Carolina hosts the 4-1 Bears at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Sunday; the Panthers are looking to improve their win streak to four games.
Carolina is 3-2 after a 23-16 win at Atlanta last Sunday. The Panthers have won three straight games after an 0-2 start to the season. The Bears, meanwhile, are 4-1 and come into Sunday’s matchup on 10 days rest after defeating Tampa Bay, 20-19, last Thursday.
Both the Panthers and the Bears are in a tie for first place within their respective divisions.
In a blow to the team’s defensive front, Carolina tackle Kawann Short needs season-ending surgery on his right shoulder. Short, 31, missed the final 14 games of the 2019 season after tearing the rotator cuff in his left shoulder. The two-time Pro Bowler has been a full-time starter since 2015.
It’s possible Short (6-3, 315 pounds) has played his last game with the Panthers. He’s signed through the end of the 2021 season, so the Panthers would have to take a dead cap hit of just over $11 million in they part ways early.
Carolina could also be without defensive end Brian Burns against Chicago. Burns suffered a concussion in the first half of the Panthers’ victory in Atlanta on Sunday. The 6-5, 250-pound defensive end was listed as a limited participant at Thursday’s practice, but his status for this Sunday’s game is still up in the air.
The 22-year-old Burns was a first-round pick in 2019 and has been productive when healthy. Burns has 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 21 career games (10 starts).
Ground gameCarolina’s biggest weakness this season has been stopping the run. Carolina currently ranks 25th (out of 32) in the league in run defense, allowing 133.4 yards per game so far this season.
Through four games, the Bears are averaging 95.4 rushing yards per game, which ranks 27th in the league. Second-year running back David Montgomery has struggled this season, currently averaging less than 50 yards per game and under four yards per carry.
The Bears ran for a season-low 35 yards against Tampa last Thursday, while Carolina gave up 166 on the ground against Atlanta.
Teddy TerrificThe league-leader in completion percentage through five weeks is Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has completed 73.4% of his throws (130-of-177) for 1,460 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions this season.
Carolina signed the 27-year-old Bridgewater to a two-year deal, but if the Panthers hadn’t, he might have wound up on the opposite sideline from them this weekend. A few days before Bridgewater signed his deal to come to Charlotte, he met with the Bears in Chicago.
Meanwhile, Chicago has struggled to get consistent play out of the quarterback position this season. Former UNC quarterback Mitchell Trubisky started the year, but he was eventually benched for Nick Foles during the Bears’ win over the Falcons in Week 3. In two and a half games, Foles has completed 72-of-113 passes for 680 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.