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When Jay Cutler Isn't Being Sacked, Who Will He Throw The Ball To?

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If you didn't watch the Saints defeat the Chicago Bears last week, then it might be hard to appreciate the beating that QB Jay Cutler in the fourth quarter. Near the end, I wanted Lovie Smith to throw in the towel. On Wednesday, Cutler admitted to reporters he doesn't know whether he can make it through the entire season if he keeps getting hit like that.

The Bears will be down at least one lineman against the Green Bay Packers pass rush, but their receiving corps is growing thin too with WR Earl Bennett out due to a torso injury. From ESPN:

Bennett's history with quarterback Jay Cutler has been well-established, and the injury leaves Cutler throwing to a decimated group of pass-catchers. Receiver Roy Williams missed last week's game against the New Orleans Saints because of a groin injury, and his status is uncertain for Sunday's matchup with the Packers.

With Bennett sidelined, undrafted rookie Dane Sanzenbacher will see increased playing time in the slot. The Bears' two healthy veteran receivers are Johnny Knox and Devin Hester, who combined to catch three of the 15 passes Cutler threw their way against the Saints. 

Against the Packers last season, Bennett had two games in which he had 3 receptions (on 5 targets) each, and he can sometimes be a pest. Another pest has been TE Greg Olsen, who the Bears helpfully traded away. Under Mike Martz, the tight end is often left back to block anyway, so I don't expect his replacement to have a big game either. Hester is a great returner, but he was absolutely useless against the Packers last season as a receiver (3 games, 2 receptions, 14 targets). Knox had a couple big receptions last season, but he also had a 0 reception, 8 target stinker in Week 17.

The key will be stopping RB Matt Forte. He's had 20 receptions in his last 3 games against the Packers. Their hopes are very dim if they're going to rely heavily on the rookie Sanzenbacher (3 receptions on 7 targets last week against the Saints). 

The Packers pass defense will miss S Nick Collins, but it doesn't look like the Bears can do much to take advantage of his absence.