The Chicago Bears are set to host the Baltimore Ravens for a Week 11 matchup on Sunday. Both teams are hoping to compete for their division, but both are trailing and can ill-afford to lose any games. Both divisions -- the AFC and NFC North -- are tight races between multiple teams.
Chicago is 5-4 and coming off a loss to the Detroit Lions. It was a very demoralizing loss given that the Lions are now in the lead within the division, and it came right after besting the rival Green Bay Packers the previous week. Baltimore was the opposite -- they fell to the Cleveland Browns in Week 9, but kept themselves relevant with a 20-17 overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10.
We're going to take a look at both teams below, starting with the home team.
Meet the Bears
Chicago has been hit by the injury bug of late, which has stalled their progress. After winning the first three games of the season, they haven't strung together multiple wins again. They've now lost both games to the division rival Lions, and have also fallen to the Washington Redskins. Chicago can't lose those kinds of games if they want to be successful this season.
Fortunately, the schedule isn't so tough from here on out. It's even arguable that Baltimore could be the toughest team remaining on their schedule, and it's a home game. Still, Jay Cutler is out, meaning Josh McCown will once again take the reins on the league's No. 8-ranked passing attack (261.7 yards per game on average).
McCown has played well, however, and he can be expected to continue that going forward. Baltimore's pass defense is No. 18 in the league, so there's definitely something that can be exploited there.
Meet the Ravens
One thing the Ravens have done well is stop the run. Matt Forte can't be expected to have a huge game against Baltimore and the No. 10 rush defense. The biggest issue with the Ravens is that they are unable to run the ball themselves. Ray Rice is having a terrible season thus far, and it's showing.
Baltimore averages just 73.1 rushing yards per game, which puts it at No. 30 in the NFL. Rice has carried the ball 115 times for 289 yards with three touchdowns and a per-carry average of 2.5 yards. He also has two fumbles on the season. That said, the Bears have an exploitable run defense, as they allow opponents to rush for 129.4 yards on average, so this could be an opportunity for him to get back on the horse.
Local Takes: Bears
Steven Schweickert of Windy City Gridiron thinks that stopping Torrey Smith is one of the biggest things Chicago needs to do:
1) Don't Let Torrey Smith Beat You
Torrey Smith leads the Ravens with 753 receiving yards and over 18 yards per reception. If you can name that Marlon Brown is second on the team in receiving, give yourself a cookie, because his 307 yards and 5 touchdowns are second and first, respectively, on the team. That's not very impressive (well, the yardage at least - 5 touchdowns is still a pretty solid year). The Ravens aren't completely devoid of weapons, but Smith is heads and shoulders above the rest of the cast. Schematically, take away Smith's big plays and don't let him behind.
Local Takes: Ravens
Jason Butt of Baltimore Beatdown notes that the Ravens have struggled to run the ball even against poor rushing teams:
The Bears have not been a good team against the run this year. Thus far, Chicago is giving up an average of 129.4 rushing yards per game, which ranks 31st in the NFL. The only team worse defending the run has been Jacksonville.
The only problem is the Ravens have struggled to run the ball no matter the opponent. When Baltimore traveled to Buffalo earlier this year, the Bills had the 31st rushing defense in the NFL at the time. And during that game, the Ravens were forced to abandon the run due to an inability to succeed with it.
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Four of SB Nation's six experts picked the Bears to hold at home. The dissenters were Joel Thorman and Jason Chilton.
The Bears opened up as 4-point favorites, but the line narrowed throughout the week. They could be had favored as low as 2.5 points, according to OddsShark.