Week 11 brings about some intriguing plotlines around the NFC North. The Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers both lost their starting quarterbacks for portions of this past Sunday’s game. The Green Bay Packers finally see a divisional opponent in old foe the Detroit Lions. The Minnesota Vikings have their bye this week after beating the Lions to complete the sweep in that series. Here is a breakdown of the two matchups in the Black & Blue division this week.
Chicago Bears (7-2) at San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1)
The storyline in this Monday Night Football contest is that in this past week’s game, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler were both knocked out with a concussion. Each missed the entire second half of their game. Both Smith and Cutler will go through the league-mandated concussion protocol and need to be cleared before resuming football activities.
As of Wednesday, it was being reported that Smith was cleared to resume play and is expected to start on Sunday. If Smith can’t go for some reason, he would be replaced by Colin Kaepernick. The Bears have not yet commented on their expectations for Cutler’s status this week. Cutler’s backup is Jason Campbell. In such a crucial matchup, this is a situation to monitor as the week goes on.
Before last Sunday’s game (and besides mop up duty), Campbell had appeared for just one snap in an October 22nd game against the Detroit Lions. Cutler was viciously taken down by Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh and came out for just one play before returning.
The San Francisco 49ers were involved in the first tie game since the 2008 season as they locked up with division rival St. Louis Rams. Tie games are always interesting when it comes to the standings and San Francisco is currently behind both the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears in the NFC.
San Francisco’s strength is their defense and superior play that they are getting from their front seven. Pro Bowler Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman lead one of the most disruptive linebacking units in the NFL along with defensive linemen Justin Smith and Aldon Smith. It was Aldon Smith’s sack late in the overtime period that kept the Rams out of field goal range and drained valuable clock.