Seahawks @ Bears, NFC Divisional Playoffs
This game is a rematch from Week 6, when the Seahawks came into Chicago and defeated the Bears 23-20. Few would argue that the Bears are a different team than they were then, as evidenced by the Bears being 10-point favorites this weekend. However, when you take into account that if not for a Devin Hester punt return TD at the end of the game, the Bears would have lost 23-13. So the game was not as close as the score would indicate. For the Bears to turn the tables and advance to the NFC Championship game, here are some things they have to do:
1) Play up on Mike Williams. In the game in Week 6, Seahawks WR Mike Williams was targeted 15 times, caught 10 of those passes for 123 yards. His long reception was 24, which means that for the most part, they were 3-yard slanting us all the way down the field. Further evidence for this is Matt Hasslebeck’s numbers that day: 25-20, 242 yards. That’s only 6.1 yards per attempt, which means they weren’t taking many shots downfield. With the conditions at Soldier Field being what they usually are in January, I don’t expect the Seahawks to try and challenge the Bears deep with Hasslebeck’s mediocre arm. Especially with Idonije and Peppers lurking. So the Bears must to a better job of forcing longer pass attempts.
2) Stop the Seahawks’ running game. In Week 6, RBs Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch combined for 27 carries and 111 yards. The Bears’ defense normaly gives up 70-80 rushing yards per game. So its safe to say we were controlled at the line of scrimmage. In addition, we saw the way Lynch’s power running changed the complexion of the Seahawks’ victory over the Saints last weekend. We must control the line of scrimmage, and tackle better than we did in Week 6.
3) Commit to the running game. Matt Forte ran 8 times for 11 yards in the first meeting. 11 yards. Even if they contain Forte in this game as well, that cannot deter us from running the ball more than 8 times.
4) Protect Jay Cutler. Cutler was sacked 6 times in Week 6; pressured on almost every pass. He was throwing under duress which hampered his accuracy, as evidenced by the 45% completion rate(17 of 39). The amazing thing is that we still threw for 290 yards, which was 17.1 yards per completion. So big plays will be there in the passing game, we just have to give Cutler time to make those throws.
5) Contain Leon Washington. Our kick coverage has been suspect all year. Leon Washington lead the NFL with 3 kickoff returns for TDs. In a game where our defense should be able to control their offense, we cannot do them any favors by allowing them to start at the 40-yard line or worse. Corey Graham, Nick Roach, and Major Wright will be big here.
My prediction: Bears’ defense will dominate at home, and Bears will score just enough to put it away. Bears 23, Seahawks 6.