For the second straight week the Chicago Bears have a chance to prove their stock under the eye of a national audience. The Bears (7-2) look for the elusive statement win Monday night against host San Francisco (6-2-1).
Chicago is reeling after a four-turnover affair in a 13-6 home loss to the Houston Texans last week. To add insult to injury, the Bears also lost franchise quarterback Jay Cutler due to a concussion. Jason Campbell, who was acquired in the off season on the first day of free agent signing, will get the nod Monday night. Cutler will remain at home in Chicago recuperating.
The 49ers starting quarterback, Alex Smith, also suffered a concussion last week in a tie to the St. Louis Rams, but have since been cleared to play. It is still uncertain whether Smith will start, but he is expected to play.
Without further ado here are my bold predictions for this Monday night clash:
Jason Campbell has big game.
It would be an understatement to say the Bears are in a far better position with Jason Campbell (71st career NFL start) in the backup role compared to the debacle last season when Cutler went down. Given Campbell has a full week of practice under center with the first-string offense under his belt, look for the backup to shine.
One might think with Cutler sitting out, it would present the perfect opportunity to pound the ball with Matt Forte and Michael Bush. Don’t count on it.
If playing conditions better suited for a pig wrestling venue didn’t make offensive coordinator Mike Tice and company want to run the ball more, why would a backup quarterback?
Throw in the return of rookie WR Alshon Jeffery and Campbell will have another viable option in the passing game.
Prediction: Campbell 19-34 267 yds, 2 Tds, 0 INT.
Frank Gore will run for 100-plus yards.
For the second straight week the Bears defense will have their hands full trying to stop an elite running back, this week in the form of Frank Gore. The Texans’ Arian Foster surpassed the century mark last week by rushing for 102 yards on 29 totes. Foster was bottled up in the second half, gaining just 11 yards after intermission, but gashed the Bears defense multiple times in the first half.
It was the second straight game an opposing rusher gained 100-plus against the Bears (Chris Johnson, Titans). Although 80 of Johnson’s 141 yards came late in the game against mostly second-string defenders it still counts as a 100-yard game.
Colin Kaepernick could see more action under center for the Niners with Smith returning from being concussed.
Unlike the Bears, San Fran is not afraid to pound the ball, as they lead the NFL in rushing with 170.2 yards per game. Gore paves the way with 753 yards and five scores.
Prediction: Gore -- 27 carries 126 yds, 1 TD.
Bears gut-out the win.
Many thought with the weather and playing at home the Bears should have been favored last week. This week playing with a backup and on the road the advantage should go to the Niners. But unless you have been hiding under a rock this NFL season, you already know very few things have gone as scripted this season. This game will be no different.
Led by Jason Campbell the offense will once again do just enough to compliment the defense and the Bears will remain atop the NFC North standings and the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
Prediction: Bears 20, 49ers 16
TRAVIS DAVID is a contributor for FOOTBALL NATION and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Tdavid_21.