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NFL Preview - Chicago (6-4) at St. Louis (4-6)



By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Bears will try to keep pace in the tight NFC North when they visit the St. Louis Rams Sunday.

The Bears and Detroit Lions both have identical 6-4 records and the Green Bay Packers are right behind at 5-5. The Bears will not have quarterback Jay Cutler on Sunday because of a high ankle sprain suffered in a Week 10 loss to the Lions and he missed this past Sunday's 23-20 overtime win versus Baltimore.

Cutler left Chicago's 45-41 loss against the Washington Redskins in Week 7 with a torn muscle in his groin and returned to action against Detroit three weeks later before exiting with the ankle injury.

Josh McCown, who has made two starts and two relief appearances this season in place of Cutler, has completed 61-of-101 passes for 754 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Bears are 2-0 in McCown's starts, but Cutler will return to the starting role when healthy.

"Jay is the quarterback of our football team and Josh is our backup, and all three of us know that," Bears coach Marc Trestman said Monday.

In a game delayed for almost two hours because of a lightning storm, McCown passed for 216 yards and a touchdown and Matt Forte had a busy day with 83 yards rushing on 18 carries and 42 yards and a touchdown on five receptions. Robbie Gould nailed a 38-yard field goal in overtime to win it for Chicago, which has alternated results in the last six contests.

Chicago rallied from a 10-0 deficit at halftime and defensive end David Bass had a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter to key the comeback.

"We always talk to our players about creating turnovers and not turning the ball over, and we did a very good job of that today," Trestman said. "I think that allowed us to stay in the game and be in the game."

The Bears will play two straight and four of the next five games on the road, and are 2-2 away from Soldier Field.

St. Louis is coming off its bye week and halted a three-game slide with an improbable 38-8 rout of the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 10. The Rams picked off Andrew Luck three times and had four interceptions on the afternoon, while sack master Robert Quinn posted two sacks. Quinn is second in the NFL with 12 sacks, behind Indy's Robert Mathis.

Kellen Clemens threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns and rookie Tavon Austin ended with 138 yards and two scores on just two catches. Austin had a 57-yard score and an 81-yard touchdown for the Rams, who are 4-6 on the season.

"I knew the day was going to come," Austin said. "It was just me being patient and me being true to myself and to keep working. I'm just glad that I had an opportunity."

Zac Stacy carried the ball 26 times for 62 yards and a score in the win.

Clemens, meanwhile, has played well since starting quarterback Sam Bradford was lost for the season in Week 7.

"I think I've gotten more comfortable with each rep, both in practice and in games," Clemens said last week. "Fortunately, we were able to get a win on Sunday. I think I've gotten more comfortable each week, and hopefully we can continue to make plays and be effective on offense."

The Rams trail the all-time series with Chicago, 35-52-3, and have lost the last four meetings between the teams. In the previous meeting between the teams on Sept. 23, 2012, the Bears recorded a 23-6 victory at Soldier Field.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

With Cutler still nursing an ankle injury, McCown will handle snaps in the Gateway City. McCown is a reliable veteran who has plenty of weapons at his disposal in Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

The Bears have faith in McCown, especially now in November when wins are crucial and teams begin to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

"Josh is a leader," Marshall said. "He's one of our captains even though he doesn't have a 'C' on his chest. He's awesome. He's been awesome for us. You can't ask for a better guy to lead the huddle."

Bears center Robert Garza agreed with Marshall's sentiments.

"Josh is a long-time pro," Garza said. "He knows what it takes to get ready for a football game. Without taking any reps and a new offense the entire season, to be able to step in and do what he has, it's a tribute to his preparation and the coaching staff getting him ready for the game."

McCown completed 9 of his 11 passes for 132 yards and 1 TD in the fourth quarter and overtime versus the Ravens.

The Rams are hoping to keep their defensive swagger after what they did to the Colts a few weeks back. Quinn will try to add to his sack total and linebacker James Laurinaitis keeps the defense intact.

"I take a lot of pride in my preparation and taking care of my body and being available," Laurinaitis said on the team's website. "I take a lot of pride in being a guy that, when coaches go to bed at night, they're not worried about if I'm going to be in the right gap or whether I'm going to make the right checks on my calls. They have other people to worry about and I've always prided myself on that."

Chicago will have to worry about the athletic Laurinaitis, who leads the Rams with 75 tackles. He had eight stops against the Colts and one of the defenses four interceptions. Laurinaitis and cornerback Trumaine Johnson lead St. Louis with two picks apiece.

Rams veteran defensive end Chris Long will face his younger brother, Kyle, who is a rookie guard for the Bears. Chris Long has 6 1/2 sacks this season.

"It's a dream come true for me to be able to look across the line of scrimmage and think my older brother and I are two of the few people on this earth to play in the NFL," Kyle Long said. "We're privileged and blessed."

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Even though there's no sex appeal when it comes to Sunday's quarterback matchup, the Bears and Rams are still fighting to stay alive in the playoff hunt. The Bears have a better chance with their 6-4 record and first-place credentials, while St. Louis has a pulse at 4-6.

