Jeff: I thought the Bears would win Sunday night but maybe not by a margin that wide. Listen, this is a good football team only nineteen months from playing in the Super Bowl. They had question marks all over the offense but the answers were simpler than people believed. They play great defense. They play great on specials. If they don't turn it over on offense, they'll be in every game this year.
Sportz: Matt Forte just stepped into the spotlight. With all the running back drama over the past few years, how gratifying is it to seemingly have some sort of answer there?
Jeff: It's refreshing as much as it's gratifying. The team had no business trading Thomas Jones and that mistake, along with defensive injuries, cost them the whole of the 2007 season. Forte has about as good a debut as a rookie running back can have. It's exciting moving forward.
Sportz: How will Chicago attack a lesser offense like Carolina's ... but one that is healthier and confident?
Jeff: I think the approach won't be vastly different than what you saw Sunday night. They know they have to stop the run and if they do, they'll win. Our corners can play with the Panthers wides so the outside matchups don't worry me. It's about the trenches and the Bears defensive line will go into Carolina with tremendous confidence.
Sportz: What advantage do the Bears have over the Panthers on Sunday?
Jeff: Well playing the Panthers without Steve Smith is always an advantage since he's humiliated us in the past, including the 2005 postseason. Other than that, these two teams match-up pretty well, I think. The thing about the Bears is...they have Devin Hester and Devin Hester is pretty damn great. He influences field position in a way I've never seen in the sport. Teams have to make a difficult decision, especially in tight games late. Put the ball in his hands or give the offense a short field?
Sportz: Hester is such a great offensive weapon ... even if he isn't playing offense. Just the fact that teams won't kick to him gives your offense that great field position. So, what advantage do the Panthers have on the Bears?
Jeff:John St. Clair and John Tait are going to have a tough day on the edges of the offensive line, especially with Julius Peppers. The Bears will be forced to use a lot of the underneath routes in order to compensate for Orton's lack of time in the pocket.
Sportz: Alright, prediction?
Jeff: I do like the Bears this week but strangely I could see this one going either way. I'll say 16-10 Bears.
Sportz: I can see that. I agree that the game will shift towards the defensive side of things ... but defenses score too. You know that. Even though the Panthers aren't a great home team, I'm going with Jake Delhomme fever and picking Carolina 23-20.