Game Scout: Ravens at Bears

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Baltimore Ravens (4-5) at Chicago Bears (5-4)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Soldier Field, Chicago - TV: CBS
*TV announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
*Keys to the game: The Ravens will try to pressure Bears backup QB Josh McCown, who gets the start with Jay Cutler sidelined with a high ankle sprain, but his mobility presents a challenge for the Ravens' secondary. Coach Marc Trestman has rolled the pocket and used shorter progressions to keep McCown out of harm's way. The Ravens are sure to use bracket coverage on Brandon Marshall, the Bears' star wide receiver, but second-year target Alshon Jeffery is becoming a major threat. Hitting a throw or two over the middle to Jeffery or TE Martellus Bennett can loosen the Ravens coverage and create inside lanes for RB Matt Forte, who rarely succumbs to first contact. The Ravens undoubtedly will attempt to revitalize their running game against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, but the health of RB Ray Rice prevents him from being a reliable crutch for QB Joe Flacco. Rice is on pace for just 576 rushing yards this season. Flacco is enamored with the spread offense, but it hasn't paid many dividends lately. With CB Charles Tillman out of the lineup and Chicago's pass rush finding little success, targeting S Chris Conte in coverage between the hashes could put Flacco in line for a big statistical day.
*Matchup to watch - Ravens CB Lardarius Webb vs. Bears WR Brandon Marshall -- Webb is coming off his best game of the season, intercepting a pass and deflecting six against the Cincinnati Bengals. Marshall is in his prime as a receiver, a big, tall, fast target who tends to overwhelm smaller corners with his size. McCown has confidence "throwing him open," which gives the Ravens opportunities to make plays on the ball they cannot miss, or points are the consequence.
*Player spotlight - Bears RT Jordan Mills: A stalwart starter as a rookie, Mills has handled pressure -- power and speed -- equally well. He'll get an extra helping of both in Sunday's game as the Ravens shuffle their "30" personnel packages to find a path to McCown.
*Fast facts: The Ravens lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns allowed with one. ... The Bears have allowed 28 touchdowns in 10 games. They allowed 29 in all of 2012.
The team that keeps the quarterback comfortable will have legs in the fourth quarter. Inconsistent offensive line play has hampered the Ravens all season, but Chicago is unable to exploit the weakness, or stop QB Joe Flacco late.
*Our pick: Ravens 23-19

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