Week 11: Bears-49ers preview

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Chicago at San Francisco
Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, at Candlestick Park, San Francisco - TV: ESPN
*TV announcers: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
*Keys to the game: In an interesting twist, both defenses will have to prepare for two different quarterbacks with the Bears' Jay Cutler and the 49ers' Alex Smith both facing the league's protocol on concussions before being cleared to play. The Bears' gameplan wouldn't be greatly altered if veteran Jason Campbell gets the call. Chicago will take notice of St. Louis rushing for 159 yards against San Francisco last week, the latest of a few teams to poke significant holes in the 49ers' previously air-tight run defense. RB Matt Forte will also be heavily involved in the passing game. However, Chicago isn't getting much production out of its tight ends or wideouts outside of Brandon Marshall. Colin Kaepernick fumbled twice in relief of Smith last week, but otherwise was solid in his first extensive NFL action behind center. The 2011 second-round pick provides a running threat the Bears must account for, although the 49ers will likely look to limit his exposure to big hits if Smith is unavailable.
*Matchup to watch - Bears S Chris Conte vs. 49ers RB Frank Gore: Conte will play near the line of scrimmage as an eighth defender against the run and Chicago will look to funnel the action back inside. The aggressive nature of the Bears' run defense does leave Chicago vulnerable to big plays if Conte or the linebackers get caught up in the wash and are unable to fill their gap assignment.
*Player spotlight - 49ers OLB Aldon Smith: Smith had two more sacks last week. His prowess as a pass rusher is well known and he has the ability to wreck the Bears' passing game. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has been pleased with Smith's development in coverage, which has allowed him to stay on the field more in his sophomore season.
*Fast facts: 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh spent his first seven NFL seasons as a quarterback for the Bears after being a first-round pick in 1987. ... The 49ers have won the past seven meetings at home, including playoffs, dating back to ... 1987.
The Bears' offensive scheme won't alter much if Jason Campbell starts in place of Jay Cutler. Meanwhile, a veteran defense will be very difficult for the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick should he get the nod for Alex Smith. Chicago has been producing turnovers in bunches all season and would be a very difficult assignment for the second-year player.
*Our pick: Bears 20-19

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