Game of the Week: Bears-Bengals
Benson, who got the heave-ho after two alcohol-related incidents, boasts the league's fourth-best per game average (88.5 yards) and comes with a chip on his shoulder. Earlier this week he claimed the Bears brass had bad-mouthed him after his 2008 exit. (Quoth
No doubt Benson's burning to show up his ex-employers, but he's not the only one with a grudge in this affair. His Chicago days were marred by serious underachievement and an alleged poor work ethic: He left a preseason game in which he wasn't playing and he benched himself in the second half of Super Bowl XLI.
Off the field he scuffled with
That begs the question of what's more powerful: Benson's singular revenge game? Or the concerted revenge efforts of one singularly pissed off defense?
A reunion with former Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson, whose axing stemmed from a weapons possession charge, should prove less contentious, but perhaps of equal importance. Johnson, who never claimed to harbor any ill will against his former teammates, has been inactive for two of his last three games with a foot problem, but returned last week against Houston with four tackles and a sack of
That injury alone might not have been as damaging had it not been paired with the grounding of run-stopping defensive tackle
Peko didn't practice on Wednesday but hasn't been ruled out yet for Sunday. If he sits -- which might be the smart play considering Cincinnati has a bye coming up next -- it could be a problem for
Smith has had every opportunity to find replacements -- there was talk of signing ex-Buccaneer
Perhaps even worse for the Bears long-term, they'll get a kind of free pass and perhaps some undeserved confidence this week against the Bengals, who don't have a tight end threat. The duo of
Problem is, it's tough to label anyone in Chicago the top guy. In order, the Bears' game-by-game leading receivers have been Hester, Knox, Bennett, Bennett and Hester. Coordinator
It's too early to even begin discussing playoff implications, you say? Bologna. A three-and-a-half game hole like the Bears are facing might not mean much in the NFC West, but it's a deathblow in the North. And Cincinnati is doing itself no favors by hanging with the AFC North pack. Whoever walks out of The Jungle a loser on Sunday has a rough road ahead.
Every week, I lend my thoughts on a few particularly startable or sit-worthy players. Here's who's I like in this Week 7 matchup:
How lucky can Chicago get? In Week 2 it beat the Steelers without
Now, what really scares me -- and what dictates this pick -- is the Bears' apparent hopelessness in the red zone. Chicago's offense ranks 28th in red zone efficiency (72.2 percent). To give you an idea of how bad that is, only Tennessee, Houston, Carolina and St. Louis have done worse, and their combined record is 5-18. Cincy's defense is third in the league in that category, allowing scores on just 68.8 percent of drives.
Combine that with the bizarre fact that Jay Cutler's passer rating drops significantly when he's not facing heavy pressure -- perhaps making Cincinnati's defensive line woes irrelevant -- and