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Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears – Sunday, 8:15 p.m. Eastern - NBC
Are the Chicago Bears good enough to be called Super Bowl contenders or are they just good enough to get by? That question may be answered Sunday night as the Bears host the defending NFC Champion and currently unbeaten Seattle Seahawks.
The Bears overcame mistakes and rallied down the stretch to win at Minnesota 19-16. The Bears are 3-0 for the first time since 1991, when it won its first four. Defense has been the strength of the Bears. Last season, the Bears allowed the fewest points in the league, and that group is yielding just 7.7 per game this year. The offense is what has started to get attention though led by quarterback Rex Grossman. Going into the Vikings game he was the league’s highest rated passer but he had his worst game of the season. He was 23-of-41 for 278 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions — one of which Antoine Winfield returned 7 yards for a touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter. He came back though after Adewale Ogunleye recovered a fumble at the Minnesota 37, and connected with Rashied Davies for a 24-yard touchdown.
Grossman is showing why the Bears drafted him in the first round in 2003. “We believe in Rex, and we have been saying that since the beginning," center Olin Kreutz said after the Minnesota game. "It is easier to say it now, but we really believe in him. We really think he is that good."
Chicago is a 3.5 point favorite with a total of 34.5 at SBGGlobal.
The running game for the Bears has struggled. After rushing for 1,335 yards last season, Thomas Jones missed off season workouts and got demoted behind Cedric Benson. Jones moved back up to No. 1, but hasn't gotten far this season with 181 yards. Benson, the fourth pick in last year's draft, ran for a total of 59 yards against Green Bay and Detroit and didn’t play against Minnesota. The Bears say their rushing average is down from 4.3 yards per carry last year to 2.7 because opponents are stacking up against the run. "We're just going on what they're giving us," head coach Lovie Smith said. "We have another option in order to win football games right now, and I like that option. ... However we do it, I'm satisfied."
Seattle comes into the game unbeaten but not unhurt. The Seahawks lost league MVP Shaun Alexander to an injury that may keep him out for quite some time. Just because the Seahawks don’t have Alexander doesn’t mean it will be a cakewalk for the Bears though. Matt Hasselbeck is having an excellent season and has a lot of weapons at his disposal.
Home field should provide the edge for the Bears in this one so lay the points.
New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals – Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Eastern – CBS
The story as the unbeaten Bengals take on the 2-1 Patriots will be Carson Palmer vs. Tom Brady. While the Patriots have won three Super Bowls with Brady it could be now it is Carson Palmer time. Both quarterbacks are similar in a lot of ways. They are both California-bred, both went to big name schools (Brady, Michigan; Palmer, USC) and have very similar numbers for the first part of their careers. After their first 32 starts: Brady -- 21-11 record, 49 TD, 84.8 passer rating; Palmer -- 20-12, 56 TD, 90.4.
The matchup could be decided on the wide-receiving corps. Brady has lost his two key men -- Deion Branch (Seattle) and David Givens (Tennessee). He is now working with newcomers Reche Caldwell and Doug Gabriel to go along with 14-year Patriot Troy Brown.
Palmer, meanwhile, is in his third year of working with WRs Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Kelly Washington, and his second year with Chris Henry. In the last meeting of the teams (a 35-28 New England win in 2004), Houshmandzadeh led the game's receivers with 12 catches for 145 yards. "We go how far Carson takes us," says Washington. "He's a great leader and a great quarterback."
The Bengals are a 6 point home favorite with a total of 45 at SBGGlobal.
Yards Per Game: NWE 349, CIN 321
Points Per Game: NWE 16.7, CIN 28.3
Yards Allowed: NWE 326, CIN 318.3
Points Allowed: NWE 17, CIN 15.7
New England, coming off a Week 3 loss to Denver, has not lost back-to-back games since Dec.16-22, 2002. This is a big test for the Bengals to see if they are truly an elite team. While the Bengals may be able to squeak out a victory, laying almost a touchdown is another matter.
We’ll go with the Patriots and the points in this one.