The Bears head to Cincinnati for another road game. Geez, when are they going to get another home game? Only two home games before November 1st? WTF? The Bears are coming off an ugly loss to Matt Ryan and the Falcons. It’s the second consecutive year that the Beloved come up empty in Atlanta in maddening fashion.
Meanwhile, the Bengals come off a disappointing home loss to the Texans. You would have to characterize the Bengals as a surprise team, as they sit atop the tough AFC North with a 4-2 record overall and a mind-numbing 3-0 record in the division with impressive wins against the Steelers and Ravens along with a road win in Green Bay.
Before the season started, I had this as a slam dunk win, but not so fast. I hate to say it, but these Bengals are for real. They have discovered a running game with Cedric Benson – yes, that Cedric Benson and Carson Palmer is regaining his old Pro Bowl form. But fear not Bears fans, this is still a very winnable game. Here are my Keys to the Game:
Cedric Benson spoke out this week about how the Bears supposedly blackballed him after his release. I’m sure he’s had this game circled on his calendar since the schedule came out. I am sure that Lance Briggs and Company have had it circled too. The Bears need to pop him good a few times and take him out of his game. The Bears did well to shut down Michael Turner last week and come into the game ranked 6th against the run.
Air it out
People are panicking about the slow start by Matt Forte and the Bears running game. There’s no sense in forcing it. Do enough to keep the Bengals off balance, but let it come naturally. Use the short passing game and screen passes to involve Forte. Last week, Matt Schaub and the Texans were able to put up 392 passing yards against the Bengals. I expect Jay Cutler and the Bears to move it well through the air.
Meet Robbie Red Zone
The biggest problem the Bears had last wee was in the Red Zone, where they had two costly turnovers and ran out of time at the end of the game. One could argue that if the Bears had just kicked field goals instead of coughing up the ball, they would have been in a position to kick the game winner as time expired last week. Of course, who knows how the game would have played out, but when you have a weapon like Robbie Gould on the sideline, it’s OK to settle for field goals once in a while. We all want touchdowns, but I’ll take 3 instead of a turnover any time.
Gould is the Bears’ all-time most accurate kicker, so let him do what he does best. Besides, my fantasy team needs the points!
Like the Boy Scouts, Always Be Prepared
The most frustrating part of last week’s loss was how completely unprepared they looked to face the Falcons no-huddle offense. It’s not like they had never run it or like the Bears had 2 weeks to prepare for the game. Oh, wait. Head coach and game day defensive play caller Lovie Smith needs to do a better job getting the plays called from the sidelines and make adjustment on the fly.
Prediction: Bears 31, Bengals 21
Through the month of October, my usual BEAR DOWN signoff will be in pink to raise awareness for National Breast Cancer Awareness month.