Week Three Preview: Chicago at Seattle

A week after quarterback Matt Hasselbeck fractured a rib in Seattle’s 23 – 10 loss in San Francisco, the Seahawks get the unfortunate privilege of hosting the Chicago Bears.

After Green Bay beat up on the Bears on national television, Chicago was able to knock off the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers in Week Two.

Poised, Jay Cutler’s two-touchdown-no-interception performance was the offensive key to the victory.

Finally appearing to have some comfort within the team’s offense, Cutler completed 71 percent of his passes. The key to his success? He didn’t force the deep ball like he did in the team’s Week One loss. Instead, he focused on completing high-percentage passes, especially check downs in the flat.

The Bears’ quarterback production was so instrumental in the win against the Steelers because running back Matt Forte has struggled to get out of the gate.

Only averaging 2.2 yards-per-carry on the season, Forte only had 13 carries against the Steelers. What’s worse is that 61 percent of those carries earned two yards or less.

Forte should find success easier to come by this weekend in Seattle.

The Seahawks are still without outside linebacker Leroy Hill and middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu missed Thursday’s practice due to a dinged hamstring.

Last week against the 49ers, the Seahawks’ defensive unit’s lack of firepower and overall depth at linebacker was exploited by running back Frank Gore.

Finding gaping holes up the middle, Gore broke free for touchdown runs of 79 and 80 yards on his way to 207 yards on the ground and 246 yards of total offense.

Like Gore, Forte can break the big run when given an opportunity. What the two have in common even more than their big-play ability is that the two running backs are exceptional pass catchers.

Despite his poor rushing performance against the Steelers in Week Two, Forte hauled in five catches for 33 yards.

Look for Jay Cutler to get Forte the ball both via the ground game and through the air, much like 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill did last week with Frank Gore.

Defensively, the Bears have terrorized quarterbacks this season.

In two games, the Bears have gotten to the quarterback and recorded sacks six times.

Without defensive anchor Brian Urlacher, right defensive end Alex Brown stepped up in Chicago’s second game of the season. Of Brown’s four tackles, two of them were sacks.

This weekend, Brown will matchup against all-pro left tackle Walter Jones. Jones participated fully in practice both Wednesday and Thursday.

More good news for the Seahawks’ starting offensive line is that center Chris Spencer also practiced fully Wednesday and Thursday.

Both players will be extremely useful for Seattle because a dinged-up Hasselbeck could either mean limited playing time for the quarterback or that backup Seneca Wallace will get the start. Because of the team’s quarterback situation, Seattle’s running backs should be called on to have a larger responsibility for the team’s offensive production.

That’s good news for Seattle beeacuse, despite the Bears’ impressive sack totals, the unit has had trouble against the run.

Allowing an average of 4.1 yards-per-carry this season, the Bears made Ryan Grant of Green Bay and Pittsburgh’s tandem of Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall all look more capable of producing quality numbers than they should.

Julius Jones…get ready, this could be a field day for you.

So far in his career, Jones has played nine games at Qwest Field and in those nine games the back averaged 5.86 yards-per-carry. If you put that average together with what appears to be the return of two key starting players on the Seahawks’ offensive line and Chicago’s ineptitude at stopping the run this year, it could only mean one thing…everything is in place for Julius Jones to have a great day.

Even if Hasselbeck can play this weekend, if for some reason the Seahawks’ running game is sluggish against the Bears, Seattle’s chance of beating the Monsters of the Midway will be slim.

Normally I give a predicted outcome for the game, but his week I’ll offer two. One will be an optimistic final score incase the Hasselbeck/Wallace situation isn’t too much of a problem for the Seahawks and if Jones is able to run the ball like he should. The other score will be a more realistic prediction because I really don’t feel good about this one for the Seahawks.

Without further ado, here they are:

Optimistic: Seattle 21 – Chicago 17

More realistic: Chicago 27 – Seattle 10

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