By Mark Potash email@example.com November 26, 2011 5:00PM
BENCH Carson Palmer, QB, Raiders.
Updated: November 26, 2011 5:09PM
BEARS AT RAIDERS
Time: 3:05 p.m. Sunday at O.co Coliseum
TV: Fox-32 (Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa)
Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM
Line: Raiders by 3 1/2.
Total: 41 1/2.
when the bears have the ball
On the ground
This is a good time for the Bears to be in a position to re-establish the run because the biggest key to taking advantage of the Raiders’ 25th-ranked run defense is to stick with it. After averaging 5.4 ypc in the Bears’ first 8 games, Matt Forte has been held to 3.2 in the last 2 — 18-64 vs. the Lions and 20-57 vs. the Chargers. The Raiders held Adrian Peterson to 26 yards on 6 carries last week, but Peterson was injured after back-to-back 12-yard gains (one for a TD). Mobile QBs Tim Tebow (13-118), Ryan Fitzpatrick (3-23) and Christian Ponder (5-71) have done some damage vs. Oakland.
in the air
The Bears aren’t expected to dumb down their offense without Jay Cutler. Caleb Hanie, making his first NFL start, will be asked to step right in and make the same throws as Cutler. Hanie will have opportunities to make plays against a Raiders defense that is ranked 20th in passing yards allowed. The catch is that he’ll have to negotiate a pass rush that has had 11 sacks in the last two games. The Bears will try to use every weapon they can in the passing game to give Hanie more options. But the more they need TEs and RBs for protection, the fewer options Hanie will have.
When Hanie replaced Todd Collins in the NFC title game vs. the Packers, most of his bad throws, including both picks, came in the face of pressure from every angle. Kamerion Wimbley had 4 of his 6 sacks vs. the Chargers.
when the Raiders have the ball
On the ground
The Raiders will be without leading rusher Darren McFadden (113-614, 5.4, 4 TDs) but still have a potent run game that is ranked third in the NFL (156.8) with Michael Bush (139-599, 4.3, 5 TDs), who rushed for 157 yards and a TD vs. the Chargers and 109 yards and a TD vs. the Vikes in the last two weeks. The Bears’ run defense, 28th after 5 games, is 10th after allowing 52 yards on 17 carries vs. the Chargers last week — the fourth time in the last five games the Bears have held an opponent to 80 rush yards or less. The return of DT Matt Toeaina should only help the cause.
in the air
After the Bears were mostly torched by Philip Rivers and Vincent Jackson last week, they could be in for another challenging day against Carson Palmer, who has found a groove the last two weeks after stepping in cold for injured starter Jason Campbell five weeks ago. In a supporting role to the Raiders’ run game, Palmer has had ratings of 125.0 and 107.9 in victories over the Chargers and Vikings. WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (neck) and rookie WR Denarius Moore (foot) are both questionable. If the Bears’ pass rush does not improve, this could be a long day for the defense.
Veldheer held Vikings DE Jared Allen without a sack last week. Peppers forced Philip Rivers into an INT but was otherwise quiet, with four QB pressures and nothing else. He might need to take matters into his own hands.
It would be nice if Caleb Hanie could make his first NFL start at home against the Chiefs and their league-worst pass rush (12 sacks), but as he found out last season, you don’t get to pick your spots. Hanie is taking over an offense he knows well and one that is in a groove with nearly 27 points a game in the Bears’ five-game winning streak. But how Hanie will respond in a raucous environment against a defense that has 11 sacks in the last two weeks is anyody’s guess.
Devin Hester has not practiced this week because of a bruised shin, but he sounds like he’s champing at the bit to face the Raiders. Shane Lechler is one of the best punters in the NFL, but his booming punts also provide opportunities for dangerous returners. The Raiders are 28th in the NFL in punt coverage — 14.5 ypr, with 2 TDs. KR Jacoby Ford (31.0, 101-yard TD) is out (foot). Veteran LS Chris Massey bears watching as a first-time replacement for injured Pat Mannelly.