|ESPN.com: Chicago Bears||[Print without images]|
|Tim Tebow, the fact that he leads his team to wins is undeniable. Tebow is 6-1 as a starter this season and has led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime in five of those outings. Caleb Hanie, meanwhile, continues to struggle to find his way, throwing six interceptions in his last two contests.
| The loss of Matt Forte takes away not only the big-play element of the rushing attack but also the screen element of the passing game. So while Marion Barber and Kahlil Bell should perform well in relief, they don’t provide what Forte adds. For the Broncos, Willis McGahee is looking for his third consecutive 100-yard rushing day and needs 114 yards to reach 1,000 for the fourth time in his career.
| Demaryius Thomas finished with a career-high 144 receiving yards last week and tacked on a career high in touchdown receptions (2), and Eric Decker has caught eight touchdowns in his last 11 contests. The Bears field a promising group in Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and Roy Williams. But they’ve been plagued by inconsistency, which makes Hanie’s job even more difficult.
| According to ESPN Stats & Information, since Tebow took over as the starter, the Broncos average 6.8 yards per rush on option plays and four yards per rush on non-option snaps. That means Denver’s offensive line is opening holes. Broncos tackle Ryan Clady has been limited with a knee injury at practice all week, but is expected to play. Bears right tackle Lance Louis is coming off his worst performance of the season, but offensive line coach Mike Tice has promised to give him help this week.
| Denver defensive end Elvis Dumervil led the NFL in sacks (17) in 2009, and has posted the most multiple-sack games (14) in the league since 2006. But the Broncos are still allowing 121.3 yards per game on the ground. Chicago’s front four, led by Julius Peppers, ranks eighth in the NFL against the run. In addition to stuffing the run, DT Henry Melton has become a proven pass rusher (six sacks).
| Lance Briggs has topped the 100-tackle mark for the eighth consecutive season, and Brian Urlacher is close to reaching 100 tackles for the 11th-straight year. Strong side linebacker Nick Roach will see more action because the Bears will likely run less nickel to stop Denver’s running game. Denver’s D.J. Williams is one of just eight players in the NFL with at least 700 tackles and 15 sacks since 2004. Von Miller has a team-high 10.5 sacks.
Broncos safety Brian Dawkins is in his 16th season and is a dominant force against the run, while cornerback Champ Bailey has been named to 10 Pro Bowls. Cornerback Andre' Goodman has intercepted two passes in his last three games. The Bears, meanwhile, will be limited in the secondary with Craig Steltz starting in place of injured safety Major Wright.
| Devin Hester averaged 40.7 and 29.5 yards per punt return in back-to-back wins over the Lions and Chargers, but has since averaged 9.2 yards. So Hester could be due for a strong performance. Denver punter Britton Colquitt ranks third in the NFL in net average (41.6). The Broncos are the only team in the NFL to rank in the top three in kickoff return average (27.8 yards), and punt return average (14.5).
| John Fox deserves credit for recognizing his team’s deficiencies early and making the necessary changes. The Broncos aren’t winning pretty, but what they’re doing -- running the ball and playing strong defense -- seems to be working. Chicago’s offensive staff has its work cut out against Denver’s attacking front. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz and Mike Tice need to find the right mix of timely play calls and protections to help Hanie play his best.
|The Bears need to take a page out of Denver’s winning-ugly book and commit to running the ball, stopping the run and playing the field-position game to defeat the Broncos. Although the Bears remained in striking distance throughout the entire game last week, Martz called 15 pass plays and two runs in the fourth quarter. Such decisions will continue to get the Bears beaten. Look for Martz to balance out the pass-run calls this week. But that’s not likely to make a difference on the road against this red-hot Broncos team.|
|PREDICTION: Broncos 13, Bears 9|