The latest news is that Alex Smith has been cleared for non-contact drills after passing all concussion tests, but Cutler has not been cleared, so we will precede under the assumption that Smith and Jason Campbell will be the starting quarterbacks.
The Bears (7-2) are coming off of a hard fought 13-6 loss to the 8-1 Texans in a game dominated by the defenses, while the 49ers were involved in what has become the rarest of rarities, a 24-24 tie vs. the Rams
1. Why San Francisco will cover the spread: The 49ers will cover the spread if they can run the ball well. If you look at the year-to-date stats, this looks like strength against strength, as the 49ers lead the NFL with a whopping 170.0 rushing yards per game while Chicago ranks fourth in rushing defense allowing only 92.6 yards per game. However, that run defense may be springing a few leaks. Yes, allowing 159 rushing yards to Tennessee two weeks ago is excusable when you consider 80 of those yards came on one play late in a 51-20 blowout win. But the Bears then allowed 127 rushing yards to the Texans last week in a game that was close throughout.
2. Why Chicago will cover the spread: The Bears will cover the spread if they win the turnover battle. Now we would be the first to admit that turnover margin is a function of luck most of the time, but Chicago is an exception, at least in regards to the defense forcing turnovers. That is simply in this defense’s culture, and it has led to an incredible eight defensive touchdowns in nine games. The randomness comes in not turning the ball over offensively with a backup quarterback. A second key for the Bears is the same as the primary key for the 49ers, and that is Matt Forte moving the chains on the ground to alleviate some of the pressure on Campbell.
3. Total Talk: This is a game where we can say that we would take the ‘under’ at just about any posted number, as indicated by our projected score below. The 49ers rank seventh in rushing defense and fifth in passing defense, and they should make it basically impossible for the Bears to run the ball without respecting the pass. We are not crazy about Campbell’s chances for success either, so kicker Robbie Gould may do all of the Bears’ scoring. At least San Francisco may eke out one touchdown if the run can set up Smith to make a few throws vs. a tough, physical defense. Still, we have no real opinion ATS without knowing the line.
4. Betting Trends for 49ERS/BEARS: If the 49ers are favored by more than a field goal, they are 7-2 ATS when favored by 3½ points or more under Jim Harbaugh. The ‘under’ is 13-3 in the 49ers’ last 16 games after allowing more than 150 rushing yards in the previous game..
San Francisco 16, Chicago 9