The Bears (2-2) look to continue their perfect record away from home as they travel to Charlotte to take on the Panthers (2-2). Here is a breakdown of the Week 5 opponent:
What's new: Five wide receivers were selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The final choice of that quintet was Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin, a Florida State product whom Carolina selected with the 28th overall pick. Through four weeks, Benjamin's 329 receiving yards and three touchdowns lead all first-year players, as he quickly has become one of quarterback Cam Newton's top targets. Standing 6-foot-5, Benjamin has proven to be a tough matchup for opposing defenders. He has hauled in touchdowns in each of the last two games and is averaging more than 15 yards per reception on the year.
What's old:** Only 23, it seems odd to call Luke Kuechly 'old.' But in the world of pro football, there is nothing new about the Panthers linebacker putting up big numbers. The Panthers middle linebacker has 46 tackles on the season, a year after he made 156 of them en route to winning the AP's Defensive Player of the Year award. Strong against both the pass and run, Kuechly always seems to be in the middle of the action and is a player offenses must account for on every down.
Last time out: The Panthers had no answer for a player they know quite well, as the team fell to Baltimore 38-10 in Week 4. Ravens receiver Steve Smith, who left Carolina in the offseason after spending the first 13 seasons of his career there, torched his former team for 139 yards and two touchdowns. On offense, Carolina's run game was unable to do much, averaging 2.6 yards per carry with a long run of only seven yards on the afternoon. It was the second straight loss for the Panthers after they won their first two games of the season.
Series history: The Panthers celebrating the team's 20th anniversary this season. During that span, they have faced the Bears eight times, with Chicago holding a 5-3 edge in the all-time series. The last meeting took place on Oct. 28, 2012 at Soldier Field, a game the Bears won 23-22 thanks to heroic fourth-quarter rally. Trailing by 17 heading into the fourth quarter, the Bears scored two touchdowns – on a Jay Cutler pass and a Tim Jennings interception return – in an eight-second span to make it close. Robbie Gould then drilled a 41-yard field goal as time expired to give the Bears the win.
Ex-factor: It all starts with Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who both played and coached for the Bears. Rivera started 56 games at linebacker from 1984-1992 for Chicago and also served as the team's defensive coordinator from 2004-2006. On the roster, the Panthers have one former Bear in tight end Greg Olsen. He was Chicago's first-round draft choice in 2006 and spent four seasons with the team before being traded to Carolina in 2011. The Bears have two ex-Panthers on the team, in quarterback Jimmy Clausen and tight end Dante Rosario.
Injury report: Carolina is banged up at running back, with its top four players at the position all hurt. Jonathan Stewart (sprained knee), Mike Tolbert (fractured leg) and Fozzy Whittaker (quad) all missed the matchup with Baltimore, while starter DeAngelo Williams injured his foot in the contest and had to leave the game early. Of the four, Stewart seems the most likely to play Sunday, but his status is unknown.
Did you know?: In July of 2011, the Bears dealt Olsen to the Panthers, acquiring just a third-round draft choice in response. The deal seemed like a bad one at the time for Chicago, especially after the tight end had 540 receiving yards and five touchdowns in the 2011 season. The Bears never ended up using the Panthers' draft choice, however. In March, 2012, Chicago traded a pair of third-round picks – their own in 2013 and Carolina's in 2012 – to Miami. In exchange, the Bears got a different pass-catcher back from the Dolphins: wide receiver Brandon Marshall.