Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday Night Preview: Bears at Dolphins + Week 11 Picks

Can Jay Cutler keep from killing his own team? Read below!

Chicago at Miami - the battle of the mediocre. Neither the Bears or Dolphins have really been able to emerge from the pack this year. While it's true that the Bears are currently tied for the lead in their division, they clearly don't belong with the league's elite teams. Both teams started the year out strong but had some major issues exposed as the weeks rolled on. While both teams boast strong defenses, it's their offenses that have some major holes - mainly their quarterbacks.

Thigpen's last start was in 2008 for KC
After benching Chad Henne in favor of Chad Pennington and then having both get injured against the Titans, Miami will be starting third stringer Tyler Thigpen in tonight's game. Thigpen is no stranger to starting. In 2008 he started 11 games for the Kanasas City Chiefs. While he won only one of those games he was able to put up some impressive stats - throwing for 2,608 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Since nothing has worked for them so far, the Dolphins are going to need a boost at the position. It's telling that their marquee free-agent pickup, Brandon Marshall, hasn't caught a touchdown since week 3.  

For the Bears, Jay Cutler has been what he's been over the years - a gifted athlete with a strong arm but makes very questionable decisions which lead to turnovers. Since 2008, Cutler is the league leader in red zone interceptions. That may be the worst stat to lead the NFL in. That means Cutler is consistently killing drives for his team, turning momentum and making terrible decisions. Plus, if he's still the league leader after that long it means he hasn't changed and hasn't questioned himself.

Cutler's also been sacked 29 times this year - also a league high. He's been getting killed in Mike Martz's offense. His refusal to get rid of the ball has cost his team dearly.

However, things may be looking up in that regard. After shuffling offensive linemen, the Bears have put out the same group for the past two games and Cutler's only been sacked 3 times. It's shown to be a winning formula as Chicago has won two straight.

Martz's offense hasn't flourished in Chicago this year
The key for the Bears offensively tonight is to stay balanced. Perhaps the best example of this is Chicago's loss to the Washington Redskins. In that game, the Bears running backs touched the ball only 13 times while Cutler threw the ball 40 times - including 4 picks to DeAngelo Hall.

The more Jay Cutler throws the ball, the higher the risk is that he'll make one of his trademark interceptions. In their victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Bears ran the ball 38 times. If Chicago can run the ball effectively it will open things up for Jay Cutler with the play-action and keep him from hurting himself and his team with questionable throws.

The key for Miami is getting pressure on Cutler. While Chicago's offensive line has held up strong for the past two games - it's been against defenses that rank at the bottom of the league in sacks (Vikings 24th, Buffalo 27th). The Dolphins, however, are 11th in the league in that category and have one of the league's best pass rushers, Cameron Wake. Wake is 3rd in the NFL this year with 8.5 sacks. If Miami can get to Cutler, they can force him to make those poor decisions that can turn the game.

However, there are too many things in the Bears' favor in this game. The Dolphins' left tackle, Jake Long, is not at 100% with a dislocated shoulder. Julius Peppers and the Bears defense could have their way with the Miami offense.

Then there's the special teams advantage. With memories still lingering of New England's special teams explosion over the Fins in week 4, Miami fans have to be nervous about Devin Hester returning kicks for Chicago.

The Bears win in a close game, 14-10.

Week 11 Picks:

Chicago over Miami (14-10)
Baltimore over Carolina (29-13)
Buffalo over Cincinnati (20-17)
Dallas over Detroit (17-14)
Cleveland over Jacksonville (17-13)
Kansas City over Arizona (23-12)
Green Bay over Minnesota (31-20)
New York Jets over Houston (28-14)
Pittsburgh over Oakland (27-10)
Tennessee over Washington (24-17)
New Orleans over Seattle (35-7)
Tampa Bay over San Francisco (21-14)
St. Louis over Atlanta (20-14)
New England over Indianapolis (31-27)
Philadelphia over New York Giants (20-14)
San Diego over Denver (28-21)

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