Chicago Bears: Philip Rivers

Previewing Preseason Week 3, Part II

August, 24, 2012
In which we look ahead to the remainder of Week 3 in the NFC North's preseason schedule:

Chicago Bears
Opponent: New York Giants
Location: MetLife Stadium
Day/Time: Friday/8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: After an intense week of discussion about linebacker Brian Urlacher's future, there is more reason than ever to scrutinize Nick Roach's play at middle linebacker. Whereas we once considered it a lock that Urlacher will be ready to start the season, there now seems at least a chance that Roach will open the year at middle linebacker. It's not his best position. … Punter Adam Podlesh has a hip flexor, so rookie Ryan Quigley will handle all of the punting duties Friday night. His performance will determine whether the Bears need to consider other options if Podlesh isn't ready to start the season. … The game will be televised nationally on CBS.
Focal point: What else, if not for the Bears' offensive line? The Giants aren't expected to play All-Pro defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul because of back spasms, but they should still give the Bears' line its best test yet. The Bears would like to make a final decision on their starting left tackle, where J'Marcus Webb is trying to hold off Chris Williams, as well as at left guard. Chris Spencer and Chilo Rachal are competing for that job.

Minnesota Vikings
San Diego Chargers
Friday/8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes:
Tailback Adrian Peterson won't play but will participate fully in pregame warmups, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. … Cornerback Chris Cook (concussion) and nose tackle Letroy Guion (knee) aren't expected to play. … The Vikings will continue to search for possibilities to replace receiver Jerome Simpson during his three-game suspension. Look for second-year player Stephen Burton, along with veterans Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu, to all get long looks. … Rookie cornerback Josh Robinson has impressed the Vikings in training camp and could get a chance to work with the first team Friday night. … Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst will start for the Chargers, who don't want to risk starter Philip Rivers behind an injury-riddled offensive line. Tight end Antonio Gates will also sit out.
Focal point:
This might be middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley's final chance to secure the starting job. The Vikings haven't been thrilled with his tentative preseason performances, coming after a hip injury cost him the 2011 season. Another poor outing could put the team on a search for replacements.

Detroit Lions
Opponent: Oakland Raiders
Location: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Day/Time: Saturday/7 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Tailback Mikel Leshoure is expected to make his NFL debut, nearly 17 months after he was drafted and nearly 20 months from his last live game. Leshoure last played for Illinois on Dec. 29, 2010. He missed last season because of a ruptured Achilles and a portion of training camp this summer because of a hamstring strain. The Lions want to get him some preseason work because he'll has been suspended for the first two weeks of the regular season. ... New special teams ace Kassim Osgood isn't expected to play. ... Rookie Kellen Moore's chances of making the team increased with the release of R.J. Archer, but he still must earn a roster spot even though he is one of only three quarterbacks on the roster. The Lions could keep only two on their final 53-man roster.
Focal point: It would be nice to see defensive tackle Nick Fairley have a signature, breakout game to reinforce projections that he will be a significant factor this season. But in reality, a game with impact would suffice.

Final Word: NFC North

December, 23, 2011
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge on Week 16:

Busted rivalry: When the NFL released its schedule this spring, many of us had high expectations for a late-December matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. Instead, an injury-devastated Bears team will limp north as a (deserved) 13-point underdog. It's possible the Packers will have clinched home-field advantage even before taking the field Sunday night, if the San Francisco 49ers lose Saturday at the Seattle Seahawks. If not, the Packers will attempt to secure it against a team playing without quarterback Jay Cutler, running backs Matt Forte and Marion Barber, and receiver Johnny Knox. Third-string running back Kahlil Bell is expected to start, pairing with third-string quarterback Josh McCown -- who has a history of helping the Packers' playoff positioning. (See: Noooooooooooooooo!) One other interesting bit of history: The Packers are one of five teams in NFL history to open a season 13-0 and then lose in their 14th game. All four of the other teams lost their 15th game, too. That list includes the 2009 and 2005 Indianapolis Colts, the 2009 New Orleans Saints and the 1998 Denver Broncos.

