Good gravy. Now, consider the Bears defensive rankings --courtesy of Football Outsiders, mind you, against Breesaurus Rex, Football Deity, Aaron Rodgers and, [chortle] "matt ryan." And who shall happen to be struttin' into Soldier Field on Sunday? None other than Cam "Whatever I wanna do, 'Gosh, It's Cool Now!'" Newton. Yes, toddlers, Newton has a swagger that [mixed sports metaphor alert] is of near pre-no-knee Gilbert Arenas (peep those 2005-2007 lines and know fear, mortal) levels. Now, yes, the Bears secondary has been strutting down the runway sporting the latest in "all-flambe everything," and, damn, do I love ripping on the Bears inadequacies, but respect the fact that Craig Steltz has been playing a LOT. I honestly thought his last name was "Steultz." Oops. But, umm, he has two career deflected passes. Yay? And, I mean, here's a really neat glimpse of him almost touching Jermichael Finley. Fortunately, Chicago gets a few reinforcements back from the dinged up column this week. How will they fare? How will Jay Cutler and the recently handcuffed and bludgeoned Bears offense respond to their "incident" last weekend? Read on.
When The Panthers Have The Ball
Expect Cam Newton to be ready. Dude's been on "Legends" mode since kickoff of Week 1 and threw for over 400+ in his first two games: @ Arizona (lightweight secondary that's tipsy off half a shot of Apple Pucker) and against Green Bay (two-fisted drankers who stumble and stagger and still knock anyone square on their ass with one punch). Last week against Jacksonville, and in the midst of a tempest, Squire Newton still managed to not flub things and notch "Win Numero Uno" in his NFL QB belt. With the exception of Julius Peppers there's not a Bear defender in the front seven that can easily take Newton down one-on-one. Beyond that, he's tossed four tuddies to four picks (he is, afterall, a rookie, even if non-human) and rushed for two other touchdowns. He has no fumbles, he has a psychic link with the rejuvenated Steve Smith and he senses pocket pressure (when the Panthers underrated o-line crumbles) with a sonar sense that's more common to cetaceans. The man is grown and ready to knife his way to the top of any NFL heap.
"And what's this, dear Watson, you say the plot thickens?" Of course, Sunday's game is also Greg Olsen's return to Soldier Field since so easily being dismissed (and, in my opinion, rightfully so) by the Bears this past off-season. Mind you, Olsen isn't raping and pillaging on some hell-bent course of revenge, but he is having a nice season through three games (169 yards, 1 TD) and I'm sure "Make them pay" is on his mind. He doesn't have the mind-meld factor of Newton to Smith, but Olsen, I'm positive, wants to make his mark in this game. Additionally, the Panthers have a plethora of other dudes you wanted on your fantasy football team circa: 2006-2009, names like Jeremy Shockey, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart all are active and capable of going nuclear on Sunday. Caveat: I doubt Shockey still can and, well, for better or for worse, Stewart and Williams are an afterthought within the 10-yard line due to Newton's "IMA BASH YOU INTO THE TOUCHDOWN AREA" ability. Still, Msrs. Williams and Stewart can get nasty and bust one at any given moment.
"Oh seer of seers, is there nothing our mediocre defense can do to protect our fare Chicago from thee Southern Savages of Charlotte?" Fret not (well, still fret a bit) for from the rubble and dust of "Green Bay hath wrought destruction" struts Major Wright, the safety. Wright represents a major upgrade (Tanooki Suit, FTW! in Super Mario Bros. 3 parlance) over anyone else that was cough..."defending"...cough the secondary last weekend against Green Bay. Mind you, Chris Harris is still dinged up and is likely out again --yes, even after practicing on Wednesday. But, y'know, "Don't take that suicide pill, Bears fans." Why?
When The Bears Have The Ball
Because Carolina's defense is not gangsta. The Panthers for all of their relatively unexpected punch on offense is still not much to write home about on the other side of the ball. As a squad they are "only" ranked right in the middle of the pack NFL-wide, but this squad does not force turnovers and has the statistical pillow of that "Noah's Ark Game" against Jacksonville, which believe me, really boosted their defense (and really brought the offense down a peg, too) last week. The Bears and Panthers have both already faced the offensive Armageddon known as Green Bay and both fared about equally well, losses, points sacrificed like Old Testament babies, et cetera, but the Bears defense, shockingly, got better as the GB game progressed. A broken play there, a non-penalty on offense against CHI there, and GB-CHI is a closer game in the 4th quarter. Carolina's defense is by no means on the level of Chicago's turnover happy, wrench your funny bone out real-life game of "Operation." Good news for Cutler and the boys as they look to lick their wounds. Get Forte going, find Johnny Knox, read "Eat, Pray, Love" and Cutler's gonna be good, kids.
"Bears Game Ain't On No More, Ma. What Else Do The Clicker Show On the Picture Box"
Chicago is hosting Carolina in the noon time slot on FOX and unless you have the DirectTV you won't get to see Tennessee vs Cleveland (note, I'll be watching this and CHI early). There aren't a ton of early games on that I'm all stoopid about, but I am piqued by Washington at St. Louis and am really pulling (not even gambling!) for the Rams to earn win numero uno. I'm extremely intrigued by Oakland hosting New England and expect a nasty, nasty shootout that Brady eventually pulls out. Still, New England's defense sucks and, well, you probably would root for the lions against unarmed Christians if you're a Pats fan, so there's that. The Sunday night game on NBC is a concussion factory with the New York Jets locking horns with the Baltimore Ravens. Love this matchup. Also, kudos to Tampa Bay getting a Monday Nighter with the visiting Colts. Mind you, if, by some miracle of Satan, the Colts win, Tampa will not be expecting another MNFer for a few decades.
Sunday's Bears game at Solider Field is calling for temps in the mid-sixties with extensive sunshine, so pack the sunscreen and enjoy the game if you're headed to the Museum Campus.