The Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers both come limping into their showdown on "Monday Night Football" tonight. Chicago will be forced to start backup QB Jason Campbell after Jay Cutler's concussion last week, and similarly, San Francisco will be forced to start backup QB Colin Kaepernick now that Alex Smith has been ruled out.
Although the Bears are 7-2, questions about their offense have started to arise. The Bears' defense has been exceptional, ranking first in Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings at minus-39.9 percent (more than 15 percent better than the next team) and creating a staggering 30 turnovers (plus-14 turnover differential). But the offense (ranked 27th in DVOA) has struggled to consistently put together drives, and Cutler is forcing too many balls into coverage. To put it into perspective for Bears fans, Cutler ranks behind Mark Sanchez in DVOA. Behind a shaky offensive line, it could be a very long night for Campbell.
Coming off of a 24-24 tie with the St. Louis Rams, this game is also very important for the 49ers (6-2-1). Not only could they be fighting with Chicago for home-field advantage, but suddenly a division many thought San Francisco could have clinched by Thanksgiving is up for grabs since the Seattle Seahawks sit at 6-4. A stout San Francisco defense has given up the fewest points in the NFL (127), so expect this to be a low-scoring affair as the 49ers try to run the ball and keep Kaepernick upright.
The wiseguys seem to think the same thing, as the opening total of 38.5 has been bet down to 37. The line that came out late on Friday at the Las Vegas Hotel (49ers minus-5) has already been bet up to 49ers minus-6.5. However, with ESPN's Chris Mortensen reporting that Smith has been ruled out for tonight's game, the line moved down to San Francisco minus-4 and the total moved down to 34.5. For what it's worth, both San Francisco and Chicago are 5-4 against the spread this season.