On Sunday, the NFL’s greatest coaching battle will take place on Soldier field. With Ron “punt at the 35” Rivera versus John “a punt’s a good play” Fox, the possibilities are endless. Who knows what levels of insanity these two can achieve when the Carolina Panthers visit the Chicago Bears.
All jokes aside, the Panthers enter this game in a good spot. After all, they are 4-2 while being perfect on the road. When considering their losses, it looks a lot better on paper to know they didn’t lose to any bottom-feeder teams.
According to the SRS rating (Simple Rating System For NFL Teams), the Panthers are 3rd in the NFC – behind only the Eagles and Saints. Sure, it’s never good to lose to any team, but it’s still better to lose to strong competition rather than weak.
On the other hand, the Bears are coming off a win of their own. While their record (2-4) is nothing to be proud of, they do appear to have a little fight in them. The Bears pride in a decent defense with a good front alongside an offense looking to get back on its feet. While they lack in overall talent, they do have enough pieces to challenge.
However, in terms of matchups, everything seems to fall in the Panthers favor. From the Bears weaknesses being the Panthers strengths, to their strengths negated by Carolina’s strengths, everything lines up for a Panthers victory.
So, why will the Carolina Panthers defeat the Chicago Bears this Sunday? Here’s a few reasons.
Carolina Panthers Defense Will Dominate
Believe it or not, the Panthers defense has been pretty well off. In total defense, the Panthers are tops in the NFC – 4th overall in the NFL (280 ypg). They are 7th against the pass (196.7 ypg), 5th against the run (83.3 ypg), and allow the 4th fewest yards from tight ends (214 yards total). Considering the competition (only team to beat SF by more than three points, BUF, NO, NE, DET, and PHI), it’s pretty impressive.
This Sunday, the Panthers face off against a Bears offense revolving around their runningbacks and tight ends. TE Zach Miller and RB Tarik Cohen both find themselves top 3 in receiving yards while leading the team in targets. Only WR Kendall Wright has more receiving yards (236) than the rest.
To add on, the Chicago Bears just started a rookie quarterback three games ago. QB Mitchell Trubisky revolves around setting the run and rolling out to the right side out of the pocket in passing situations. Considering his inexperience, the Bears commonly use basic pass concepts and RPOs to get him going. However, this approach simplifies the offense and makes it very predictable.
If the Bears keep this trend up, the Panthers defense will feast. Even without Luke Kuechly, it’s very likely there won’t be any noticeable downgrade. Backup MLB David Mayo is solid against the run and would likely start for other teams. The Bears use the run game extensively to set up their RPOs to their tight ends – both in which the Panthers are top 5 against.
If the Carolina Panthers can stop the run, it will eliminate the threat of any RPOs the Chicago Bears might use. Forcing Trubisky to throw left – his biggest weakness – will also help. Considering the circumstances, the Panthers defense should dominate.
WR Curtis Samuel Will Have A Big Game
Well, looks like the Carolina Panthers coaching staff finally accepts the obvious. After the Eagles disrespected the Panthers deep game, they’ve come to terms with the fact they lack a deep threat. The issue isn’t that the Panthers lack an actual deep threat. Rather, they just haven’t used their best deep threat much at all.
In terms of snap usage, Curtis Samuel has been at WR4 status. After injury ruined his growth during training camp and throughout the season, the Panthers haven’t really used their second round pick all too much. Whether it be lack of practice or lack of trust, the Panthers for whatever reason pay little attention to their rookie speedster.
Throughout this week, Ron Rivera has spoken about the need to increase Samuel’s role. Having twelve snaps or less a game isn’t feasible for an electric rookie. While some argue Samuel’s lack of production during his chances justify his lesser usage, it appears more-so a lack of opportunities being the issue when looking at film.
Against the Saints, there’s been one instance where he beat nearly beat a man with a beautiful move and route. The defender had no choice but to hold Samuel to prevent the potential deep touchdown. While Cam Newton never looked his way, it showed the potential Samuel has as a stout route-runner and deep threat. If the Panthers want a deep threat, they should look to Curtis as their option more often.
If the Panthers use Curtis Samuel, expect him to have a big game. He’s been very stout with his routes, finding himself open on plenty of non-looks. The Bears will likely try to key in on everyone but Samuel to their doom. If the Panthers use Samuel right, expect him to show up in a big way.
The Offensive Line Will Look Decent
Now, this is a pretty bold prediction. The Bears have arguably one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL and boast a stout front four. In terms of pass rush, they could challenge as much as the Eagles did.
However, this time the Panthers look to start 5 time pro-bowler and 3 time all-pro Ryan Kalil. While he’s been injury-prone as of late, he’s still vital for the offensive line’s success. One of the biggest reasons the Panthers fell to the Eagles was due to Trai Turner overcompensating for backup C Tyler Larsen’s mistakes. With Ryan Kalil back, the run game and pass protection should be notably better.
While nothing will help with the Panthers iffy tackle situation, having Ryan back will at least help with communication issues. For Matt Kalil, a lot of his problems stem from just simply missing his assignment. Ryan Kalil has continually been the guy up front calling protections and making sure everyone’s in the right spot.
According to NextGen Stats, the Panthers run game has been significantly better with Ryan Kalil in, averaging positive yardage rather than negative without him. With the Panthers best center back in the game, expect the offensive line to look a bit better and get things rolling for our runningbacks, even against a formidable front.
Carolina Panthers – 20
Chicago Bears – 10