Sunday’s NFC matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears pits two teams heading in opposite directions. After recording a 30-13 thrashing of the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football last week, the Seahawks have won four of their last five games. Offense, defense, and special teams have all started to gel for Seattle, and their wins are coming as complete team efforts. Conversely, the Bears have lost three in a row since losing their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, to a broken thumb. The Bears also are likely to be without the services of their star running back Matt Forte, who is out with a knee injury.
Momentum and injuries certainly seem to point to another victory for the Seahawks, but I say not so fast. Though it is true that the Bears offense is decimated by injuries to their two most important players, the Bears have recently made it as far as even the Super Bowl without having much offense. Instead, they rely heavily on their star-studded defense and special teams to make big plays.
Chicago’s return man, Devin Hester, is the BEST returner in NFL history. In his 6th season in the NFL, Hester already is the record holder for most career returns for touchdowns, and is a threat to go the distance every single time he touches the ball. Though I could show a bunch of his NFL highlights, I’d rather you look at this play of him in college to get the picture. Many NFL experts argue that he should make the NFL Hall of Fame as a return man although he often has only played a few plays per game. If Hester doesn’t make a big return, Seattle’s chances of winning will skyrocket – but that’s a BIG “if.” Expect the Seahawks to try to punt the ball out of bounds to limit his opportunities.
Additionally, the Bears are able to maximize Hester’s game-breaking abilities because of their defense. Lead by perennial Pro-Bowlers Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Julius Peppers, the Bears defense is always one of the league’s stingiest, and also one of the best at forcing turnovers. Urlacher and Briggs are classic Bears linebackers: tough, intelligent, sideline-to-sideline players who bring the pain for four quarters. Peppers is just a freak of nature (and yes, that’s him playing college basketball for North Carolina in the video). The man is 6’7, 300 pounds, but runs around with the explosiveness of many running backs. He is a future Hall of Famer, and is the difference-maker for the Bears on defense. If the announcers aren’t calling his name much, odds are Seattle will be winning. Still, I worry about Peppers’ chances against a Seahawk offensive line that has three starters out of the season. He is perhaps the most difficult defensive player in the league to contain, and he might get to know Tarvaris Jackson a little too well for my liking in this game.
I haven’t talked much about the Seahawks yet, but that’s a good thing. Seattle has found a formula for success: win the turnover battle, run the ball, play solid defense. We have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the Seahawks based on their recent performances, and it will just be a matter of execution against the Bears. If Lynch can get the offense moving on the ground, I think Seattle will continue their hot streak. The Bears offense won’t do much because of their injuries, but expect a low-scoring, physical game that comes down to the fourth quarter. The Bears, a game ahead of the Seahawks in the standings, are also fighting for their playoff lives, so both teams will try to pull out all the stops to get the win in this one.
About the Author
Written by Erik Olsoy
Erik was born in Columbus, Ohio during the only Ohio State football victory over Michigan in the 1980s, but moved to Washington state and grew up there. His loyalty to Ohio State remains strong, but his strongest allegiances developed toward Seattle sports. Though he recently graduated from Boston College, he has not yet been converted to the ways of New England Sportsdom, and only roots for the Red Sox against the Yankees because the Yankees are the root of all evil.