[+] EnlargeJames Starks
Jeremy Brevard/US PresswireGreen Bay's James Starks is expected to play Sunday against the Bears.
Packers' run game: For several reasons, Sunday night's game would be an obvious target for the Packers to try to enhance their running game. James Starks (ankle) and Brandon Saine (concussion) are expected to return. The Packers will start a makeshift offensive line that likely will include T.J. Lang at right tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard; the best way for offensive linemen to get comfortable is via run blocking. And it's also worth repeating that the Bears historically have done a good job limiting Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' downfield opportunities. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rodgers has completed only five of 26 attempts on throws against the Bears that traveled in the air 21 yards or more. He's thrown for one touchdown, a game-winner to receiver Greg Jennings in 2009, and two interceptions on those passes.

Detroit's challenge: The Detroit Lions will clinch a playoff spot Saturday if they beat the San Diego Chargers in what will likely be a raucous atmosphere at Ford Field. (There are also several scenarios to clinch this weekend even if they lose. They're noted in this post.) Hopefully everyone knows the Chargers are on one of their annual December rolls. They've won three consecutive games after a six-game losing streak. Since Norv Turner took the head coaching job in 2007, the Chargers are 20-2 in December. This will be no cakewalk.

Big targets: Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers struggled earlier this season, but he has been the NFL's most efficient quarterback over the past three weeks based on Total Quarterback Rating. Rivers has hit a groove with a pair of 6-foot-5 receivers that will pose significant matchup problems for the Lions. Malcom Floyd has 11 receptions for 233 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games, while Vincent Jackson has caught 12 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown. Jackson has been sidelined in practice this week by a groin injury. Lions cornerback Chris Houston (knee) clearly wasn't 100 percent last week against the Oakland Raiders, and the team re-signed Brandon McDonald this week for extra depth. Safety Louis Delmas (knee) also remains sidelined, and backup Chris Harris was cleared Thursday to practice following a concussion.

Make it stop: If you're a big-picture observer, you see ample motivation for the Minnesota Vikings to lose Sunday at the Washington Redskins. One more victory by the Indianapolis Colts, in conjunction with two more Vikings defeats, would give the Vikings an excellent chance to secure the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 draft. A loss to the Redskins would extend the Vikings' losing streak to seven games, tying a franchise record set in their expansion season of 1961. But I'm not sure what would be worse: tying that record or extending their NFL record of games without an interception, which stands at nine. Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman has thrown at least one interception in his past 10 starts, and he is tied for the second-most interceptions in the NFL (18) despite missing three games this season. Something's got to give.

Video: Cutler talks Rivers

November, 20, 2011

"NFL Sunday Countdown" features Bears quarterback Jay Cutler talking about his relationship with the Chargers' Philip Rivers.

Final Word: NFC North

November, 18, 2011
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge on Week 11:

Pursuing perfection: Traditionally, talk of a 16-0 season ramps up once a team gets to 10 victories. The Green Bay Packers will reach that milestone Sunday if they defeat the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers, losers of three consecutive games. The Packers also started 10-0 in 1962, a year they finished 13-1 and won the NFL title. Since the 1970 merger, 13 teams have started 10-0. Nine advanced to the Super Bowl and six of those teams won the title. It's worth noting that a victory Sunday would mean the Packers are 16-0 in their past 16 games, dating back to Week 16 of 2010 and including the playoffs.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireIn two career starts against Tampa Bay, both losses, Aaron Rodgers has thrown six interceptions.
Rodgers revenge? Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has lost both career starts to the Bucs. He threw twice as many interceptions (six) in those two games as he has in all nine games of 2011 combined (three). Both games were played at Raymond James Stadium, but you would be fooling yourself if you didn't think Rodgers would use those performances as motivation this week. And I'm guessing Rodgers will find room for another chip on his shoulder after ESPN analyst Skip Bayless called him "thin-skinned" and questioned whether he will be a clutch player late this season. (Bayless was responding to Rodgers' criticism of him during this week's ESPN 540 radio show.)

Into the Bears' den: San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has committed an NFL-high 19 turnovers this season, including 15 interceptions and four lost fumbles. No other player has higher than 10 at this point. Suffice it to say, the Chicago Bears aren't a good matchup for a turnover machine. After forcing six turnovers last Sunday against the Detroit Lions, the Bears are tied for No. 2 in the NFL with 20 takeaways this season. They'll miss ball-hawk nickel back D.J. Moore, but recent history suggests Rivers will give them multiple opportunities to make plays Sunday at Soldier Field.

