Free NFL Pick: Chicago at Miami 11-18-2010

November 17, 2010

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Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins

Thursday November 18th, 2010 8:30 PM EST

Line: Miami -2

Overview:

The 6-3 Bears won in impressive fashion last week against Minnesota. For an offensive line that was deemed, “the worst offensive line in the history of the NFL” by NFL Network’s Jamie Dukes, the Bears did considerably well against the Vikings defensive line. They will look to build on their recent success with a third consecutive victory. Standing in their way are the 5-4 Miami Dolphins, who came away with a huge 12 point victory over the Titans, despite having two quarterbacks knocked out of the game. The Dolphins are fighting for their playoff lives and the Bears would love to create some separation between themselves and the Packers.

Keys to the Game:

  • Everyone is blowing Brandon Marshall’s ‘struggles’ way out of proportion. Marshall has taken a huge hit statistically, but he has been instrumental for the Miami offense this season. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Dolphins can’t expect Marshall to completely turn around their passing attack in one season. As of right now, Marshall is tenth in the league with 652 yards and his 55 catches put him at 5th in the league. While Marshall only has one score on the year, that will come over time. He has been relatively quiet the last four weeks and is growing visibly frustrated. The fact of the matter is, he is only 106 yards away from besting the yardage of the Miami Dolphins leading receiver last year, Davone Bess. Marshall is not happy with the way things are going, but he needs to take a step back and realize where he is. Things aren’t going to get any easier, as Tyler Thigpen looks like he will get the start on Thursday.
  • Chad Pennington and Chad Henne both went down with injuries last Sunday. While Pennington is definitely out, Henne is listed as questionable. While Henne hasn’t been ruled out, Thigpen looks like he will be under center. Teams could have a lot worse emergency quarterback situation than Thigpen. He has game time experience from his time in Kansas City and will suffice as the best option until Henne recovers. While Dolphins fans shouldn’t expect Thigpen to compete for a job, they can feel relatively comfortable that he won’t completely botch the game and crumble under pressure. The problem is that he is going up against a stout defense.
  • Jay Cutler was only touched four times against the Vikings and only sacked once. If protection like that continues to come for Cutler, you can expect to see more wins pile up for the Bears. The Bears went on a tear in the beginning of the season and Cutler appeared as though he returned to his original form. After losing three out of four games, including two at home, the Bears look like they have corrected some of their mistakes since the bye week. While both the Bills and Vikings are flawed, Cutler was still kept clean. If they can manage to hold off the Dolphins, Cutler has the potential to look like a Pro Bowler. When Chicago gets time, their offense is hard to beat and given their defensive performance, a clicking offense makes them a force.
  • At the forefront of the Dolphins defense will be Cameron Wake, who does not intend to let Jay Cutler hold onto the ball all day long. If I was starting a franchise and I had to take a 3-4 outside linebacker, number one would be Clay Matthews, number two would be Demarcus Ware, and number three would be Cameron Wake. He belongs in that company, yet he is not a household name and teams are still sleeping on him. Wake has 8.5 sacks this season, giving him more sacks by himself than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had all season long. I figured the Bears would have problems against a pass rusher like Jared Allen and though they gave up a sack, they did a solid job against him. This is the real test.
  • Devin Hester has the most return yards he has had since 2007. Hester has gone from the best return man in NFL history to a below average receiver, that is until this season. Now it appears that while receiving is still part of Hester’s game, the Bears realize Hester’s return skills had a huge part in getting them to the Super Bowl. He still caught a touchdown pass, but his biggest contribution has been giving the Bears a short field when he touches the ball. You can’t kick to him, which gives teams one more thing to think about. Hester is still one of the most dangerous players in the league with the ball in his hands. I’m not sure what Miami is going to do if he starts returning kicks consistently again, but they had better punt the ball out of bounds every single time.

Key Matchup:

Jake Long Vs Julius Peppers

  • Jake Long is one of the best, if not the best, franchise left tackles in the entire NFL. The Dolphins scored when they took him first overall. Long has a huge frame and perfect pass blocking technique. He will need every bit of it to handle his test on Thursday, when he goes up against Julius Peppers.
  • Peppers hasn’t received much recognition on the stat sheet, but he is still wrecking left tackles every single week. Teams completely shift help to the left side of the line, because Peppers is unbeatable off the edge. This has made life divine for Israel Idonije on the other side, who has half the talent and twice the sacks of Peppers. The Dolphins might play Peppers honestly this week, as he doesn’t have an overwhelming advantage. This is the kind of line matchup football enthusiasts love to see and it will be interesting to see who ends up with the better performance.

Wrap Up:

It is hard to read the Bears. It looks like they are going to win the Super Bowl one week and then it looks like teams have them all figured out. They are playing Bears football on defense, but their offense needs to be a little more consistent before I’m bringing out the Monsters of the Midway nickname that resurfaces every time one of them dominates.

The Dolphins have looked good for most of the season, losing to only great teams this season -the Patriots, Jets, Steelers, and Ravens- but without a great quarterback under center, it is going to be difficult for them to get anything going offensively. In a defensive struggle, I’m taking the Bears with the points.

Free NFL Pick: Chicago +2


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