1. How well do you foresee Jonathan Scott and Chris Spencer performing on the offensive line?
Jeremy Stoltz, publisher, BearReport.com: One thing is for sure: those two can't do any worse then the players they are replacing. Spencer struggled out of the gates this year but he was a very good lineman last season. I believe the time off has done him well and he'll come out and perform at a serviceable level. Scott, on the other hand, doesn't instill as much hope. Pro Football Focus graded him as the 64th best offensive tackle in the league last year, one spot ahead of J'Marcus Webb. That said, Scott is a veteran who has started 30 games in his career. I don't think he'll be overwhelmed, as Gabe Carimi has been all season, but I'm not expecting Scott to suddenly turn into a Pro Bowler. All he has to do is not be horrible and he'll provide an upgrade.
Brett Solesky, publisher, MidwayIllustrated.com: Spencer I think will be back to awful and likely worse than Rachal. Overall Rachal played well but had a really bad game against Justin Smith one of the best interior players in the NFL over the last few seasons. I was surprised to see Rachal benched so quickly. Even more surprising is Tice's move back to Spencer rather than giving Edwin Williams a shot who was a pretty good performer at left guard last season. Spencer very well could be worse than Rachal was.
2. Mike Tice reported that it would take a few games for Gabe Carimi's knee to get into playing shape. We're now 10 games into the season. Do you think Carimi's knee is worse off now than at the start of the season because of the grind of playing on it?
JS: Tough to say, as I'm not a doctor. What I do know is that the knee was obviously hindering him in training camp and Mike Tice said as much at the time. What makes me think it has worsened is the fact Carimi has gotten worse as the season has progressed. The one positive of him getting benched will be the time he'll now have to let the knee rest, although it's very unlikely at this point if he'll ever get back to 100 percent.
BS: I said when Carimi was drafted he was going to struggle in pass protection against NFL level speed. I stand by that statement that Carimi has lead feet and his problems in pass protection don't surprise me the least bit. I didn't expect him to be this bad, but there isn't any real big revelation to his inability to get a good set because he doesn't have quick feet and he doesn't have good balance as a pass blocker.
3. Nine games into Shea McClellin's career how would you characterize his impact on the Bears?
JS: Minimal. My biggest worry about McClellin as a first-round pick was his inability to play the run. He has done nothing to prove me wrong. As a situational pass rusher, he's shown flashes of potential but overall, he's been a disappointment. Through nine games played, he has just nine total tackles and 2.5 sacks. I stand by my analysis of him coming out of college: McClellin is a better fit in a 3-4 scheme and was a big reach for the Bears at 19th overall.
BS: After a quick start McClellin has disappeared for the most part showing just that he's a one dimensional rusher with a lot to learn if he's ever going to succeed. Right now based on what he's shown thus far in his NFL career I don't think he should have been drafted until the third round at a minimum. The fact that Phil Emery appears to have taken a big reach with his first round pick and he's supposed to be a draft guru really worries me moving forward.
4. Do you think the Bears' offense will get back on track against the Vikings?
JS: I definitely think they'll play better than they have the past two weeks, yet that's not saying a whole lot. I have preached patience with this group all season but at this point, my hope for the offense has waned to almost nothing. I don't think Spencer and Scott will provide a huge boost, so why should we expect anything to drastically change? The issues with the offensive line, the play calling and design, and the fact no one wants to step up and be the No. 2 wideout, are too much to fix in just one week.
BS: No I don't think the Bears' offense was ever on track in the first place. I have been extremely critical of the Bears' offense from day one and they haven't improved much since the first game. What you see is what you get with this offense and they are going to struggle to put points on the board the rest of the season. At this point the Bears would have been better off keeping Mike Martz over Mike Tice, especially considering Tice takes more shots down the field than Martz did. There's no rhyme or reason to this offense and it's inexcusable. The Bears are third overall in the NFL for starting field position on each possession they are third worst in the NFL in yards per drive. They average a little bit over 25 yards per drive. If you ask me the Bears should cut Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and Jason Campbell, and try to use that money on signing OT Ryan Clady.
5. If the Bears lose to the Vikings at home on Sunday do you think they're in danger of missing the playoffs?
JS: Absolutely. If they lose to Minnesota, that would drop Chicago to third in the division and out of a wild card spot. They still have games remaining against Green Bay, Detroit, Seattle and Arizona, plus another matchup with the Vikings in two weeks. On top of that, three of their final four games are on the road. That is tough sledding to say the least. A loss this week, which would be the Bears' third in a row, could send this club into a free fall similar to last season.
BS: I can't believe I'm even considering this as a possibility, but yes if the Bears lose to the Vikings on Sunday I full expect them to miss the playoffs this season. It's gut check time, if the Bears lose they are exposed as overrated and over dependent on their defense. A loss means that it's time to blow this thing up and rebuild and there isn't anyone that's immune from getting the axe.
JS: Bears 23, Vikings 20
BS: Bears 19, Vikings 13 (Get the leg warm Robbie Gould and I hope it's not a windy day in Chicago.)
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Brett Solesky is publisher of MidwayIllustrated.com.