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Raiders vs Bears: Five Good Questions with Windy City Gridiron

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In preparation for the Raiders facing the Bears in Chicago Sunday, I spoke with Dane Noble, editor for Bears blog Windy City Gridiron. Here is what he had to say.

1. It looks like the Bears could be without Jay Cutler, what do you expect from Jimmy Clausen?

Honestly I think Cutler plays. He was warming up last week before the game with no noticeable limp, but they decided to give him another week of rest for his injured hamstring.

If for some reason Clausen does play again this week, we won't expect much.  Just like last week in Seattle, offensive coordinator Adam Gase will focus on a run-heavy gameplan with Matt Forte, Jeremy Langford, and Jacquizz Rodgers, and try to limit Clausen's exposure and liability.  With Alshon Jeffery also out again this week, the Bears won't have any significant deep threats or overly-talented wide receivers to work with (no offense to Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson).

2. Looks like Alshon Jeffery will also miss his third game this season. How have the Bears attempted to fill in for him?

As mentioned above, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson will be the starters, and should the Bears get into situation where they need to pass, they will also look for TE Martellus Bennett in the seam or Matt Forte in the flats.

3. Prior to last season, I can't recall a time I've ever seen a bad defense in Chicago. What is going on with that Bears defense?

New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio (formerly of San Francisco) has shifted the scheme to a base 3-4 defense, which is the first time in Chicago Bears history that they've ever run a 3-4, but right now they're struggling due to lack of depth.  Former GM Phil Emery ruined this roster, and new GM Ryan Pace has been trying to figure out a way to help.  The Bears are old in many positions, inexperienced in others, and have a lack of depth almost all the way around.

This week should be a little different, though, as DT Jeremiah Ratliff should see some playing time now that his 3-game suspension stemming from a 2013 DWI is up.  Ratliff injured his ankle in the preseason, and Fangio stated he wouldn't have played the first three games anyways, but Ratliff is by far the best DT we have on the team.  Even if he only plays 50% of the snaps, if he can be disruptive, he could make that entire defense better.

It's also worth noting that, with the trade of Jared Allen to the Panthers, we will see more of Willie Young, Pernell McPhee, and Lamarr Houston line up at OLB.  They can all be disruptive in their own right, and they'll all get their chance on Sunday.

4. I look at the fire sale the Bears are having right now and it makes me think of MLB teams out of the pennant race trading away their stars for prospects. Does it look to you like the Bears are packing it in? Or am I looking at it all wrong?

They traded two players, only one of which was a starter.  Not really a fire sale, but rather Pace seeing an opportunity to get a couple draft picks for players that wouldn't have contributed in the long run.

First we had Jared Allen.  Allen was brought in to be an edge rusher in last year's 4-3 defense.  This season with the transition, he wasn't playing a technique that was working out.  He was being asked to play stand-up football on the outside of a 3-4 defense, and that's just not in his wheelhouse.  He's still talented, and can absolutely still play, but this just wasn't the right fit for him.  Pace had the opportunity to get a 6th round pick out of a player that A) wasn't having success in this defense, and B) he wouldn't have gotten anything for next year anyways, so why not get a draft pick?  The Bears roster is hurting so badly that the only way out of this in the next couple seasons is to stockpile picks, and them make them count on Draft day.

The other trade was backup linebacker Jonathan Bostic.  Bostic was another pick from the previous regime, and although I personally liked him a lot, he wasn't getting any playing time in Chicago.  The Patriots were interested, and again Pace got a 6th round pick. Not bad for a player that he didn't draft himself and that was never going to play a down in Chicago anyways.

So fire sale?  Not really. Just the new GM's way of trying to improve things now while also planning for the future.

5. The Raiders are actually favored in this game; the first time they've been favored on the road in three years. If the Bears are to pull this one out, what has to happen?

The Bears have the ability to win the time of possession battle, which is definitely important, but they also have to win the turnover battle and not commit penalties.  This year's Bears have been committing more penalties than I've ever seen in my lifetime, which is an automatic disqualifier if they are hoping to win football games.

John Fox will have them prepared, and the first half they will look pretty good. It's whether they can sustain that execution in the final 30 minutes of playing time that will make the difference.

I will post my answers to his questions once they are published.