For the second straight week, the Titans will face the leader of the NFC North. This time, it will be a battle against the Chicago Bears at New Soldier Field. The Titans seem to be at full strength and speed, while the Bears are trying to be the first team beat the Titans, without their starting quarterback.
Titans Passing Offense vs. Bears Defense:
It’s pretty well known and documented that the Titans lack a prolific passing offense. You may not know, though, that the esteemed (and very expensive) Chicago Bears D ranks 30 out of 32 teams in passing defense, giving up 247.8 yards a game through the air. At first glance you see that Chicago has faced Manning, McNabb and rookie phenom Matt Ryan, so these numbers might seem to make sense. But then you see who else they’ve given a copious amount of yards to: Brian Griese, Gus Frerotte and Dan Orlovsky (twice), who aren’t guys that particularly strike fear in the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators. Out of those regulars, only McNabb is averaging as many or more yards per game against opponents not named the Bears. Kerry Collins has yet to eclipse the 200 yard mark in a game this season, but I suspect that this might be the match-up that makes this happen.
Titans Rushing Offense vs. Bears Defense:
The rushing game has been the Titans bread and butter all throughout this season’s run, and they’ll be challenged against a Chicago run defense that has held up it’s end of the bargain. Chicago is only allowing 81.8 yards per game on the ground, which is good for 6th overall in the league. That being said, they did allow 121 yards to Adrian Peterson, who is probably the closest threat to Chris Johnson/LenDale White that the Bears have faced this season (they had the good fortune of missing Brian Westbrook in their win against the Eagles). This game might be a first this season for the Titans in that the passing game might even set up the running game. Either way, we’re not betting against the Titans running game until we’ve got a reason to.
Bears Passing Offense vs. Titans Defense:
The good: If there has been a very good and unexpected story for the Bears this season it has been the play of Kyle Orton. Orton has accounted for 11 total touchdown, compared to only 4 picks, and has given the Bears a legitimate passing game without the luxury of any “go-to” receiver. The bad (for Bears fans that is): Kyle Orton is probably not playing on Sunday, and if he does he’ll be hampered with a high ankle sprain that initially looked to be worse. If we see Rex Grossman playing against Tennessee this weekend we might see another classic Grossman trainwreck. He was able to get the win against Detroit last week, but the last time I checked the Lions secondary is a little bit different than that of the Titans (in fantasy football, Ryan Fitzpatrick is probably a must start against Detroit). The Grossman of the first half of the 2006 season hasn’t been seen since (hopefully for him, his mind is still there with nothing but happy thoughts), and he won’t get the little bit of production out of Rashied Davis, Brandon Lloyd and (an incredibly ineffective) Devin Hester that Orton has been able to this season. I have a feeling that Cortland Finnegan and/or Michael Griffin won’t still be sitting on 4 picks when this game is over.
Bears Rushing Offense vs. Titans Defense:
Rookie Matt Forte got off to a surprisingly good start this season averaging just over 100 yards per game, with two TD’s. Up until last week, once again against the horrendous Lion’s D, Forte had cooled down considerably, gaining only 52 yards per contest. Tennessee has dropped to the 10th best rushing defense in the league, allowing 92 yards per game, but Forte has seemed to hit a little bit of a wall as well. Assuming Grossman does play, I’d expect to see Tennessee crowd the line and make Forte beat them. I don’t see it happening.
Chris Carr is still doing his job returning kicks for the Titans, after being less than impressive the first few games in the season. Tennessee as a team is 2nd best in kick returns, averaging 26.5 yards per kickoff. While that, of course, is nice, the real story is the lack of a return game that Chicago has this season. Devin Hester started off his career as perhaps the most feared returner in the history of the NFL. This off-season Hester got number one receiver money, which hasn’t particularly paid off as of yet, and virtually become a non-factor in the return game (knocking on wood as I type this). The Bears rank in the bottom third of both kickoff and punt returns. Hester is being wildly misused.
The Titans are coming off of a gutsy win against the best team in Chicago’s division (granted at home), to stay undefeated. The Bears are coming off of a sloppy win against the worst team in the same division, losing the player that is most responsible for their success thus far in the season. Granted this game is in Chicago, and the weather could be a factor, but the Titans should be winning this game even if Orton were playing. Oh yeah, and we’ve got Rob Bironas.
The deck is pretty stacked against the Bears in this one. Kyle Orton’s high ankle sprain couldn’t have come at a worse point in the season, and Rex Grossman will have trouble re-acclimating himself against the Titans ball-hawking defense. Chicago will have trouble moving the ball all game long.
Pick: Titans 31-10