The Forecast- Bears vs Rams

I’ll be honest with everyone. Up until this point, I think Martellus Bennett has been a gigantic waste of money. In the three weeks prior to the game against the Ravens, Bennett had 9 catches. Nine. Against Baltimore, he only had two, but he may have made the catch that turned the Bears season around. After a 14-yard catch by Alshon Jeffery to move the chains, Josh McCown found Bennett streaking down the seam for a 43-yard pitch-and-catch. The Bears only ran three more plays for the game, one of which was a field goal to propel them to a 23-20 victory in overtime. Last week, I said that that the Bears needed a big game from Julius Peppers. Peppers came through with 4 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. He got help from his DE partner, David Bass, who made an unbelievable play, where he took an interception for a touchdown after he avoided a low block attempt (a very pathetic effort, I may add) from Ray Rice. Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills also had very good games.

The Bears now head to St. Louis to take on the Rams. The Rams were on their bye last weekend, but in the game before that, they destroyed the Colts in Indianapolis. Don’t let that fool you—the Rams have struggled this season. Sam Bradford, who has always been pretty average, tore his ACL a few weeks back in a game in Carolina. Since then, Kellen Clemens has assumed the starting job and has been pretty bad. He’s completing 53 percent of his passes and has only thrown 3 touchdowns in 4 weeks. How did they beat the hell out of the Colts then? Rookie RB Zac Stacy has taken the reigns as the starter and has run with it, literally. He is averaging 4.2 yards per carry. He has 4 total touchdowns and can catch the ball with ease. Defensively, they’re in the middle of the pack in terms of pass and run defense. However, St. Louis is giving up 8.4 yards per attempt through the air, which is good for 31st in football. In other words, they’re prone to giving up big plays through the air. On the ground, they yield 4.2 yards per carry, which is something that Matt Forte can exploit.

College Football Recap
Florida’s atrocious season continues. The Gators lost at home to Georgia Southern. The Eagles couldn’t complete a single pass, but it didn’t matter. I’m not so sure Will Muschamp will survive this. A few years ago, Florida was the premier job in college football. Muschamp has been a huge disappointment.

Baylor got smashed in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma State dominated the Bears, and Baylor’s national championship hopes are over. This will help Ohio State, as with a Baylor win, Ohio State would have fallen to #4 in the BCS. Still, Alabama and Florida State are the class of the sport.

Speaking of the Seminoles, Jameis Winston is now the clear-cut favorite for the Heisman. Johnny Manziel had a very poor game at LSU as did Bryce Petty against Oklahoma State. Florida State crushed Idaho, and Winston had 4 passing touchdowns. Boston College RB Andre Williams and Alabama QB A.J. McCarron are probably Winston’s biggest competition for the award.

Quickly, a few conference championship games are now set. Ohio State will square off with Michigan State in Indianapolis, and Arizona State will play Stanford for the Pac-12 Championship.

Weather
Dome

Injury report
Jay Cutler (ankle) is still sidelined, as are Lance Briggs (shoulder) and Jeremiah Ratliff (groin). Stephen Paea (toe) left last week’s game and is week to week, so he won’t play today. The Bears waived Jeremy Cain, so Patrick Mannelly (calf) will return in St. Louis. Isaiah Frey (hand), Jordan Mills (quad), and Shea McClellin (hamstring) are probable. Craig Steltz (head) is questionable. For the most part, St. Louis is healthy. G Harvey Dahl (knee) is out. Cortland Finnegan, who has struggled to the point where he’s now the Rams’ nickelback, is out for the season (eye). They do have S T.J. McDonald (knee) returning today.

Did you know?
The Bears have only committed four pass interference penalties all year long. Half of them came last week.

NFL Predictions
I had a great week last week going 5-1. To try and duplicate more of the same, I like San Francisco to knock off Washington, Baltimore to beat the Jets, Green Bay to sneak by Minnesota, New England to beat Denver, and for an upset, I think the Chargers will get by Kansas City. (25-21 on the year)

Players to Watch
Robert Quinn- When Robert Quinn left North Carolina for the NFL, he was heavily sought after by many professional teams. He fell to the Rams, and he has been a nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators ever since. Quinn had a decent rookie season, but in his second year, he turned it on with 10 sacks. Already in 2013, he has 12.5 sacks. Chris Long, who plays the opposite DE spot for the Rams, has been a terror as well, which means Quinn gets a lot of one-on-one looks. The Bears did a fabulous job on Terrell Suggs last week, as he only managed to notch one tackle. They have to do more of the same today on Long but especially on Quinn.

Tavon Austin- Tavon Austin is another guy who was wanted by a lot of teams, but St. Louis snatched him up 9th overall in this past draft. Austin might be the fastest player in football. He has four touchdowns this year, but he has had three called back due to penalties that were out of his control. Two weeks ago, he caught two passes against the Colts and both went for long touchdowns. In the same game, he had a return for touchdown, too. Chicago has to limit Austin’s catches today. If he starts catching a lot of balls, it just increases the chances of a lot of long scores.

Jon Bostic- In my opinion, Jon Bostic is going to be the next great Bears linebacker. He made a tackle on Jacoby Ford last week that only a handful of linebackers in the league could make, where he ran sideline-to-sideline and limited the speedy Ford to a minimal gain of four yards. He also made a Brian Urlacheresque play against the Ravens where he ran stride-for-stride down the middle of the field with Dallas Clark and intercepted a Joe Flacco pass. Bostic is going to be important once again today. A place where Bostic has had some difficulty is in the straight-ahead run game. The Rams will give Zac Stacy a lot of carries today, and Bostic has to be all over him. Kellen Clemens isn’t very good, but any quarterback can dissect a defense if his running back is getting big chunks of yards at a time.

The Forecast
After their annihilation of the Colts, the Rams firmly believe that they can build off of it and get into the playoffs. As I said, Sam Bradford wasn’t playing all that well anyways, so whatever they can get from Kellen Clemens is considered a bonus for Jeff Fisher. Their defense is beginning to play better, as they only surrendered 8 points to Indianapolis and 14 to Seattle. Getting T.J. McDonald back will only help their cause. However, I believe the Bears will edge out a victory. There will be more Bears fans’ in attendance than Rams’ fans. Josh McCown is playing unbelievable football (and everyone should realize that this will end eventually), and the defense has given up only 61 points in the last three weeks; that is leaps and bounds better than the horseshit efforts that they were putting out there in the first eight weeks. Oh, and one more thing: when I’m in attendance for a road game, the Bears are 4-2. Bears 27-20. (6-4 on the year)

-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)

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