Tonight’s matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears was supposed to be a knock-down, drag-out slugfest between two NFC heavyweights. Two good offenses led by competent young quarterbacks, backed up by championship caliber defenses led by two of the best linebackers to ever step foot on the gridiron.
However, concussions to Alex Smith and Jay Cutler have left the starting quarterbacks sidelined and thrust their back-ups, Colin Kaepernick and Jason Campbell, into the Monday Night Football spotlight.
With their offenses hampered by young, inexperienced quarterbacks, don’t expect this one to be a very high scoring affair. Strong defenses on both sides of the ball will be ready to take advantage of every little mistake, and make the other team pay for them.
The 49ers biggest advantage on offense is the strength and power of running back Frank Gore, expect the Niners all-time leading rusher to touch the ball quite a bit tonight.
Bears receiver Brandon Marshall is a great route runner and legitimate deep threat, but so are Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, and Michael Crabtree for the 49ers, so the slight advantage there goes to San Francisco.
Defensively these two teams are well matched powerhouses. The Bears’ defense, led by veteran Brian Urlacher, is powerful against the run and mid-range pass.
Equally, if not more, strong against the running game is the 49ers defense, led by 5-time Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis. The only question mark in the 49ers defense tonight will be their ability to cover Marshall downfield, and defend the passing game in general.
In a game of inches, this may very well come down to the toes of the kickers, and unfortunately for the 49ers, David Akers has not seemed quite himself this season, making only 15 of his 21 field goal attempts. Akers missed a key field goal in the game against St. Louis that would have led to a victory, instead that game ended in a 24-24 tie. The Bears kicker Robbie Gould is 18 of 21 this season, and admittedly doesn’t like to kick at Soldiers Field, prefering to kick on the road which may give him a slight advantage.
This is going to be a slow hard fought game, dominated by two good defenses, but San Francisco should have the overall advantage.
Prediction: San Francisco 17, Chicago 13.