The Chicago Bears hope a barrage of injuries won’t derail their path to the postseason.
For the moment, the Seattle Seahawks expect to have two of their key defensive performers in the mix as they try to remain in playoff position.
The banged-up Bears look to build on their latest victory while trying to avoid a third home loss to the Seahawks in as many seasons Sunday.
After falling short against Houston and being blown out in San Francisco, Chicago (8-3) got quarterback Jay Cutler back from a concussion in time to rebound with a 28-10 win over Minnesota last Sunday.
“We have a veteran crew,” coach Lovie Smith told the Bears’ official website. “It doesn’t matter whether you win or you lose, you have to learn from your mistakes.”
Though that victory coupled with Green Bay’s loss to the New York Giants left the Bears with a one-game lead in the NFC North, the triumph was overshadowed by a series of injuries that could linger.
Right guard Lance Louis suffered a season-ending knee injury and left guard Chris Spencer will also sit out Sunday with a knee injury. While star returner Devin Hester will miss this contest with a concussion, it’s uncertain whether an ankle injury will sideline running back Matt Forte Star cornerback Charles Tillman (foot), however, could play through a reported foot injury.
“There is some concern for some of the guys,” Smith said. “But we’ll bounce back.”
The Bears signed five-time Pro Bowl lineman Andre Gurode but it’s not clear if the veteran would start in place of Spencer. Gurode has not played since appearing in 13 games with Baltimore last season. Gabe Carimi who lost his starting tackle job, is expected to replace Louis on a line that’s mostly responsible for the team’s 35 sacks allowed.
“We’re going to have to roll with the guys we have and see what we have, lean on our defense as we have before, run the ball well,” Cutler said. “Be efficient through the air. See how far we go.”
How far the Bears go also depends on Cutler, who was a serviceable 23 of 31 for 188 yards with a touchdown and an interception last weekend. The Bears are 15-5 in Cutler’s starts since last season.
He’ll continue to look for Brandon Marshall, who became Chicago’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Marty Booker in 2002 with his 1,017 this season. Cutler also should not mind handing the ball off to backup Michael Bush who ran for 60 yards and two TDs on 21 carries against the Vikings.
Injuries sidelined Cutler and Forte during last season’s 38-14 home loss to the Seahawks. Brandon Browner returned an interception 42 yards for one of Seattle’s two defensive touchdowns.
The Seahawks (6-5) have dropped five of six on the road this season and are 6-16 away from home under coach Pete Carroll, but two of those victories have come in each of the last two seasons at Soldier Field. Seattle did lose in Chicago, however, in a 2010 divisional playoff game.
“We do know the setting,” Carroll told the Seahawks’ official website. “We’ve found some success. We know how to travel there. We know what it takes and all that. We’ll try to bank of that the best we can and make the most of it.”
Browner and fellow starting corner Richard Sherman are both expected to play despite the possibility they could be facing four-game suspensions for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. The two are reportedly in the process of appealing those suspensions.
The play of Browner and Sherman is a big reason Seattle allows 16.8 points per game - behind only San Francisco (14.1) and Chicago (15.9). However, even with those two the Seahawks could not hold a pair of second-half leads and allowed touchdown drives of 94, 82 and 80 yards in last Sunday’s 24-21 loss at Miami.
Despite a third straight road defeat, Seattle owns the NFC’s final wild-card spot over Tampa Bay and Minnesota, who both have the same record as the Seahawks.
Rookie Russell Wilson has completed 70.0 percent of his passes for 585 yards with seven TDs and no INTs in the last three games. He’s also rushed for 99 yards during that span.
Wilson, however, will face a Bears’ club that leads the league with 33 forced turnovers.
Chicago held Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch to 42 yards on 20 carries last season, but he scored twice. Lynch’s string of four straight 100-yard rushing games ended last weekend when he was held to 46 on 19 tries.