weeks ago due to a failed physical (or so that's what they're saying... it's been a messy situation this year between the two sides).

There's also a pending off-the-field, legal matter involving Ratliff, as noted by ESPN's Ed Werder:

Ratliff also faces charges of driving while intoxicated stemming from an arrest earlier this year, six weeks after then-Cowboys backup Josh Brent's crash, which killed teammate Jerry Brown Jr. Ratliff's trial has been postponed until February.
Ratliff, if healthy in the next few weeks, could provide a desperately needed boost to the Bears' defense. The 6'4", 303-pounder is a four-time Pro Bowl selection (2008-2011), and was named to the All-Pro team in 2009.

In 2012, Ratliff was Pro Football Focus' No. 46 graded defensive tackle, and graded 17th in pass rush among defensive tackles. He graded as PFF's No. 7 overall defensive tackle in 2011, and graded as a top-20 defensive tackle by PFF every season from 2010-2012.

The Bears' defense -- and particularly defensive line -- has been a mess, currently grading as PFF's second-worst overall unit in the NFL in 2013. It doesn't help things for the defensive line that defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins have been lost for the season due to injuries.

So, if Ratliff can be ready to go relatively soon and play like the guy he's capable of, that could really help things for the Bears on the defensive line. Ratliff will likely slide into the starting three-technique spot, with Stephen Paea playing nose tackle, and Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton at defensive ends. This also would move struggling (to say the least) second-year defensive end Shea McClellin out of three-down duties and let him stick to defensive end on passing downs.

With Ratliff, quarterback Jay Cutler (torn groin), and linebacker Lance Briggs (fractured shoulder) all likely to return to action in the next month (ish), there's at least some reason for optimism for the Bears and their fans now after incredibly frustrating recent weeks. Hopefully the Bears can hang in the playoff race until those players return, and perhaps can make a nice run to finish out the year.

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