What a difference a year makes. Maybe.
Last December, the Seahawks came to Chicago and went to halftime down 14-7 to the Bears. After starting 7-3, including five straight wins in which they averaged 32 points a game, the Bears were on cruise control to the playoffs.
But as all Bears fans remember and would love to forget, Jay Cutler went down, and then Matt Forte, and when Seattle came to town the Monsters were mired in a three-game skid.
At halftime there was hope, then the second half happened. Caleb Hanie threw a pair of pick-sixes, and the Bears couldn't sniff the end zone on their way to a 38-14 loss. Brutal, to say the least.
This year, the Bears have Cutler for the matchup – though after his concussion a few weeks back, he's a constant threat to see time on the sideline. And they have Brandon Marshall, who is on his way to the Pro Bowl as well as all kinds of Bears receiving records.
But the real worry for the Bears is the injuries that are piling up elsewhere. Forte will be gimpy at best after an ankle injury last week, and could miss the game at worst. Devin Hester, while not a huge threat on offense, could be out after a concussion.
On the defensive side, the real concern is Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs both walking wounded.
So while it seems a major stretch that the Bears could be up at halftime this week and tank in the second the way they did last year, the injury bug biting again is definite reason for concern for the Bears down the stretch again.
If they have to limp into the playoffs, so be it – as long as their stars are healthy by the time the calendar turns, anything can happen in January.
Seattle (6-5) at BEARS (8-3)
Noon Sunday, Fox. Bears -3.5 (37.5)
The skinny: The Bears will have to shut down Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch again this year and make Seattle beat them through the air. Last year, Lynch got in the end zone twice. But apart from one 15-yard gallop, his other 19 carries went for just 27 yards. The Seahawks are 1-5 on the road this year, so look for the Bears go jump out big early like last week and then settle in and play it safe.
MattE’s pick: Bears 29, Seahawks 16.
COLTS (7-4) at Detroit (4-7)
Noon Sunday. Lions -4.5 (51)
The skinny: This game has shootout written all over it, the type of game where each team puts up 500 yards of offense and comes down to whoever has the ball last. The Lions are better rested, though, and plenty peeved after losing yet another Turkey Day game – this time one they should have won if not for a weird challenge technicality. The Colts are so much better than anyone expected, it's hard to see the Lions losing three straight at home.
MattE’s pick: Lions 37, Colts 30.
Minnesota (6-5) at Green Bay (7-4)
Noon Sunday. Packers -8 (46.5)
The skinny: In Minneapolis, you might give the Vikings a sporting chance. At Lambeau Field, in December, after the Packers got absolutely shelled on the road against the Giants, forget it.
MattE’s pick: Packers 41, Vikings 13.
Jacksonville (2-9) at Buffalo (4-7)
Noon Sunday. Bills -6 (45)
The skinny: It's way too late for them, but watch out again for the sneaky Jags. They nearly beat the Texans, then defeated the Titans last week. With Chad Henne under center, they've looked like a different team. And the Bills, by the way, have looked awful. Jacksonville is primed for another upset.
MattE’s pick: Jaguars 24, Bills 20.
Houston (10-1) at Tennessee (4-7)
Noon Sunday. Texans -6 (47)
The skinny: Think the Texans were glad for a little extra rest? They needed almost five quarters to beat the Jaguars, then on just three full days of rest needed nearly five more to beat the Lions in overtime on Thanksgiving. Those two close wins that were expected to be blowouts have oddsmakers pulling back a little bit – needlessly. The Texans are my lock of the week.
MattE’s pick: Texans 31, Titans 13.
Carolina (3-8) at Kansas City (1-10)
Noon Sunday. Panthers -3 (40.5)
The skinny: What does it say about the Eagles that Carolina was a 3-point favorite on the road in Philly – but only a 3-point favorite on the road in K.C., where the Chiefs have yet to win this season? Panthers QB Cam Newton was outstanding against the Eagles on Monday night, and he'll carry them again.
MattE’s pick: Panthers 29, Chiefs 16.
