Week 7 Preview: Panthers at Bears – October 22, 2017

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Week 7 Preview: Panthers at Bears – October 22, 2017

Game Previews

The Chicago Bears are looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since 2015. All droughts come to an end, so Week 7 provides an opportunity for a John Fox-led team to do something it hasn’t done in a while as they attempt to build on a win against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Never Tell Me The Odds:”

The Chicago Bears (2-4) are 3-point home underdogs (with the over/under set at 41) against the Carolina Panthers (4-2), according to Bovada. Chicago is 4-2 against the spread in 2017, with the under coming in four of the team’s six games.

Carolina is also 3-3 against the spread and 1-3 against the line as a favorite this year.

Series History:

The Chicago Bears have won five of the eight regular season games the teams have played, but are 5-4 all-time because the Panthers won the only playoff matchup between the two teams back in 2006. John Fox coached that team, which was led by quarterback Jake Delhomme, receiver Steve Smith, and featured Rod Smart as a return specialist. You might remember him as “He Hate Me” from the XFL.

Game Time, Broadcast Info, Officiating Crew:

Location: Soldier Field

Broadcast Info: noon, CBS-TV (Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn), WBBM-AM 780, WCFS-FM 105.9 (Jeff Joniak, Tom Thayer, Zach Zaidman)

Referee: Walt Anderson

Expected Starters and Lineups:

Bears Offense Expected Starters:

  • QB Mitch Trubisky
  • RB Jordan Howard
  • FB Michael Burton
  • WR Tanner Gentry
  • WR Tre McBride
  • TE Dion Sims
  • LT Charles Leno Jr.
  • LG Josh Sitton
  • C Cody Whitehair
  • RG Kyle Long
  • RT Bobby Massie

Bears Defense Expected Starters:

  • DE Akiem Hicks
  • NT Eddie Goldman
  • DE Mitch Unrein
  • OLB Pernell McPhee
  • ILB Nick Kwiatkoski
  • ILB Danny Trevathan
  • OLB Leonard Floyd
  • CB Marcus Cooper
  • CB Prince Amukamara
  • FS Eddie Jackson
  • SS Adrian Amos

Bears Specialists: 

  • Connor Barth (kicker), Pat O’Donnell (punter, holder), Andrew DePaola (long snapper), Tarik Cohen (kick returner), Eddie Jackson (punt returner)

Panthers Offense Expected Starters:

  • QB Cam Newton
  • RB Jonathan Stewart
  • FB Alex Armah
  • WR Kelvin Benjamin
  • WR Devin Funchess
  • TE Ed Dickson
  • LT Matt Kalil
  • LG Andrew Norwell
  • C Ryan Kalil
  • RG Trai Turner
  • RT Daryl Williams

Panthers Defense Expected Starters:

  • DE Charles Johnson
  • DT Star Lotulelei
  • DT Kawann Short
  • DE Mario Addison
  • SLB Shaq Thompson
  • MLB David Mayo
  • WLB Thomas Davis
  • CB James Bradberry
  • CB Daryl Worley
  • SS Mike Adams
  • FS Kurt Coleman

Panthers Specialists:

  • Graham Gano (kicker), Michael Palardy (punter, holder), J.J. Jansen (long snapper), Fozzy Whittaker (kick returns), Christian McCaffery (punt returns)

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Bears – Offense

With Markus Wheaton out again, we’re back on Tarik Cohen watch. Cohen still leads the team in targets and receptions and figures to play a significant role in the Bears passing offense. His snap count and percentage has increased in each of the last two weeks, which suggests the team is trying to get their most dynamic player more involved in the offense. For what it’s worth, Cohen has been on the field for more than 43 percent of the Bears’ pass snaps.

Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. has been beaten for a sack that led to a Mitch Trubisky fumble in each of the last two games and will likely matchup against Julius Peppers at some point on Sunday. Peppers has 6.5 sacks in six games and is on pace for a 17-sack season. It’ll take a team effort to chip and throw Peppers off, but the main responsibility belongs to Leno Jr. after earning a contract extension prior to the season.

Chicago Bears – Defense

Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio believes cornerback Marcus Cooper will play more this week after playing no defensive snaps in the team’s Week 6 win against the Ravens. Cooper was limited to special teams duties one week after missing the team’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football because of back spasms. While Prince Amukamara, Bryce Callahan, and Kyle Fuller played solidly in Week 6, Cooper needs to step up if he returns to a role in which he plays starter snaps.

Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski returns to the active roster after being out of the lineup after suffering a pectoral injury in Week 2. Kwiatokoski might be responsible for keeping an eye on running back Christian McCaffery, who is a threat to catch passes out of the backfield.

Carolina Panthers – Offense

Kelvin Benjamin has re-emerged as one of Cam Newton’s top targets. Benjamin was on the injury report in the days leading up to this game, but will give it a shot against the Bears on Sunday. Always a threat to make a big play down the field, Benjamin is averaging 14.3 yards per reception.

Christian McCaffery is a running back, but has been the most targeted pass catcher in the Panthers offense. McCaffery leads the team with 50 targets and 37 catches. Entering Week 7, McCaffery had the sixth most receptions in the NFL. Not bad for a rookie. Look for Carolina to try and create a mismatch to get McCaffery the ball in space against Chicago’s linebackers.

Carolina Panthers – Defense

Julius Peppers has turned back the clock in his return to Carolina. He leads the team with 6.5 sacks despite playing just 179 snaps. No other Panthers defender has more than three sacks. This offensive line should be familiar with Peppers because of the time he spent with the Green Bay Packers, but he’ll be in a new position.

Kawann Short is Pro Football Focus’ eighth best interior defender and will need to be blocked well by the interior of the Bears’ offensive line if Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are going to get anything going in the running game. Short’s 85.9 rush defense grade is the 11th best, according to PFF’s grading scale. The trio of Kyle Long, Cody Whitehair, and Josh Sitton will have their hands full handling Short.


Luis Medina

Luis is the Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation Bears, and you can find him on Twitter at @lcm1986.