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Bears-Cardinals matchups and predictions

ArizonCardinals cornerback Patrick Peters(21) gains yards against ArizonCardinals during first half an NFL football game Sunday Dec. 16 2012 Glendale

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) gains yards against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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STAFF PREDICTIONS

RICK MORRISSEY: 17-10 Bears

Season: 12-2

RICK TELANDER: 24-17 Bears

Season: 11-3

DAN McGRATH: 23-20 Cardinals

Season: 10-4

SEAN JENSEN: 20-9 Bears

Season: 9-5

MARK POTASH: 21-10 Bears

Season: 11-3

ADAM L. JAHNS: 17-9 Bears

Season: 7-3

WEEK 16

BEARS AT CARDINALS

Time: 3:25 p.m. Sunday at U. of Phoenix Stadium

TV: Fox-32 (Dick Stockton, John Lynch)

Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM

Line: Bears by 5 1/2

Total: 36 1/2

WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL

On the ground

Let’s see if the Bears can figure this one out: The Cardinals rank fourth in the NFL in pass defense (199 ypg) and 28th in run defense (137 ypg). The Seahawks had two 100-yard rushers vs. the Cardinals — Marshawn Lynch (11-128) and rookie Robert Turbin (20-108). The game plan should be pretty clear-cut. But even with Matt Forte (212-903, 4.3, 3 TDs), the Bears have struggled to establish a running game against almost any defense — usually because of penalties, turnovers and poor production on first down. With Michael Bush out, Kahlil Bell could get a shot in short-yardage situations.

In the air

Though the Cardinals are 5-9, their pass defense has been excellent, especially in the second half. They have 14 of their 22 INTs in the last six games — most in the NFL in that span. Jay Cutler has struggled the last two games, but the expected return of WR Earl Bennett could provide a boost. Against a tough Cardinals secondary led by CB Patrick Peterson, Bennett or somebody other than Brandon Marshall likely will have to come up with a big game. With the Cardinals likely to struggle offensively, Cutler’s biggest challenge will be avoiding game-changing turnovers.

Key matchup

Bears WR Brandon Marshall vs. Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson

Marshall was held in check by the Packers (6-56, 1 TD) and will face an even tougher individual matchup this week in the talented 6-1, 219-pound Peterson, who has 7 INTs this season, inclding one in each of the last four games.

WHEN THE CARDINALS HAVE THE BALL

On the ground

With rookie QB Ryan Lindley vulnerable to the Bears’ veteran defense, the Cardinals would like to establish a running game, but it’s tough to do with the 32nd-ranked rush offense in the NFL. Still, Beanie Wells (17-67) scored 3 TDs in a 38-10 rout of the Lions at home last week, so they’re not totally inept. LaRod Stephens-Howling has the Cards’ only 100-yard games (104 vs. the Viings, 127 vs. the Falcons). William Powell, a 5-9 second-year RB from Kansas State, complements Wells and also could be a factor in the passing game. Lindley (7 yards, 4 carries) is not a big threat to run.

In the air

After Kevin Kolb and John Skelton failed to produce, the Cardinals have turned to rookie Ryan Lindley, but the results have not been any better. Lindley has yet to throw a TD pass in five games. He has 6 INTs for a 45.0 passer rating. Pro Bowl WR Larry Fitzgerald has paid the price. He has 61 receptions for 674 yards and 4 TDs. Michael Floyd, the rookie from Notre Dame (31-349, 1 TD) has 23 receptions for 258 yards in his last seven games. Andre Roberts is the leading WR (56-697, 5 TDs). The Bears, with CB Tim Jennings expected to return, have a chance to score in this one.

Key matchup

Bears DE Corey Wootton vs. Cardinals RT Bobby Massie

The Cardinals have allowed 52 sacks, most in the NFL. Wootton has 7 sacks, including 21/2 in the last two games. Massie, a rookie from Ole Miss, allowed 13 sacks in a 6-game span earlier but has not allowed a sack his last three games.

X-factor

The Bears can still make the playoffs if they lose (unless the Vikings beat the Texans), but they are in playoff mode after losing five of their last six games. They’re 5-0 against teams with losing records and their defense vs. the Cardinals’ offense is a matchup they should be able to exploit. They have a chance to revert to their first-half form, but with all the injuries they’ve had recently, it remains to be seen how much they have left in the tank.

Special teams

Devin Hester showed signs of breaking out of a season-long slump with a 40-yard KO return and 24-yard punt return last week. Patrick Peterson returned 4 punts for TDs last season and made the Pro Bowl. But his longest return this year is 26 yards. The Bears’ coverage teams have been solid all season, but the possible absence of LB Blake Costanzo (11 special-teams tackles) can’t be overlooked. Bears P Adam Podlesh is having a strong second half.



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