The Chicago Bears (4-1) still have plenty of doubters despite tying with Atlanta for the best record in the NFC and simply need to keep winning when they host the Seattle Seahawks (2-2) on Sunday. The Bears (-7 @ Diamond Sportsbook) discovered their running game in a 23-6 win at Carolina last week and hope to have a more balanced offensive attack when quarterback Jay Cutler returns from a concussion he suffered two weeks ago at New York.
Cutler was hoping to play last week against the Panthers but was not fully cleared by the team’s medical staff, which meant veteran Todd Collins started in his place. Collins wound up enduring one of the worst games of all-time for a quarterback in a victory, throwing four interceptions before getting pulled in favor of third-stringer Caleb Hanie. The Bears have since dropped Collins to third string and promoted Hanie to backup, and they got good news earlier this week when doctors gave Cutler full clearance to not only participate in practice but also play on Sunday.
Chicago still did not have any trouble with Carolina though thanks to the strong play of running backs Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. The Bears had averaged 33.5 rushing yards in the first four games but exploded for 218 on 42 carries against the Panthers. Forte led the way with a career-high 166 yards on 22 carries, including touchdown runs of 18 and 68 yards in the first quarter alone. Taylor also saw his most action since signing with the team as a free agent, carrying the ball 18 times for 43 yards to help grind out the victory.
Seattle’s run defense has been particularly strong this season, allowing just 72.8 yards per game and two touchdowns. But the Seahawks have been as bad at stopping the pass as they have been good at stopping the run, surrendering 302 yards per game through the air. That is why Cutler’s return is so important for the Bears in this matchup.
Last year at Seattle in Week 3, Cutler completed 21 of 27 passes for 247 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in a 25-19 win. But that Seahawks team was a lot different than this one, which will feature Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback and Marshawn Lynch at running back.
Hasselbeck missed the last meeting due to injury while Lynch arrived in a trade from Buffalo prior to the team’s bye week. Lynch and leading rusher Justin Forsett will battle a Chicago run defense that has allowed just 78.6 rushing yards per game. Seattle also traded wide receiver Deion Branch to New England on Tuesday, which will open up more playing time for Deon Butler, Ben Obomanu and Brandon Stokley.
Four of the last five meetings between these teams in the regular season and playoffs have gone OVER the total with the home team winning four times. However, the road team has covered two of the last three meetings, including the straight-up win by the Bears last season.