This coming Monday night the San Francisco 49ers host the Chicago Bears at Candlestick Park. Both teams are leading their respective divisions, and both teams are hungry to make amends for their shortcomings in week ten. The 49ers stand with a record of 6-2-1, and are coming off a disappointing tie against their divisional cellar dweller St. Louis Rams. The Bears, at 7-2 are coming off a tough loss at home to the Houston Texans. Both the 49ers and the Bears held the advantages on their side in those games, and should have come out with a victory. This game has all the ingredients to be a classic match up between two historic franchises. Except for one or two very important issues.
Both the 49ers quarterback Alex Smith and the Bears quarterback Jay Cutler sustained head injuries during last week’s contest. And they were both removed from those games due to concussions. These unfortunate injuries hang a dark cloud over the once highly anticipated game. For weeks now, football fans have had this game marked on their calendars as one to watch. It was to offer a clear understanding as to who would be among the favorites in the NFC. Now with their two starting quarterbacks possibly not playing, the contest may just end up a wash. Yeah both teams will still show up and give it their all. But if one of these two quarterbacks is unfit to take the field, then a loss for that team is distorted by them not being at full potential.
As for Smith, he is listed as questionable at this point, but there is a strong possibility that he will play on Monday. He is seeing a specialist in head related injuries, and if he clears those tests, he will play. So far the outlook is promising, but the 49ers have to wait for the results before they make any determination. Unfortunately Cutler has not had the same results following his blow to the head. As of today, the Bears have ruled him out of the game against the 49ers, with no timetable for his return.
These injuries really shed a lot of light on what these two men bring to the offenses that they operate behind. The differences between the two teams are unfairly lopsided when these guys are not in the game for their team. Alex Smith operates within an offense that is totally dependent on running back Frank Gore. Gore is the catalyst that drives the 49ers offense, leaving room for adjustments at the quarterback position. Smith has been playing excellent this year, but the weight of the team doesn’t rest on his shoulders. Smith only attempts 24 passes per game, and most of those are for rather short yardage. Back up Colin Kaepernick stands a much better chance of incorporating himself into the 49ers offense than the back up for the Bears into their offense. It also helps that Kaepernick has seen the field this year on quite a few snaps in the 49ers wild cat offensive scheme, he even has three rushing touchdowns on the year.
So much of the Bears offense is dependant on Cutler’s rocket arm and his ability to throw the ball. Yes they have an excellent running back in Matt Forte, but he isn’t the one they lean on, like the 49ers do with Gore. The back up quarterback in Chicago is Jason Campbell, the former fist round pick of the Washington Redskins in 2005. Campbell, for as good as he once was, has only played sparingly in the last two seasons as a back up for the Bears and Oakland Raiders. There is a giant question mark surrounding his talent, and it is highly unlikely that he can run an offense as the number one quarterback, especially a Bears offense that is one of the best in the league. The replacement of Cutler’s big arm for Campbell’s inexperience ultimately means that the big play of wide receiver Brandon Marshall will also take a heavy hit. Marshall has had an All Pro season and has been a veritable safety net for the Bears. His production value is now skeptical at best. The worst news that the Bears could have gotten this week regarding Cutler came to fruition and now the team dances in limbo for the first time, and it could not have come at a worse time.
Predictions for this game are so hard to judge based on the players playing now. If Smith plays, 14-10 49ers. If Kaepernick plays, 10-6 49ers. If Campbell has a miracle game, 16-14 Bears.The STags: Football, NFL, San Francisco, San Francisco 49ers