Chicago Bears Early Look Week 5: Carolina Panthers


Sep 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) throws the ball against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Overview:  The Chicago Bears are visiting the Carolina Panthers this week in a matchup that should be very telling for both squads.  Both teams have identical 2-2 records so far in this young season, and both teams have a lot to prove after rough week 4 showings.  Coming off an embarrassing 38-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Carolina’s defense is a shell of last year’s dominating unit.  Just one season after finishing second in the NFL behind only the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in both yards and points allowed, the Panthers are 19th in points allowed and 23rd in yards allowed through four games this year.  The offense has been less than stellar as well, scoring only 18.2 points per game and averaging 327.8 yards per game.

Injuries:  Running back tops the list of injury concerns for the Carolina Panthers this week.  With both Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert both out last week, starter DeAngelo Williams also exited the Baltimore game and is doubtful to play this week.  This effectively leaves the Panthers out of running backs.  I fully expect them to work some new names into the mix during the course of the week, but I don’t see how this isn’t good news for the Bears.  Another area of concern for Carolina is on the defensive line.  Defensive end Charles Johnson is dealing with a hip flexor injury, while his counterpart Greg Hardy is being sat by the team while his domestic violence issues are resolved.

Key Matchups:  Cam Newton has to be the Bears’ top area of focus in their game planning this week.  Chicago has struggled so far this season with mobile quarterbacks and the read option, an area where the Carolina Panthers are extremely adept.  As tantalizing as it is for Carolina’s top three running backs to be out for this one, if the Bears can’t contain Newton they may not need running backs to find success on the ground.  I’m not very worried about the Bears’ offense this week.  They should be able to bounce back against a Panthers defense that failed to record a single sack on Joe Flacco last week, despite the fact that the Ravens threw the ball 31 times and were starting undrafted rookie James Hurst at left tackle.

The Way I See It:  This contest should be a good chance for the Bears to regain some confidence after a demoralizing loss to the Green Bay Packers last week.  I’m not counting the Panthers out of it completely, but I do think that the end score will at least be competitive.  Chicago’s offense should be able to put up some points on a porous Panthers defense, and as long as the defense can keep Cam Newton halfway contained they should be able to keep the Panthers score to a reasonable number.

What do you guys think?  Who’s going to come out on top this week? Let me know in the comments section.