Tale Of The Tape: Baltimore Ravens At Chicago Bears
- QuarterbackThe Ravens have a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Joe Flacco who may be at his best when the Ravens are involved in big-time postseason games. However, Flacco has looked ordinary this year when the team has needed him to be an All-Pro. Flacco’s 12-11 TD-interception ratio demonstrates that he makes a lot of mistakes and that the Ravens are vulnerable as a result.The decision to play Jay Cutler in Week 10 against the Detroit Lions was a mistake. The Bears would have been better off with a healthy Josh McCown than an injured Cutler and it probably cost them the game. Look for McCown to get the nod this week because Cutler’s mobility appeared to be impacted by his groin injury and a sprained ankle.
- OffenseThe Ravens were lucky to pull out their Week 10 overtime victory over the Bengals. Their running game has been missing in action as Ray Rice (289 yards, 2.5 yards per carry) simply has not gotten the job done and the offensive line has failed. Wide receiver Torrey Smith has explosive speed and can get downfield, but he needs more support.The Bears have an explosive offense when their quarterback is healthy. Matt Forte is one of the most versatile running backs in the league. He can cause problems as a runner or a receiver. Brandon Marshall is a powerful receiver who can dominate, while second-year wideout Alshon Jeffery has become a dangerous option. TE Martellus Bennett is a good third-down option.
- DefenseThe Ravens’ defense is not the dominating unit it was during Ray Lewis’ heyday, but the unit has been getting better as the season has progressed. The Ravens will put pressure on opposing quarterbacks as they have registered 32 sacks, and they will smell blood in the water if Cutler starts for the Bears. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has a team-high 9.0 sacks.The Bears are no longer the dominant defensive team they were in past years. They have been getting torched by the run, and if they can’t stop the slumping Rice they may not be able to stop anyone. The Bears rank 26th on defense and they are not likely to improve until Lance Briggs (shoulder) returns to the lineup and Charles Tillman (knee, groin) is healthy again.
- Special TeamsThe Ravens do solid work covering kickoffs and punts, while Tandon Doss gave the Ravens a lift earlier this season with a punt return for a score. Head coach John Harbaugh has confidence in placekicker Justin Turner, who has been successful on 18-of-20 FG attempts this season.The Bears have had some miscues on special teams this year, and that’s quite unusual for a team that has dominated in this area in the past. Devin Hester is a threat once again returning punts, while Robbie Gould has made 16-of-17 FG attempts and he may be the best kicker in the league.
A vital game for both teams, but the Bears cannot afford to drop a second consecutive home game. The Bears’ quarterback decision will be vital in this game. Does Trestman go with a less than 100 percent Cutler or a healthy McCown? -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor