Tale Of The Tape: Chicago Bears At Cleveland Browns
- QuarterbackThe Bears may be able to bring Jay Cutler back for this game if he is sufficiently healed from sprained ankle and groin problems. Cutler’s arm strength and quick release could play a key role in this game because the Cleveland defense ranks among the best in the league. Backup Josh McCown is resourceful, but this is a very tough assignment after a short week.Jason Campbell will lead an angry Cleveland team who will still be feeling the sting of blowing a 12-point lead in the final 1:01 and losing to the Patriots in Week 14. Campbell may feel even more inspiration than the rest of his teammates because he was with the Bears last year and he was blamed when the offense stalled under his leadership. Campbell is a smart leader and an accurate passer.
- OffenseThe Bears’ versatility could play a huge role in this game. While they have big-play makers who can go downfield and provide sudden offense, Matt Forte is a solid runner who can go inside or outside and is also an excellent receiver. Brandon Marshall has the size and strength to win the battle against any defensive back, while Alshon Jeffery may be the best No. 2 receiver in the league.The Browns have not gotten much from their running game this year, but that could change against the Bears. Chicago has the worst run defense in the league and Chris Ogbonnaya may be the beneficiary. Josh Gordon has become a superstar this season. His ability to accelerate allows him to turn any play into a big one. Tight end Jordan Cameron is a consistent red zone target.
- DefenseThe Bears have lost their defensive identity after years of using that part of their game to make up for an inefficient offense. The loss of OLB Lance Briggs has left the defense without a leader. The Bears have many problems, but their biggest may be their inability to make tackles. The Bears need veteran defensive end Julius Peppers to register at least two sacks in order to have a good chance to win.The Browns have been one of the best defenses in the league. They rank fourth overall in yards allowed and appeared to do enough to beat the Patriots in Week 14, but they fell just short after failing to recover an onside kick. Inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson is one of the best tacklers in the league, while strong safety T.J. Ward is a big hitter who can break up passes.
- Special TeamsThe Bears have been vulnerable on their punt and kickoff coverage this year, but they have gotten a lift from explosive Devin Hester who has brought one punt back for a score and is a threat to flip the field. Robbie Gould is one of the most accurate placekickers in NFL history.The Browns have been rather ordinary in their special teams play this year, and they are not likely to come up with an explosive return because Travis Benjamin has been out with a torn ACL. Placekicker Billy Cundiff is just an ordinary placekicker.
The Bears are playing to keep their longshot chances of making the playoffs alive. They will have a much better chance of winning if Cutler is able to play. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor