Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. (grass, indoors)
When: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)
Spread: Bears by 5 1/2
2012 records: Bears (Overall: 8-6; 2-3 NFC North); Cardinals (Overall: 5-9; 1-4 NFC West)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Nov. 8, 2009, Cardinals 41, Bears 21; Oct. 16, 2006, Bears 24, Cardinals 23. Series record: Bears lead 57-27-6.
What matters: The Bears' slide continues with five losses in six games as they play the first of two road games that could decide the fate of head coach Lovie Smith. They need two wins, and Sunday they also would benefit greatly if the Giants lost to the Ravens and the Vikings lost to Houston. And it certainly wouldn't hurt if Seattle lost to San Francisco, Dallas lost to New Orleans, and Washington lost to Philadelphia. But the keys are a Bears win combined with Giants and Vikings losses. The Cardinals come in off a 38-10 rout of Detroit at home, snapping a nine-game losing streak. It's hard to believe now, but the Cardinals were once 4-0. The Bears seek to avoid becoming the second 7-1 team to miss the playoffs since 1996. The Bears are only 2-6 against teams currently in playoff positions (wins over Minnesota, Indianapolis) but 6-0 against mediocre or poor teams.
Who matters: QB Jay Cutler hopes to reverse a trend that includes a 71.8 passer rating, five TD passes and six INTs during the six-game stretch that includes five defeats. He'll be protected by the sixth different offensive line he's had in six weeks, with Gabe Carimi likely to start at right tackle, Chris Spencer at right guard, James Brown at left guard and only two opening day starters at their spots (LT J'Marcus Webb, C Roberto Garza). ... Cutler is expected to have one more target back as WR Earl Bennett returns from a concussion. ... Expect RB Matt Forte to get a heavier workload than he has been getting since the Cardinals are just 28th stopping the run. ... CB Tim Jennings, the NFL interception leader (eight) and DT Henry Melton (six sacks) are expected to return to the defensive lineup. Jennings had a shoulder injury and Melton a collarbone injury. It's likely Kelvin Hayden would then move back to nickel back with D.J. Moore going to the bench. The Bears' sixth-ranked defense goes up against a Cardinals offense led by QB Ryan Lindley, who has thrown six INTs and no TD passes. The Cardinals are last in rushing yards and 29th in passing yards.
Key matchups: Bears WR Brandon Marshall on Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson. At 6-1, 219, Peterson has the size and the speed to cover the 6-5 Marshall man to man when the Cardinals go to one of their many linebacker blitzes; they're particularly fond of bringing the two inside backers in the 3-4. It won't help Marshall that he was bothered late in the week by a tight hamstring. Peterson is second in the NFL with seven INTs and has one in each of the last four games. Because the Cardinals use a 3-4, they're likely to try some of the tactics Green Bay and San Francisco did with bracketing of Marshall. ... Bears RG Chris Spencer blocking ILB Daryl Washington. The Cardinals will likely bring Washington, who has a team-high nine sacks, in an attempt to get pressure up the middle on Cutler. Spencer has moved around between left and right guard since coming to the Bears as a center. Whether he can cope with Washington's speed, especially coming off a knee injury, is a big issue. ... Bears DE Julius Peppers on Cardinals LT Nate Potter. Peppers stepped up his pass rush last week against Green Bay and has a team-high 8.5. Potter is a big, quick but light (295) rookie from Boise State who has started just the last five games. However, the Cardinals pass blocking has improved greatly since he began playing. They've given up a league-worst 52 sacks, but only 11 in five starts by Potter. Expect more bull rushes than normal by Peppers.
Injuries of note: LB Brian Urlacher (hamstring) will be replaced for the third straight game by Nick Roach in the middle with Geno Hayes likely to step in at Roach's strong-side spot. ... T Jonathan Scott (hamstring) likely won't play and Carimi will be back in a starting tackle spot where he had been struggling before being benched, and then moved to guard due to line injuries. ... Marshall's tight hamstring will be watched closely to keep him healthy for
the Detroit game and possibly the playoffs.
Inside stuff: The Bears have only a 2-4 record against teams employing 3-4 defensive schemes and continue to have problems running against those schemes. They average 101 yards a game against 3-4s and 133.5 against 4-3s.
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Stat you should know: It's a game pitting the two worst teams on first down in the NFL. The Bears average 4.32 yards on first downs and Arizona averages only 4.21 yards, resulting in both offenses getting into holes all the time.
Record watch: Marshall needs three receiving yards to set the Bears single-season receiving yardage record (1,400, Marcus Robinson, 1999). ... Hester still needs one TD to tie Deion Sanders for most career TD returns of any kind ... Jennings needs three INTs to break the Bears single-season mark of 10 (Mark Carrier, 1990).
Looking ahead: The Bears close the regular season Dec. 30 at Detroit in a 1 p.m. ET game, hoping that they'll be playing a road wild card game in January.
Prediction: Bears 16, Cardinals 10.
Follow Bears reporter Gene Chamberlain on Twitter @CBSBears.