The Rams will most likely need to win out in order to have a shot at the postseason and that won't occur Sunday. They may have exhausted the chance of staying on track with that huge win over Luck and the Colts, so this week will be a downer for the Rams.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bears 24, Rams 17

11/21 12:55:26 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
NCCU 65
EILL 40
 
2nd
NCSU 54
BSU 52
 
2nd Intermission
PIT 2
CAR 2
 
4th
CHA 80
GSW 74
 
1st
UF 18
UNC 34
 
1st
TULSA 0
ECU 7
 
Final
BOS 102
CHI 109
4th
CHA 80
GSW 74
 
Half
TOR 43
DAL 48
 
Half
DET 45
MIL 53
 
3rd
ATL 41
NOP 30
 
2nd
HOU 30
LAC 40
 
2nd
OKC 40
NYK 15
 
2nd
IND 37
ORL 34
 
1st
SAN 10
SAC 10
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
PHO
10:00pm Tonight
POR
MEM
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
MIN
Final
WMICH 21
NILL 31
Final
SMU 9
HOU 35
Final
IOWA 34
NEB 37
Final
SFLA 0
UCF 16
Final
MARS 66
WKENT 67
Final
KSU 27
AKR 24
Final
BGU 24
BST 41
Final
UMASS 21
BUF 41
Final
EMICH 16
TOL 52
Final
MIZZ 21
ARK 14
Final
SALABAMA 40
NAVY 42
Final
ARZ 42
ARST 35
Final
AFA 27
COLST 24
Final
UCLA 10
STAN 31
2nd
VT 3
UVA 3
 
1st
TULSA 0
ECU 7
 
Final
NCCU 65
EILL 40
 
Final
KU 82
TENN 67
Final
TEXAM 87
NO 65
 
Final
NCAT 57
RAD 65
 
Final
GEOR 58
BUT 64
Final
BRO 81
PVU 71
Final
RIU 66
SCU 44
Final
NARZ 70
SOUTH 63
Final
DART 68
MAST 67
Final
WRST 59
FIU 61
Final
XAV 73
UTEP 77
Final
OSU 73
JMU 56
Final
TXSOU 71
LAM 59
 
Final
TAMCC 75
MVSU 66
 
Final
AKAN 51
MIZST 55
Final
BUCK 80
PSU 88
 
Final
PROV 72
YALE 66
Final
UGA 62
MINN 66
Final
WISC 69
OKLA 56
Final
Terriers 70
NORST 72
 
Final
PEAY 62
STEPH 83
Final
FSU 58
CSOU 47
 
Final
VALPO 66
DRAK 46
 
Final
CIN 69
MTST 51
Final
SDU 75
PRIN 65
Final
WASU 76
RICE 74
 
Final
CSFU 64
USCU 79
 
Final
GT 61
RIDE 54
 
2nd
TXPA 74
ALAST 85
 
2nd
NCSU 54
BSU 52
 
2nd
TCU 44
BRAD 42
 
2nd
WAKE 59
DELST 63
 
Final
HART 83
EMERSON 50
 
2nd
STJ 46
GONZ 56
 
2nd
CLEM 54
HIGH 51
 
2nd
SYR 62
HC 40
 
2nd
MD 50
MON 44
 
2nd
JVST 62
SAV 57
 
2nd
MIAMI 87
SALA 75
 
2nd
RUTG 59
VANDY 55
 
Half
PETE 42
TENST 33
 
Half
MARS 22
CLST 33
 
Half
JST 25
HOF 37
 
1st
INDST 21
MEM 37
 
1st
UF 18
UNC 34
 
1st
LATU 25
SAMF 20
 
Half
TULA 43
SELA 37
 
Half
NEB 40
TENNM 27
 
1st
MISS 11
CREI 8
 
1st
PORT 12
MURST 13
 
9:00pm Tonight
MARQ
MSU
9:00pm Tonight
ARK
UNT
9:00pm Tonight
NCOL
STET
 
9:00pm Tonight
IND
UNCG
9:00pm Tonight
SJST
WMICH
9:05pm Tonight
MNTST
TXARL
9:30pm Tonight
UVA
LAS
9:30pm Tonight
STLU
MSST
9:30pm Tonight
COLST
PAC
10:00pm Tonight
UTAH
NDAK
10:30pm Tonight
ILL
BAY
10:30pm Tonight
UAB
UCLA
11:30pm Tonight
WASH
LBSU
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
MERC
Final
PHI 0
NYR 3
Final
ANA 1
CHI 4
Final
WAS 5
NYI 2
2nd Intermission
PIT 2
CAR 2
 
2nd
NJD 4
DET 3
 
2nd Intermission
BUF 1
MON 0
 
2nd Intermission
CLB 0
VAN 1
 
2nd Intermission
BOS 0
WIN 1
 
2nd
FLA 1
OTT 2
 
1st Intermission
STL 1
EDM 0
 
1st
DAL 0
MIN 0