The truth shall…: The Lions blamed wind gusts for quarterback Matthew Stafford's inaccuracy last week, downplaying the role of his fractured right index finger. We should get a better idea of the injury's impact when the Lions host the Carolina Panthers at Ford Field, an indoor stadium free of all weather concerns. Stafford, who completed 52.3 percent of his passes and threw four interceptions against the Bears, continued to wear gloves in practice this week to help grip the ball. That alone speaks to the severity of the injury. Rare is a quarterback who prefers to wear gloves if they aren't absolutely necessary.

Something must give: The Minnesota Vikings have been outscored in the second half more than every other NFL team this season (155-56). The Oakland Raiders aren't that far behind, ranking third after giving up 148 points in the second half so far this season and scoring 84 points. What does that tell us about Sunday's matchup between the teams at the Metrodome? The Raiders have done a better job surviving second-half comeback attempts. They're 5-4 and the Vikings are 2-7.

Cutler in no mood to discuss Rivers rivalry

November, 16, 2011
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler seems to have forgotten all about his feud with San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, even as reporters tied to jog his memory Wednesday in anticipation of Sunday's game in Soldier Field.

Read the entire story.

Final Word: NFC North

November, 4, 2011
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge on Week 9, which includes byes for the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings:

History and matchups: For weeks, national discussion has centered on whether the San Diego Chargers might serve up the Green Bay Packers' first loss of the season. Analysis of the matchup suggests otherwise, as we discussed Thursday. So does history. The Packers have never lost in San Diego, crafting a 5-0 record since the series began in 1970. Coach Mike McCarthy, meanwhile, has never lost to an AFC West team in five games. Those facts hardly make this game a lock, but they tell us that historically and recently, it's not been a shock for the Packers to play well in unfamiliar environments or against rarely faced teams. The Packers are hoping to become the third Super Bowl champion to open the following season 8-0. Three of the Chargers' four victories have come against the Vikings (2-6), Miami Dolphins (0-7) and Denver Broncos (2-5).

[+] EnlargeCharlie Peprah
Dale Zanine/US PresswireSan Diego's Philip Rivers, who has thrown 11 interceptions, needs to be careful against the Green Bay defense, which has picked off 13 passes.
Pass defense: Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is averaging 297 yards passing per game, but he's also thrown an NFL-high 11 interceptions in seven games. That performance would seem to fit into the wheelhouse of the Packers' defense, which is giving up the second-highest average of passing yards per game (289) but is one off the league high with 13 interceptions. The Packers have intercepted at least two passes in each of their past five games, the most efficient run in the NFL over the past 10 years. Rivers likes to let it fly, but this season at least, he's not getting away with it. Nine of his 11 interceptions have come against an opponent's nickel or dime defense, which the Packers play about 75 percent of the time.

Stopping the run: There has been plenty of discussion about the Chicago Bears' matchup against Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who is 0-4 against the Bears in his career. But you wonder if Eagles running back LeSean McCoy isn't the Bears' biggest obstacle to victory. McCoy leads the NFL with an average of 107.7 yards per game and has scored at least one touchdown in each Eagles game this season. The Eagles crushed the Dallas Cowboys' otherwise stingy run defense for 239 yards last week and are the NFL's best running team through eight weeks. The Bears have had trouble stopping the run this season; opponents are averaging 5.2 yards per carry against them, the second-highest total in the league.

Road woes: The Bears' two games this season at the home fields of opponents have been disasters. The New Orleans Saints ran them out of the Superdome in Week 2, and the Bears self-destructed in a Week 5 loss to the Detroit Lions. Lincoln Financial Field isn't likely to be as loud as the Superdome or Ford Field, where the Bears committed nine false start penalties, but it can still treat opponents rudely. The top candidate to be affected? Let's go with left tackle J'Marcus Webb, who ranks fourth in the NFL with eight penalties this season. He's been called five times for a false start, twice for holding and once for illegal formation.

Hester factor: The Bears' Devin Hester has an NFL-record 16 kickoff/punt returns for touchdowns in his career. Five have come in seven career Monday night games, most recently last December at the Vikings. We’re not saying anything here. We're just saying.