Following their 28-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Chicago Bears moved to 8-3 on the season, tops in the NFC North.
The Bears defense bounced back from their breakdown against the 49ers in Week 11—when they gave up 353 yards—and held the Vikings to 258 yards in Week 12.
The Bears defense will try to keep that momentum going when the 6-5 Seattle Seahawks come into Soldier Field on Sunday and try to keep their playoff chances alive.
The Seahawks offense starts and ends with All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch. He barreled his way to more than 1,200 yards rushing last season in his first full season in Seattle and has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season in 10 games.
Following four straight 100-yard games leading up to Sunday, Lynch was held to just 46 yards on 19 carries by the Miami Dolphins. Besides this past Sunday and in Week 6 against the Patriots, he has rushed for at least 85 yards in each contest.
Lynch is one of the best in-between-the-tackles runners in the NFL and one of the most difficult to tackle. He’s uses his large frame to fight through traffic and utilizes his powerful lower body to keep pushing through tackles. In order to bring him down, the Bears will have to do a good job of wrapping up and slowing him down, particularly up front with guys like Stephen Paea and Henry Melton.
After spending money on free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn in the offseason, the Seahawks decided to go with their third-round draft pick, Russell Wilson, as their starter. On paper, his numbers look solid: more than 1,800 yards passing, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Before his 21-of-27, 224-yard, two-touchdown performance in Miami on Sunday, Wilson had struggled mightily on the road.
At home this season, Wilson has an average quarterback rating of 122.0 with no interceptions, but on the road, he has just a 65.8 quarterback rating as well as throwing all eight of his interceptions.He has good feet and can get out of the pocket when needed, and he throws a good deep ball. The Bears would be wise to bring some pressure—getting him out of his comfort zone and making him force the ball downfield. Linebacker Brian Urlacher will likely have contain on Wilson in certain situations and will have to keep him from getting out of the pocket.
Wilson’s main targets this season have been wide receivers Golden Tate and Sidney Rice.
Tate has been great when getting the ball in space this season, finally starting to live up to the potential that made him a second-round pick. He has just 26 catches on the season, but he has been able to get to the end zone six times, and he can make it difficult on a defense. Expect the smaller, quicker Tim Jennings to match up with Tate throughout the game.
Lined up opposite of Tate is six-year veteran Sidney Rice. A former second-round pick of the Vikings, he burst onto the scene in 2009 and, with the help of Brett Favre, registered his first 1,000-yard season. He parlayed his success into a big contract with the Seahawks last season, but he has struggled to stay healthy and has played in just nine games.
He possesses the big-play potential as a deep threat and has hauled in 34 catches for 475 yards and six touchdowns. As long as he is healthy, Charles Tillman will likely be matched up against the bigger and more physical Rice.
Tight end Zach Miller has been a nice checkdown receiver for Wilson, hauling in 23 catches for 285 yards and a touchdown this season. Despite his lone touchdown on the season, Miller can still be viewed as a red-zone threat, and Nick Roach will likely draw the assignment of covering him.
The Seahawks offensive line has had its ups and downs this season but have done a good job of opening up holes for Lynch and are 10th best in the league in allowing just 21 sacks of Wilson.After his first two seasons were shortened because of injuries, the former sixth overall pick in the 2010 draft, Russell Okung, is finally starting to live up to expectations. Despite struggling with penalties this season, he has done a great job at keeping his quarterback upright. He will be seeing a lot of Julius Peppers come Sunday, and despite some past success against him, Okung will have a tough task of trying to slow him down.
Opposite of Okung on the right side is Breno Giacomini. A former fifth-round pick of the Packers in 2010, Giacomini took over the right tackle position this season, and although he has the athleticism and tools to be an effective tackle, he has struggled the most with mental mistakes. Like Okung, he has struggled with penalties all season and has a penchant for extracurricular activities. His strength lies in run blocking. He can be beaten in pass protection. Expect Peppers to get some snaps against him but the majority being split among Israel Idonije, Corey Wootton, and Shea McClellin.
Max Unger has helped solidify the interior of the offensive line and could find himself in the running for a spot on the Pro Bowl roster. He is a great run blocker, effective in pass blocking and has done a good job of raising the level of play around him.
Guard James Carpenter returned from a concussion on Sunday that caused him to miss their previous two games. He has struggled with injuries in the past, but he’s strong and often wins the battle of leverage against his man. He will likely be matched up a lot against Stephen Paea, and it should be a good battle of strength versus strength.
The guard opposite of Carpenter, Paul McQuistan, has been versatile this season, seeing time at both left and right guard. He does not jump off the page with his abilities, but he is a solid NFL guard and will be a good matchup against Henry Melton.
Matt Eurich is a contributor to Bearsbacker.com. Follow Bears Backer on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute news about the Bears. Also, check out Matt’s work on BleacherReport.com and follow him on Twitter @MattEurich.