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5 questions with Windy City Gridiron: Panthers front seven ‘spells trouble for a Bears team that wants to run the football’

The Panthers will have a much better chance of leaving Chicago with a win if they can shut down the Bears’ rushing attack.

To get us prepared for Sunday’s game against ol’ Foxy and the Bears, I spoke with Jeff Berckes of Windy City Gridiron to get his thoughts on a few questions I had. You can read the Q&A below, and be sure to check out Windy City Gridiron for my answers to his questions.

The Bears are currently last in the NFC North at 2-4, but with the news that Aaron Rodgers will miss significant time the division is now wide open. Do you think the Bears can make a run and steal a division title? Why or why not?

No, I really don't see a path for a division title this year. Sans Aaron Rodgers, the Bears might be better than the Packers, true, but they are not better than the Vikings and may not even be able to beat the Lions. The Vikings were my preseason pick to win the division as they have an elite defense and true weapons on offense. Even with the Dalvin Cook injury and Sam Bradford's woes, the Vikings can still be a competitive offense paired with an elite defense and that's more than enough to win this division. The Lions are a high variance team that could make a run if they get hot, but smart money is on the Vikings.

The Bears finally turned the keys over to rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky after Mike Glennon struggled to lead the offense. What are your expectations for Trubisky going forward? Do you think he can be the franchise QB you’ve always wanted?

For this year, all that Bears fans should want to see is progress from game to game. He's going to make bad decisions, he's going to give the ball away, and he's going to lose the mental chess game against exotic defensive looks. Does he learn from those mistakes and get better as the year goes on? That's what I'm looking for. Moving into 2018 and 2019, you'd like to see him take the steps that a guy like Carson Wentz and Marcus Mariota have taken in their respective progressions. Is he the guy? Way too early to know. But he can certainly make throws on the run, which makes you hope he's got some Aaron Rodgers/Russell Wilson in him. He's definitely struggling from the pocket. Part of that is inexperience, part of that is a lack of serious weapons, so I would expect that to improve going forward. Whatever the case is, this franchise is tied to Mitchell Trubisky for the next 4 years at a minimum. I would expect coaching changes in the off-season to go "all-in" on his development.

Are there any unknown players on the Bears roster that Panthers fans should watch for on Sunday?

There are a lot of unknown Bears players to Bears fans this year, not just Panthers fans. Seriously, the Bears have had 14 players record at least one reception this year and there has been a lot of roster churning. But, of the players to note, the Bears are starting Eddie Jackson, rookie out of Alabama, at Free Safety. He's playing a difficult position for a rookie and he's just waiting to take one of those errant Cam Newton rocket throws back to the house. On the other side of the ball, this might be a random answer but focus in on the Bears offensive line. This is a pretty darn good unit and creates a lot of opportunities for Jordan Howard in the run game. O-line play has been a question mark for the Panthers recently so it might be fun to watch a unit that's playing well.

What player or group of players on the Panthers concerns you the most? Which concerns you the least?

I think the obvious answer is Cam Newton as I have recurring nightmares of mobile quarterbacks burning down the house of the Bears defense. However, I'm going to say the Carolina front 7. Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Shaq Thompson, Kawann Short, a resurgent Julius Peppers, and the immovable Star Lotulelei - this spells trouble for a Bears team that wants to run the football.

I'm least concerned with the Panthers offensive line. That Eagles front 7 absolutely dominated the Panthers offensive line last Thursday. While the Bears aren't as talented as the Eagles, the gap isn't that big and I would expect Jonathan Stewart to struggle again this week. Cam will need to make plays with his legs to move the ball.

What’s your final score prediction for the game?

I'm terrible at predictions so I might be jinxing you but 23-20 Panthers. The Bears are a tough out but getting above 20 points is usually all it takes to knock them out. With the extra prep and rest time the Panthers have had since last Thursday, I would expect a hard fought road victory for the Panthers to be the outcome.