The Chicago Bears will again be without starting quarterback Jay Cutler when they visit the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, but so far that has not been a serious issue. Josh McCown has filled in admirably while Cutler has dealt first with a groin injury and now a high ankle sprain, winning both of his starts for Chicago, including last week’s 23-20 overtime victory against Baltimore. McCown has thrown for 488 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in the two starts as the Bears have survived several key injuries to remain in a tie atop the NFC North.
Kellen Clemens has mirrored McCown’s impact for St. Louis, stepping in and performing well when Sam Bradford was lost for the year with an ACL tear. After some initial hiccups against one of the league’s best defenses in Seattle, Clemens has thrown for 457 yards and three scores in his last two games. In an impressive 38-8 win at Indianapolis two weeks ago, Clemens had two long touchdown passes to Tavon Austin, who also had a punt return for a score in a surprising blowout that gives the Rams some momentum coming out of a bye week.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Rams -1, O/U: 45.5
ABOUT THE BEARS (6-4): McCown’s emergence is in line with an emerging theme in Chicago - a number of key players have been lost to injury but Marc Trestman’s squad remains in the thick of the playoff race. Star linebacker Lance Briggs remains out with a shoulder injury but defensive end Shea McClellin (hamstring) went through a full practice on Thursday. Fellow defensive linemen Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea are expected to miss Sunday’s game.
ABOUT THE RAMS (4-6): The Rams still have faint hopes of getting into the wild-card mix, although they will need lots of help and some upsets in a stretch run that includes games at San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle and a home game against New Orleans. That makes the meeting with the Bears a virtual must-win, and to find success St. Louis may lean heavily on standout rookie running back Zac Stacy, who has averaged 107.7 yards in the last three games while scoring three touchdowns. Chicago’s run defense ranks 31st in the NFL, ahead of only Jacksonville.
1. Chicago RB Matt Forte needs 66 rushing yards to move past Neal Anderson and into second place on the team’s career list behind Walter Payton.
2. Bears OG Kyle Long will square off for the first time against his brother, Rams DE Chris Long.
3. Chicago has won the last four meetings.
PREDICTION: Bears 24, Rams 23