The Ravens will look to build on last week’s win [add] with a big matchup against an NFC opponent fighting for a playoff spot of its own.
Here are five things to know about the 2013 Chicago Bears:
Cutler Out, McCown In
The biggest change for the Bears in recent weeks has been the injury to starting quarterback Jay Cutler, who has been ruled out this week because of a high ankle sprain. With Cutler out, the Bears will turn to backup Josh McCown. The 11-year veteran has been solid in his relief work because of injuries to Cutler. McCown has played in three games this year, completing 60 percent of his passes and throwing four touchdowns without an interception.
Marshall is one of the NFL’s best
The Ravens faced one of the NFL’s elite receivers last week in A.J. Green, and they have another test this week against Brandon Marshall. The eight-year veteran is one of the biggest receiving threats in the NFL, and he currently has 60 catches for 786 yards and eight touchdowns. He carries Chicago’s passing offense, and is still able to put up big numbers even without Cutler at quarterback. In their Week 9 game against the Packers, Marshall caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown from McCown.
Rookie head coach
The Bears went through a significant shift this offseason when they parted ways with longtime head coach Lovie Smith and brought in Marc Trestman, a relatively under-the-radar coach from the Canadian Football League. Trestman is known for his ability to develop quarterbacks, and he had previously been an assistant with eight NFL teams before getting the top job in Chicago. Trestman has the Bears (5-4) back in playoff contention after a down season in 2012, and he has the offense in the top 10 averaging 372 yards per game.
Dangerous dual-threat running back
As much as the Bears rely on their explosive passing game, the driver of their offense may very well be running back Matt Forte. He currently ranks seventh in the NFL with 691 rushing yards, and is dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield. Forte has 1,023 yards from scrimmage this season, fourth best in the league. Since 2008, Forte is fourth in the NFL with 6,018 total yards from scrimmage. In order to stop Chicago’s offense, the Ravens have to find a way to limit Forte, and he will create a big challenge for the linebackers in coverage.
New defensive faces
Much like the Ravens, the Bears have long been known for their dominant defense. Also like the Ravens, the Bears are going through a period of transition on their defense. Long-time leader Brian Urlacher retired this offseason, and he has been replaced at middle linebacker by rookie Jonathan Bostic. Linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman will also both miss this game because of injuries. Defensive end Julius Peppers, a 12-year veteran, is still a leader of their defensive front, but he is now surrounded by younger players like defensive end Shea McClellin. The changes appear to have taken a toll on the unit, as the Bears currently rank 26th in the NFL in total defense giving up 379.2 yards per game.