Five Questions: Seahawks vs. Bears

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler stands on the field before game against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field in Chicago on October 24, 2010. UPI/Brian Kersey

Matchup: Seahawks (8-9) @ Bears (11-5)
Kickoff: 1:00PM ET, Sunday

1. Will inconsistency doom the Seahawks again?
There have been seven separate occasions this year when the Seahawks have played at home and then gone on the road the following week. In those seven games, they went 0-7 and lost by an average margin of 23.6 points. Last week the Hawks played at home and pulled off the upset of the year by knocking off the defending champs. But they won’t have home field advantage or the element of surprise this week when they travel to Solider Field. Can Seattle finally put together back-to-back solid performances and pull off another upset? Or will their issues with consistency burn them again?

2. How will Cutler play in his first-ever postseason game?
The Seahawks do have one distinct advantage over the Bears this weekend, which is that their quarterback has postseason experience and Chicago’s doesn’t. Matt Hasselbeck has played in a Super Bowl. Before this season, Jay Cutler never had a winning seasons at either the college or pro level. Will his lack of inexperience cost the Bears this Sunday or will he rise to the challenge like he did against the Eagles and Jets earlier this year? Seattle ranks 29th in total defense and 30th against the pass. This is a unit that Cutler has to torch. He can’t throw three interceptions and have Devin Hester and his defense bail him out. He’s had a great season but now is the time to elevate his game.

3. Will the Seahawks kick to Hester?
The answer to this question should be no, but sometimes special teams coaches and punters think that they’re smarter than everyone and kick to him anyway. If he gets an opportunity to return a punt, it’s not a question of “if” he’ll put the Bears in good field position but, “at what yard line are the Bears going to start in their opponent’s territory?” Brian Schneider has a tough job this week in trying to figure out a way to neutralize Hester the best he can. If it were me, I’d be telling punter Jon Ryan to get as much distance on the kick as possible but to make sure the ball eventually lands out of bounds. There’s no reason to give Hester a chance to return the ball, even for a team like Seattle, which has had good special teams play this season.

4. Will Martz stay balanced?
This is right around the time of year when Mike Martz wants to go back to proving to people how smart he is. But he must keep his offense balanced. Following back-to-back losses to the Seahawks and Redskins in Weeks 6-7, Lovie Smith tightened the reins on Martz during the Bears’ Week 8 bye. The team also shuffled its offensive line around to take advantage of his personnel’s strengths and hide their weaknesses. The result was a six-game winning streak for Chicago, which only ended when the Bears ran into the buzz saw that is the New England Patriots. Martz is a better playcaller when his offense remains balanced. Cutler is a better quarterback when Matt Forte runs the ball more than six times a game. Now isn’t the time for Martz to go off script: he needs to stick to the game plan and to continue feeding Forte in order to keep defense’s on their heels. There’s also no need to try to throw vertical every down when Cutler is more efficient throwing short-to-intermediate passes. Even though they’re playing a Seattle team that only won seven games this season, the Bears still need to be at their best, and that includes Martz.

5. Can Seattle attack Chicago’s weakness?
The Bears rank 10th in total defense, second in rushing defense and fourth in scoring. But if there’s one area where they can be attacked it’s in the secondary. The Bears have given up an average of 224.2 yards per game through the air this season, which ranks them 21st in the league in that category. That said, they’re actually pretty good defending the deep pass. They’ve only allowed nine pass plays of 30-plus yards this season, which leads the NFC. But Hasselbeck actually fared well against Chicago earlier this season while completing 4 of 7 passes for 85 yards with one touchdown and a 139.9 rating on throws traveling at least 15 yards. Hasselbeck understands the Tampa 2 defense that Chicago runs better than any quarterback in the league because he has loads of experience and has played against that scheme many times before. The Bears may humiliate inexperienced quarterbacks, but chances are Hasselbeck will hold his own this Sunday. But can his offensive line protect him from Chicago’s nasty front seven? And can he beat the Bears without the threat of a running game?

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts