Panthers vs. Bears 2012 game preview: Chicago's league-best defense looking to tee off

Mike Ehrmann

Despite having one of the NFL's most athletic quarterbacks, Cam Newton may be running for his life on Sunday.

The Carolina Panthers head to Soldier Field to face the Chicago Bears and their choking defense. It's a battle between two teams who share one common thread-- maligned quarterbacks.

At times in 2012, both Cam Newton and Jay Cutler have been accused of being childish and of lacking the leadership required to be franchise quarterbacks. Now in his seventh season, it's par for the course to have Cutler garner this type of criticism. Despite a run-in with offensive coordinator Mike Tice earlier in the season, the Bears' QB has settled down, is playing within himself, and leaning on receiver Brandon Marshall-- who Chicago acquired in free agency.

While he's not even two years into his NFL career, Cam Newton is looking to make his mark in the NFL. A record-breaking rookie campaign hasn't kept Carolina's QB above reproach, dealing with charges ranging from being self centered, to the sole reason Panthers' general manager Marty Hurney was fired earlier in the week.

Meet the Chicago Bears

To call the Bears' defense stellar would be doing them an injustice. A unit that boasts one of the NFL's best pass rushes has been supported with a ball-hawking secondary. This has led to a league-leading 14 interceptions, five of which have been returned for touchdowns. The Bears also have a knack for stripping the ball, forcing nine fumbles and recovering seven.

On offense, the biggest weapon in the passing game is the aforementioned Brandon Marshall. The WR came to Chicago via trade before the draft. Thus far he's been everything the Bears hoped for, and is on pace for a career-high 1,539 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Meet the Carolina Panthers

A preseason decision by Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil put expectations in Carolina at an all-time high. Confidence was brimming following Cam Newton's record-breaking rookie year, but this was taken to new levels when Kalil not only predicted the Panthers would win the Superbowl, but went as far as to take a full-page ad out in the local newspaper to proclaim it. One win and five losses later, the Panthers are without Kalil (placed on injured reserve) and without their general manager-- fired due to the team's abysmal start.

Head coach and former Bears' linebacker Ron Rivera has no misgivings about his tenuous position, saying the next 10 games would be an audition for his coaching staff, and for him. With a chip on his shoulder, and fear of the unemployment line, there's a chance a new-look Panthers team could be looking to make a statement.

Local Takes: Chicago Bears

Steven Schweickert from Windy City Gridiron says this about how the Bears need to control Cam Newton, and run their offense:

"if the Bears do what the defense is predicated on and take the ball away, they stand a strong chance to win the game. Getting to the scrambling Cam Newton will go a long way to getting those turnovers, and the Bears' defense is among the fastest in the league. On offense, control the ball, don't give it back, and convert third down."

Local Takes: Carolina Panthers

As I said on Cat Scratch Reader, there's less optimism in the Panthers' abilities:

"The Carolina Panthers are like Monty Python's Black Knight. They may not have any limbs left, but watch out-- they'll bite your kneecaps! All we can hope is that the Panthers are entertaining, and we see progression from the rookies. This is circa 2010 fan survival mode, and everything is a little easier when you keep it punchy."

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Windy City Gridiron and Cat Scratch Reader, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@Official_WCG

@CatScratchReadr

Prediction

From the Week 8 picks:

The Bears are rolling right now. The Panthers are ... struggling, to be polite about it. Chicago's defense rarely gets beat on misdirection plays. That could be a problem for Cam Newton and Carolina's confused offense, unless someone dropped something special in the suggestion box this week.

The pick: 27-10, Bears

Odds

The Chicago Bears are heavy favorites at home, with Oddshark giving the Panthers nine points on Sunday, the largest margin of the weekend.

Next Week

The Chicago Bears head to Nashville to face the Tennessee Titans, who are currently one game under .500. Meanwhile the Carolina Panthers are also on the road, facing RGIII and the Washington Redskins

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.