PRIME TIME PICK: Bears flush Panthers in Thursday Toilet Bowl that should have been flexed

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CAROLINA PANTHERS (1-7) at CHICAGO BEARS (2-7)

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LINE: Chicago by 3.5

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CHEWABLE: The Bears were tied 14-14 with the Saints at halftime last Sunday when The NFL Today’s esteemed Boomer Esiason boldly stated “Chicago is going to have a quarterback decision to make when Justin Fields is ready to return from injury.”

His co-panelist, the esteemed Bill Cowher, endorsed the sentiment.

At that point, I wondered what strain of dope those two dopes … I mean expert analysts … had been smoking.

Not long after that, Tyson Bagent lost the game for the Bears in the fourth quarter, throwing two interceptions (his second and third of the day) and adding a fumble in a 24-17 final.

Hey, I like The Secret Bagent Man, but Sunday was the one-year anniversary of his record-setting day against East Stroudsburg Warriors in a Division II game. He has surprised a lot of people while Fields has been sidelined by a dislocated thumb, but along with his 1-2 record as a starter and his 67.7 completion percentage over four appearances, he has thrown six interceptions to go along with three touchdown passes.

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Give your head a shake if you think that he’d be a better option than the 11th-overall pick of the 2021 draft.

Fields may be able to play in this epic Toilet Bowl battle between two teams that have a combined 3-14 record this season (they couldn’t flex this game?) but even if he doesn’t, TSBM should be able to shred the Panthers like they were the Warriors, especially with outstanding edge rusher Brian Burns entering concussion protocol and adding to the woes of Carolina’s injury-ravaged defence.

— Talk about this being a “revenge game” for D.J. Moore also seems strange. He wants to make the Panthers pay for trading him out of that mess? At least the Bears should be able to talk about a playoff spot next season, especially if they wind up with the first-overall pick courtesy of their trade with the Panthers (that centred around the 2023 first-overall pick for Moore) to go along with their own high selection.

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Moore already has three 100+ yard games (including a 230-yard day) and should add to that total against the 27th-ranked Carolina pass defence, no matter who’s throwing him passes.

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— Surely the Panthers are beginning to second guess their decision to draft Bryce Young instead of C.J. Stroud — especially after last week. While Stroud was throwing for 470 yards and five touchdowns (zero interceptions) in the Texans’ come-from-behind, 39-37 over Tampa, Young threw for 173 yards, one TD and three picks, including a pair of pick-sixes, in a 27-13 loss to the Colts.

Stroud has 2,270 passing yards along with 14 TD tosses and one pick, while Young has 1,375 passing yards, eight TD passes and seven picks.

— Can the Panthers take advantage of the Bears’ propensity for giveaways with a league-leading 18 of them? Maybe not. Carolina is second last in the takeaway department with seven.

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— Before expecting Young to have success via the air against a Bears pass defence that ranks 28th, know that Chicago’s previously battered secondary is now healthy and the addition of Montez Sweat gives the Bears at least a hint of a pass rush where none was present before.

— The Panthers have given up 84 points in their past two road games and have been outscored 145-82 while going 0-4 as visitors.

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— As Carolina’s lead back the past three games, Edmonton product Chuba Hubbard has averaged 16.7 carries for 58 yards, but he’ll be in tough to match those pedestrian numbers against the Bears fourth-ranked run defence.

— D’Onta Foreman and Roschon Johnson should be productive against a Panthers run defence than ranks 28th.

— The Bears have won five of the past six meetings and that trend will continue in the not-so-hotly anticipated Week 10 opener.

TAKING: CHICAGO +3.5

SCORE (O/U 39): Bears 27, Panthers 17

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