4 Downs: Chicago Bears
Time to look into the crystal ball and see what will happen when the Ravens face the Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday:
1. Bernard Pierce will have more rushing yards than Ray Rice. ...
All week, the talk around Baltimore has been whether Bernard Pierce should be starting over Ray Rice. ESPN even ran a poll asking that very question. Rice is averaging just 2.5 yards a carry, but to be fair, Pierce hasn't been much better (2.8). Still, Pierce has showed a little more burst of late and appears more likely to break one into the open field.
2. ... but Matt Forte will have more rushing yards than both of them.
Forte, who was taken by the Bears 11 spots before Rice in the 2008 draft, has shown none of the dropoff this season that Rice has. Forte has 691 yards rushing (4.4 avg.) on 157 carries -- that's more than 100 yards greater than Rice and Pierce combined, and he's done so in 51 fewer carries. The Ravens rank 10th in run defense, but Haloti Ngata is playing on a bad knee.
3. The Ravens will not rush for 100 yards.
The Ravens hope to get right against the Bears' 31st-ranked run defense, which has allowed 129 yards a game on the ground. But the Ravens faced a low-rated Bills run defense earlier this year and totaled a whopping 24 yards on the ground. With the offensive line issues, and Rice's hip issue, there's been nothing to suggest they can break out of a season-long running slump.
4. Tyrod Taylor will see the field again.
The Ravens turned to backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor to jump-start the offense last week, and his 18-yard gain on an end-around is one of the Ravens' longest runs of the season. He can make things happen with his legs, and the Ravens will try to utilize that again.
5. Tandon Doss will be targeted at least five times.
Doss was targeted just once and had no catches last week. But if the weather is as bad as expected -- stormy and windy -- the quicker, intermediate routes will be a better option than deep balls. And Marlon Brown, one of Flacco's favorite mid-range threats, is questionable this week (knee).
6. Joe Flacco will be sacked at least twice.
Flacco has been under the gun all season, going down 30 times in the first nine games and getting hit repeatedly as the line and running backs struggle with pressure. Don't think the Bears haven't been watching. Their defense is depleted, and their 14 sacks rank tied for second-fewest in the league. But the Ravens protection has been a problem and Flacco will be hit again.
7. ... but so will Bears quarterback Josh McCown.
The Bears have allowed 14 sacks, the third-fewest in the league. Still, the Ravens pass rush has been dialing it up, with five sacks of Andy Dalton last week. The Ravens have at least two sacks in 17 straight games.
8. The Bears will win the turnover battle.
If the weather is nasty, ball security will be critical, and the Bears have been more opportunistic. The Bears defense has 20 turnovers this season, while the Ravens have 13. For the season, the Bears' turnover margin sits at plus-8, while the Ravens are at minus-3.
9. There will be a missed field goal.
Wind, rain and slop could make for miserable kicking conditions. Justin Tucker nailed a 46-yarder in a tricky wind to beat Cincinnati last week and has made 16 in a row. Bears kicker Robbie Gould has been perfect (7-for-7) at home. One of those streaks will end.
10. Bears 20, Ravens 17
The Ravens have not shown the ability to outscore teams, and there's no reason to expect this game to be high-scoring either, especially if the weather is bad. Jay Cutler is out, but Josh McCown is a capable backup quarterback and the Bears, unlike the Ravens, have an established running game. That will be the difference.