Chicago comes in with a 6-4 mark, tied with the Detroit Lions for the top record in the NFC North. However, since the Bears lost both meetings with the Lions this season, they are currently sitting outside the playoff picture. Chicago is coming off an overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens, and they will try to make it two straight wins with Josh McCown at quarterback.
St. Louis needs a victory to keep any faint playoff hopes alive. At 4-6, the Rams are two games behind the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and Bears for the final wild card spot in the NFC. St. Louis stunned almost everybody with a 38-8 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts in its last game. Coming off the bye, the Rams are hoping to make a push.
Meet the Bears
When Jay Cutler went down against the Washington Redskins with a groin injury, many assumed Chicago was sunk. However, backup Josh McCown has been excellent, causing somewhat of a controversy at the position. McCown has started three games and won all of them, without throwing a single interception. He is only averaging 185.5 passing yards per game, but is eliminating negative football.
For once, the Bears are enjoying a pair of solid receivers in not only Brandon Marshall, but the emergence of Alshon Jeffery. The duo has 828 and 818 yards respectively, with Marshall holding an eight-to-three edge in touchdowns. On the ground, Matt Forte is having a very nice season, averaging 4.4 yards per carry to total 774 yards thus far.
Defensively, Chicago struggles to pressure the quarterback. The Bears only have 17 sacks, with defensive end Julius Peppers leading the squad with four. Safety Major Wright also leads the team in tackles with 71. The front seven has been hurt by a key injury, losing defensive tackle Henry Melton for the season with a torn ACL in Week 3.
Meet the Rams
St. Louis has been far from a juggernaut offensively, ranking 21st in passing and 22nd in rushing. With Sam Bradford done for the year with a torn ACL, Kellen Clemens has stepped in and played poorly for the most part, completing only 53.5 percent of his throws. Clemens also holds the ball, taking nine sacks in only three games.
On the bright side, the Rams may have found something in seventh round pick Zac Stacy. The bowling-ball shaped running back has 537 yards on 4.2 yards per carry in his rookie season, including two 100-plus yard performances in his last three games. Rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin also appears to have broken out, dominating the Colts for three scores and 138 receiving yards.
The defensive line is turning into one of the better units in football with the duo of Chris Long and Robert Quinn on the ends. Quinn is pacing St. Louis with 12 sacks while Long has 6.5. The linebackers are also solid, with James Laurinatis and first-year man Alec Ogletree leading the team in tackles with 75 and 64, respectively.
Local take: Chicago
Steve Ronkowski of Windy City Gridiron takes a look at how good McCown has been filling in for Cutler:
The question is how healthy Cutler should be before you would consider him an upgrade over McCown and how fast Cutler himself will try and get back onto the field in his contact year, not whether or not the team should cut Cutler and sign McCown to a five-year deal.
Local take: St. Louis
Over at Turf Show Times, Tevin Broner writes about how with every Redskins loss, the Rams' future becomes brighter:
So far, it appears as though the Rams will be receiving a top 10 draft pick from the Redskins in next April. Its too early to mention what players the Rams will look for in the first round, the easy choices are safety, offensive line, and maybe defensive tackle.
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This is a tough game to predict. Both teams need the game in the worst way, and while the Bears are a better team the Rams are at home. Ultimately, this comes down to which team can make the big play at the right time. Unless Austin makes special teams magic, it is tough to see Clemens shining. McCown is never going to the Hall of Fame without a ticket, but he is more likely to find one of his playmakers late.
Pick: Chicago 23, St. Louis 20
The line is EVEN for the Rams and Bears with an over/under of 45.5, according to Oddsshark.com.
Chicago travels to play the Minnesota Vikings while St. Louis hits the road to meet the 49ers.