The San Francisco 49ers are set to take on the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football for Week 11, and both teams are no stranger to primetime. San Francisco has already played two primetime games this season, both against NFC West opponents, while the Bears will be playing their fourth game under the lights.
With a combined record of 13-4-1, these teams are firmly in the winning category. The tie comes from San Francisco's last game, in which starting quarterback Alex Smith went down with a concussion and backup Colin Kaepernick took the "a backup's job is to not lose" job description to heart, leading San Francisco on a pseudo-comeback en route to a 24-24 tie game against St. Louis.
It's not all sunny in the Windy City right now, though, as the Bears lost their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, to a concussion on Sunday as well. Jason Campbell took over in Chicago's 13-6 loss to the Houston Texans, and the status for Cutler is officially "out" for this one.
Meet the 49ers
They're coming off the first tie game in the NFL since 2008, and they probably didn't deserve it. That is to say, they didn't deserve to win either, as they played generally poor football against a St. Louis Rams team that really is not very good and was coming off a blowout loss. They can reach their win total from last year if they win out, but other than that, this season seems to be a down one in comparison.
Defensively, they seem to be much more inconsistent than last season, in which they were clearly the best defense in the league. This year, they intersperse 3-and-outs with an inability to get off the field. The trade-off here is the fact that the 49ers' offense is much improved. Alex Smith is finding his targets with regularity, and Frank Gore doesn't look like he's got any wear on him, which is ... kind of remarkable.
The key for San Francisco will be to get to the quarterback early with Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks and Justin Smith. Whether it's Jay Cutler or Jason Campbell, they need to take advantage of that porous offensive line if they're to be the victors.
Meet the Bears
Chicago will be playing without Cutler, and Campbell start at quarterback. He's a reliable, if unremarkable, quarterback. When he was a starter in the NFL, few questioned his ability to be just that, it's just that he was never among the best in the league at it. He's given way to guys like Carson Palmer and Cutler over the years, which aren't bad guys to be behind, but the fact of the matter is that the Bears are without their starter at the NFL's most important position.
Though the offense has been productive, especially late in games, it's the defense that has carried the Bears to this point. Their turnover margin is fantastic, with a positive differential of 14, good for the top of the league. They've got 19 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles, both of which are league highs. Charles Tillman has the bulk of those forced fumbles, and he's been playing excellent football all season.
Their defense was as good as advertised against Houston in their last outing, but they still failed to come out on top with the injury to Cutler. It's likely they'll be able to stifle Smith/Kaepernick and the 49ers, but will they be able to do it enough with Campbell at the helm on offense? That's the big question.
Local Takes: 49ers
James Brady from Niners Nation (that's me!) notes that the Bears are the team looking to make a statement in this one, as the new "top team" on the block.
If the 49ers go out and win on Monday, they show that they're good enough to rebound from a bad game, and reaffirm their positioning. If they come out with a loss, then they lost to a team that firmly belongs within the top five teams in the NFL. Obviously, every single person on this site wants a win, but it's an interesting dynamic to think that they are the team that needs the win, regardless of the record.
Local Takes: Bears
T.J. Shouse of Windy City Gridiron makes his case as to why the Bears might be better off with Campbell under center.
Teams are committing to throwing the short ball against the 49ers, and having great success at, with only the Seahawks having a quarterback rating under 77. Conversely, Seattle was the only team to attempt more than six throws downfield against the 49ers, and had little to no success (2/11, 52 yards). So the 49ers, while great defensively, can be dinked and dunked to death by quarterbacks like Sam Bradford, John Skelton, and Christian Ponder. Why couldn't Jason Campbell do the same thing?
Follow the Fun
Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Niners Nation and Windy City Gridiron, for more analysis and highlights from the game.
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49ers not the unproven team on Monday, that would be the Bears sbn.to/ZZTIj5— NinersNation (@NinersNation) November 16, 2012
Tell ya what, I can only think of 12-14 teams in the AFC I'd hate to face more than the #Chiefs.— Windy City Gridiron (@Official_WCG) November 13, 2012
@Eric_Branch, 49ers beat writer
It's a tough game to pick, especially with Campbell in as the quarterback. He actually excels at the short passes, which have been hurting the 49ers the most this season. He's also not very consistent, which falls in favor of the 49ers. Both teams are coming off losses, but San Francisco's was much more debilitating. Still, they've got home-field advantage, and they generally play well on primetime. This will be a close one, but the pick is going to be San Francisco, by a little more than a field goal.
The pick: San Francisco wins 20-16
The 49ers are favored to win this one, and opened as 4-point favorites. The line has moved more in their favor with the Cutler injury news though, and you can pick them up as touchdown favorites in many places. The over/under is relatively low, ranging from 27 to the mid-30s, as noted by OddsShark.com.