By Chris Lovi, NFLWeather.com, special to NFP
Monday Night Football’s matchup features two teams that are eerily similar. Both teams have powerful defenses capable of shutting down opposing teams, a pattern likely continue this week. Both have a powerful corps of running backs. Even more so, both the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears had starting quarterbacks sidelined last week with concussions.
NFLWeather.com forecasts a slight chance of rain, mostly cloudy skies, with a low around 48. As its pouring across the Bay Area right now, any rain on Monday night could spell trouble for both offenses. Candlestick Park will revert to its old Professional Kicking Services nickname of “Candle-Lake”, referring to the sub-sea level, marsh-like field conditions of the field.
With backup quarterback Jason Campbell getting the start for the injured Jay Cutler, the Bears offense will need to give Campbell time to breath in the pocket. Sloppy weather conditions mixed with aggressive defenses lead to some screens and draw plays for running back Matt Forte. Chicago hasn’t been getting much production out of their tight ends or receivers, outside of Brandon Marshall, so expect Matt Forte to see a heavy workload on the ground, and especially, receiving out of the backfield. Don’t look for Campbell to air it out.
The key for the 49ers offense is to get Alex Smith suited up. Even though Colin Kappernick proved last week that he is a dual threat through the air and on the ground, the back-up still doesn’t look comfortable in the pocket, a problem against as good as defense as the Bears. The Bears are on a record pace for takeaways and points scored by a defense this season. With Smith in the game, 49er fans could see better fantasy numbers out of all the Niners offense, including Frank Gore. Without Smith’s threat to throw down field, the Bears defense will creep up on running plays and blitz more. One thing for sure is that the harder it rains, the less offensive production we will see out of both offenses. Although any amount of moisture on Candlestick's fragile surface, which is located below sea level, could make for a messy game.
In what is sure to be a defensive struggle, this is a big game for both teams to see who is tops in the NFC. The big question is, which defense will force more turnovers? At the moment, advantage Bears. Rain or shine, expect a low scoring game. But if the Niners can get Alex Smith on the field, the San Francisco 49ers are definitely favored at home.
Chris Lovi, Columnist
NFP (at) NFLWeather.com