The Forecast- Ravens vs Bears

It’s so strange how football works. One week the Bears look like they’re potentially the class of the division with a win in Green Bay, and the next they can’t even score 20 points at home. The Lions wanted to hand the Bears the win, but the Bears wouldn’t take it. Marc Trestman continued to let Jay Cutler play, despite being noticeably hobbled by an ankle (and groin) injury. Trestman also refused to take an easy three points in the first quarter when Michael Bush (in typical horseshit Michael Bush fashion) couldn’t gain a yard on the play. Trestman also didn’t have Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery (who dropped two touchdowns during the game) in at the end on a potential game tying two-point conversion. Cutler’s red zone interception before the second quarter ended didn’t help the Bears’ cause and neither did the offensive line giving up pressure after pressure on Cutler and Josh McCown. The offensive line also generated nothing in the run game; Matt Forte only mustered 1.7 yards per carry. It was an all around brutal game to watch, whether you were a Chicago or Detroit fan. The effort will have to be much better today and throughout the remainder of the season, especially since the Panthers, 49ers and Packers are all strong contenders for the two wild card spots.

The defending Super Bowl Champions are next on the schedule. On that note, the ears should perk up of every player who dons the navy and orange. The Ravens have really had a rough ‘go’ of it this season. Understandably, they had to keep Joe Flacco and so the rest of the roster suffered. They were forced to trade Anquan Boldin for next to nothing. Defensively, they lost Ray Lewis to retirement, Dannell Ellerbe to Miami, and Paul Kruger to shitty ol’ Cleveland. TE Dennis Pitta was lost for the season before it almost began, who has always been Flacco’s favorite target. Flacco isn’t getting any help from his running game, either. Once again, Baltimore’s defense is the only reason that they’re somewhat competitive this year. They are giving up only 3.7 yards per carry, which ranks fifth in the NFL. They also have 32 sacks which ranks third. After a big win for the Ravens last weekend, the Bears have to be ready for a fight, because with a Baltimore win today, they are right in the thick of the AFC playoff picture.

College Football Recap
There wasn’t too much news today in major college football. Alabama squeaked out a victory at Mississippi State, Florida State put their distractions aside and creamed Syracuse, and Ohio State obliterated a pathetic Illinois team.

College Gameday went to Los Angeles for USC and Stanford, and it didn’t disappoint. Despite being thoroughly outplayed in the second half yardage wise, USC found a way and beat the Cardinal. Ed Orgeron continues to win himself into potentially getting the “interim” title removed.

The game of the day was in Auburn, Alabama. Georgia was losing by 17 to the now 9-1 Tigers in the second half, but the Bulldogs ended up taking the lead with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on a gutsy Aaron Murray touchdown scramble. Unfortunately, Georgia’s defense went for an interception on a desperation throw rather than a sure tackle or pass deflection. Auburn caught the prayer and took it 73 yards for the win. As a college football fan, I was thrilled. This sets up Alabama at Auburn in two weeks in what could force a dramatic shake-up in the BCS if Auburn can find a way to knock off the Crimson Tide.

The good news? Temperatures will somehow be in the mid-60’s. The bad news? It’s most likely going to be a monsoon, as rain will pass through around 1:00 and 25-35 mph winds are in the forecast throughout the afternoon.

Injury report
Just as fast as Jay Cutler came back from a groin tear, he’s back on the shelf for a few weeks again (ankle). On Wednesday, it was also announced that Charles Tillman (triceps) would miss the rest of the regular season. Shea McClellin (hamstring), Patrick Mannelly (calf), and newly acquired Jeremiah Ratliff (groin) remain out. Martellus Bennett is questionable (ankle), but if I’m a betting man, I think he plays today. The Ravens, meanwhile, seem to be pretty healthy. A few weeks ago, it was announced that G Kelechi Osemele (back) would be out for the remainder of the year. LB Daryl Smith (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), WR Marlon Brown (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (groin), S James Ihedigbo (toe), and CB Lardarius Webb (groin) are all questionable for today’s game. However, I would guess that most, if not all of them, will play.

Did you know?
Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery have combined for 1,521 yards this season. No other wide receiving duo has more.

NFL Predictions
I’m finally over .500. This weekend, I think the Saints, Broncos, Giants, Raiders, and Patriots all get wins. (21-20 on the year)

Players to Watch
Torrey Smith- Truly, Torrey Smith is the Ravens’ only weapon on the outside. As I mentioned earlier, Dennis Pitta is out for the season and Anquan Boldin now plays for the 49ers. Marlon Brown, Joe Flacco’s only other true wideout, is an undrafted free agent. Smith isn’t a great wide receiver by any means. He didn’t record more than 860 yards or 8 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons, but he is on pace for 1,000+ yards this year. Smith might be one of the fastest players in the game. With news breaking this week about Charles Tillman’s season ending injury and the fact that Chicago has been very poor against the pass, Smith has a great chance of going above 80 yards today, something he hasn’t done since October 6.

Ray Rice- Ray Rice has been pretty bad this year. His offensive line isn’t very good to begin with, but Rice has so much talent that can typically hide the flaws of his line. This year, it hasn’t happened that way. He’s averaging an abysmal 2.5 yards per carry and has only found the endzone three times on the ground. It’s gotten so bad that coach John Harbaugh is going to start splitting carries between Rice and his back-up, Bernard Pierce. Unfortunately for Harbaugh, Pierce has been equally as bad this season. Fortunately for Harbaugh, Henry Melton tore up his knee, so the Bears’ run defense is giving up 4.5 yards per carry (fifth worst) and 129 yards per game (fourth worst).

Terrell Suggs- With the Ravens struggles so far, there has been a lot of talk about Terrell Suggs being over the hill, past his prime, and missing the aforesaid Paul Kruger, Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe. Clearly, those same people haven’t watched one Baltimore game so far this season, because Suggs is his typical, game-chaning self. Suggs has 9 sacks this year, which means he’s on pace for his best season ever in the sack column as a professional. The wet field will help the Bears contain Suggs, but Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills have their work cut out for then.

Julius Peppers- It seems like every week I have Julius Peppers on here, but it just shows how important he is to this defense. He’s only made a true impact in two games so far in 2013, and the Bears won both. Last week against a young offensive line, he once again did nothing. The Ravens are tied for fourth worst in the league in sacks given up (30) and eighth worst in quarterback hits given up (53). Peppers has an opportunity to have a solid game today, but I’m not going to get my hopes up, thanks to his unfathomable poor season and the weather.

The Forecast
Take my word for it—I had a great year last two years picking these games; I was 11-5 and 13-3, respectively. Sadly, the Bears injury situation as well as their miserable play that pops up every now and again has really hurt my chances of a third straight decent year. It’s not going to get easier for me again today, because this is another toss-up. The Bears are probably the better team this year, but the Ravens are coming off of a big win in overtime against the AFC North leading Bengals. However, that game was their whole season; they needed a victory or their already-slim chances of a repeat were over. The Bears, meanwhile, finally had a stellar defensive outing but still managed to lose a home game against a divisional foe. Another reason for such uncertainty is the weather. It’s going to be nearly impossible to make a field goal past 35 yards and to reach a rhythm in the passing game. The Bears need a win. With one today, they would advance to 6-4 with games against St. Louis and Minnesota on the horizon, two games where the talent level will heavily favor Chicago. The veterans on this team have to realize that moving to 5-5 is going to put them in a hole that will be too deep to dig themselves out of. Bears 17-14. (5-4 on the year)

-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)

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