The Bears received some good news yesterday when it was revealed that Jay Cutler has been cleared to start on Sunday against the Seahawks. I'm not sure the Bears could have beaten any other team besides the Panthers last week with the performance Todd Collins had, but hopefully that's something we won't have to worry about again. Lovie Smith has not officially demoted Collins to #3 on the depth chart, but I have a hard time believing he'll be backing up Cutler on Sunday. I understand why they have not simply released Collins, even though his performance does not warrant keeping him. They had a hard enough time finding a backup after Hanie got hurt in the preseason, and now that Collins knows the offense (which could be debatable, I guess), is guaranteed his full year salary, and has shown in the past that he can be a capable backup, maybe they should keep him as their emergency #3 signal caller. Truthfully, though, if Cutler and Hanie are out at the same time, the Bears should just run a wildcat on every play.
Seahawks vs. Bears Preview
The Seattle Seahawks are a team in transition. Pete Carroll has re-entered the NFL after a stellar run as the USC head coach, and he is determined to put his own mark on this team. He has jettisoned many players, and made some curious acquisitions (Mike Williams, for example). But, so far, this team is not anywhere near as bad as I thought they would be. Matt Hasselbeck is a wily veteran who has shown the ability to pick apart defenses when he gets time to throw the ball. I've never liked facing him, especially with the Cover 2 defense that the Bears run. Hasselbeck is adept at taking what the defense gives him, and he generally won't force the ball into tight spaces. The Bears defense has played really well this year, but I think the Seahawks could give them problems in the passing game. They are very good on 3rd down (44% conversion rate this year), and I still think that is an area where the Bears struggle, despite the current statistics which have been aided by a sloppy Packers team and a horrible Panthers team. If the front four of the Bears doesn't harass Hasselbeck, he could make it a close game (which I think it will be anyway).
The Seahawks haven't run the ball too well this year, but they have just added Marshawn Lynch to the mix. Lynch will be motivated to prove that he deserves to be a starting NFL running back, despite his lack of playing time in Buffalo the last few years. The Bears defense should be able to shut down this running attack. I'd be surprised if the Seahawks ran for more than 60 yards in the game.
On the flip side, the Seahawks run defense is pretty tough. They are only giving up about 2.7 yards per carry. The Bears proved last week that they can run the ball, if they commit to it. I know Martz won't run as much, especially now that he has his favorite toy back behind center. Seattle likes to blitz, especially with their DBs. If Cutler doesn't see them or the offensive line doesn't pick them up, it could be another long day for Jay. The Bears should try to establish the run early, and get Cutler into a rhythm with short passes and a few screens. Once that happens, then I'm sure they'll open it up down field. Can the line hold up? Chris Williams should be healthy, but the Bears won't move him back to left tackle. It sounds like they are going to play him at left guard. I hope Tice knows what he's doing because here is what the offensive line looked like at the beginning of the season:
LT - Chris Williams
LG - Roberto Garza
C - Olin Kreutz
RG - Lance Louis
RT - Frank Omiyale
Here is what it'll look like on Sunday:
LT - Frank Omiyale
LG - Chris Williams
C - Olin Kreutz
RG - Edwin Williams
RT - J'Marcus Webb
Most offensive lines obtain success through familiarity and consistency, knowing the players next to you and how they'll respond to certain situations. The Bears are completely throwing that notion out the window. It might be revolutionary. It might be a disaster. They are gambling the health of a franchise quarterback on this bet.
Seattle's special teams have been exceptional this year. Leon Washington and Golden Tate are both explosive returners. It should be fun to see the Bears special teams battle against another very good unit. I think there will be at least one return for a touchdown in this game. Let's hope it comes from a Manning, Hester, or Knox.
This is a game the Bears should win. They are pretty healthy, they've shown that they can win without playing at their best, and they are at home. Seattle has not been a good road team this year, having lost their two games away from Qwest Field by a combined score of 51-17. The Seahawks are scrappy, and Hasselbeck can still be an efficient passer, but the Bears should win a close one.
Bears 26, Seattle 23