San Francisco (8-2-1) at St. Louis (4-6-1)
Noon Sunday. 49ers -7 (40)
The skinny: It looks like the Niners are really doing it – replacing their starting QB in the middle of the season for the hotter hand. It may prove costly. The Rams are better than their record shows, and last week they picked off four Arizona passes on the road. If Colin Kaepernick gets at all sloppy, it could be trouble for San Fran in the Kiss Your Sister Rematch from their tie game earlier this month on the West Coast.
MattE’s pick: 49ers 23, Rams 20.
New England (8-3) at Miami (5-6)
Noon Sunday. Patriots -7.5 (51)
The skinny: The Pats have won five straight, averaging 44 points per game, and Tom Brady has played flawlessly. He hasn't thrown a pick in that stretch and has a 24/3 touchdown/interception ratio this season. When the Patriots win, they average a 21-point victory. Their three losses have been by a combined four points. Records say otherwise, but it's hard to not think of them as the best team in the NFL again.
MattE’s pick: Patriots 37, Dolphins 17.
Arizona (4-7) at N.Y. Jets (4-7)
Noon Sunday. Jets -4.5 (36.5)
The skinny: You were right to be amazed by the Cardinals' 4-0 start to the season, because since then, they've fallen back to truly terrible. The Jets have been a debacle, as well, but playing at home, they'll at least get to salvage some dignity for the 2012 season. Take the over – it may get there on interception return TDs alone.
MattE’s pick: Jets 27, Cardinals 17.
Tampa Bay (6-5) at Denver (8-3)
3:05 p.m. Sunday. Broncos -7 (51)
The skinny: The Bucs have been masterful at keeping games close when they're not supposed to. But even though the Broncos looked a little subpar against the Chiefs last week, they should have little trouble winning their seventh straight behind Peyton Manning.
MattE’s pick: Broncos 31, Bucs 21.
Cleveland (3-8) at Oakland (3-8)
3:25 p.m. Sunday, Fox. Raiders -1.5 (45)
The skinny: The Raiders have been awful lately, and the Browns are riding high after a win over Pittsburgh in which they got eight turnovers. But they're horrendous on the road the last two years, and Oakland isn't exactly a very welcoming environment for visitors.
MattE’s pick: Raiders 26, Browns 20.
Cincinnati (6-5) at San Diego (4-7)
3:25 p.m. Sunday. Bengals -2.5 (46.5)
The skinny: The Chargers' one win the past two months came against Kansas City, and the Bengals are streaking behind QB Andy Dalton, who has been perfect lately. Still, something tells me the Chargers have just a tiny bit left in the tank.
MattE’s pick: Chargers 28, Bengals 24.
Pittsburgh (6-5) at Baltimore (9-2)
3:25 p.m. Sunday, CBS. NL (NL)
The skinny: If the Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger back, they stand a chance. But just a chance. The Ravens are unbeaten at home, and even if Big Ben is in there, they'll be getting after him. Pittsburgh's defense should be able to hold the Ravens down compared to what they usually do at home, but that won't matter.
MattE’s pick: Ravens 27, Steelers 17.
Philadelphia (3-8) at Dallas (5-6)
7:20 p.m. Sunday, NBC. Cowboys -10 (43)
The skinny: The Cowboys have been miserable at home. They haven't been much better on the road, come to think of it. But true misery lies in Philadelphia right now. Trusting the Cowboys to cover a 10-point spread when they haven't covered a single spread at home all season is dicey. But with the extra rest after their Thanksgiving debacle, they finally should put everything together.
MattE’s pick: Cowboys 29, Eagles 16.
N.Y. Giants (7-4) at Washington (5-6)
7:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN. Giants -2.5 (51)
The skinny: The Giants looked very much back on track in Sunday's rout of the Packers. But the name of the game this week will be containing Redskins QB Robert Griffin III. If they can do that, they should be OK even without Andre Brown.
MattE’s pick: Giants 27, Redskins 23.
Last week: 10-6 straight up, 7-7-2 against the spread. Season: 113-62-1 (.642) straight up, 91-82-3 (.517) against the spread.
Matt Erickson is an award-winning journalist whose NFL picks have appeared in The Times for 10 seasons. He also covers mixed martial arts for The Times, USA Today and is the assistant editor of MMAjunkie.com.