When: Sunday, 10 a.m. PST, Soldier Field, Chicago
Records: Seahawks 6-7 and tied for second in NFC West; Bears at 7-6 and third in NFC North
Streaks: Seahawks have won four of their past five; Bears have lost three in a row
TV: Fox (channel 13 in Seattle), with Chris Myers, Tim Ryan and Jaime Maggio
Radio: 710 ESPN and 97.3 FM, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller
Rest of the West: Steelers at 49ers (10-3) on Monday night; Cleveland at Cardinals (6-7); Bengals at Rams (2-10)
Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch vs. Bears LBs Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher: The Seahawks have established their offensive identity, and it looks a lot like their Skittle-munching “Beast Mode” back plowing into opposing defenses and coming away with 100-yard rushing performances. Lynch has been in triple digits in five of his past six games, when he has a league-high 706 rushing yards; and the Seahawks have done it in six consecutive games for the first time since 2002-03. The primary obstacles to making it seven in a row are Briggs, who leads the Bears with 128 tackles; and Urlacher, who’s next with 112. They’ve also combined for 13 tackles for losses. So if the Seahawks’ impressive run is to continue, Lynch’s blockers will have to contain the biggest and baddest of the Bears’ defenders.
One to watch
The scoreboard: With QB Jay Cutler and RB Matt Forte out, the Bears are having a dickens of a time scoring. They put up 10 points in last week’s overtime loss to the Broncos and only three the week before in a loss at home to the Chiefs. This after averaging 32 points during their five-game winning streak at midseason, with Cutler and Forte in the lineup. But the Bears are stingy when it comes to yielding points, as well, holding seven of their opponents to 20 or fewer points – including four of the past five. The Seahawks continue to be slow starters on offense, with 40 first-quarter points and only four touchdowns. The offense has failed to score in the first quarter seven times, and has only one first-possession TD all season – in the Week 5 upset of the Giants. It will be difficult to improve on this against the Bears, but the Seahawks need to find a way to prevent Chicago from settling into the defense-dominant mode they’ve adopted without Cutler and Forte. The Bears have allowed only 27 points in the first quarter.
Fun to watch
The Seahawks run defense vs. Bears running back Marion Barber: The former Cowboys’ back is no stranger to the Seahawks, and vice versa. With Forte out, he has become the Bears’ lead back. With Cutler out, he has become the Bears’ best offensive option. Barber ran for 108 yards against the Broncos and also scored a touchdown for the sixth time in 10 games this season – the Bears’ only TD. But Barber also fumbled and failed to get out of bounds on plays that led to the game-tying and game-winning field goals in the overtime loss. Sunday, he’ll be running into a defense that is allowing averages of 104.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks 11th in the league; and 3.7 yards per carry, which ranks fourth. Getting Caleb Hanie into situations where he has to throw is Priority One for the Seahawks, and that starts with stopping Barber.
One tough task
The Seahawks punt coverage unit vs. the Bears’ Devin Hester: Jon Ryan is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, averaging 47.4 yards (eighth in the league), with a net of 39.9 (ninth) and 26 punts inside the 20 (tied for second). After yielding punt returns for touchdowns of 55 yards in the opening-day loss to the 49ers and 56 yards in the Week 8 loss to the Bengals, the coverage unit has not allowed a return longer than 12 yards in the past six games. But Hester is the best in the history of the league, and has a record 12 punt returns for TDs to prove it – including two this season and an 89-yarder against the Seahawks last season. The Seahawks can’t afford to give the Bears a “cheap” score.
The Seahawks and Bears are playing for the third consecutive season and seventh time in the past six seasons. The Bears eliminated the Seahawks from the playoffs last season, 35-24, after the Seahawks won in Week 6, 23-20. Both games were played at Soldier Field. … Seahawks CB Brandon Browner has four of his team-high five interceptions in the past three games and needs two more return yards to break the franchise record of 179 set by Dave Brown in 1984. … Lynch has scored in his past nine games to tie the club record set by Shaun Alexander, and can break it with a TD on Sunday. … Rookie free agent Doug Baldwin leads the Seahawks in receptions (45) and receiving yards (718). … Mike Williams, last year’s leading receiver, had 10 catches for 123 yards against the Bears in Week 6 last season. He has 16 catches for 205 yards this season. … Middle linebacker David Hawthorne leads the Seahawks in tackles (88).