1:00 PM ET, November 20, 2005
Carolina (7-2) at Chicago (6-3), Sunday 1:00 pm EST
Muhammad gets a crack at his old team Sunday when the Bears meet the Panthers in a matchup between the NFC's two hottest clubs.
After failing to work out a contract extension that would have lessened a $10 million bonus due last March, the Panthers waived Muhammad on February 25.
Just one day later, the Bears signed the two-time Pro Bowler to a six-year contract. The deal is worth a guaranteed $10 million and Muhammad is to receive at least $5 million over the first three seasons.
In 2004, Muhammad had 93 catches and set career highs with 1,405 receiving yards and a league-leading 16 touchdowns - 13 more than Chicago's receivers combined for last season.
Muhammad spent his first nine seasons with Carolina and caught 578 passes for 7,751 yards and 44 touchdowns. He had a career-high 102 receptions in 2002 and set the franchise mark with seven 100-yard receiving games last year.
The 32-year-old Muhammad also holds the distinction of scoring the longest touchdown in Super Bowl history, hauling in an 85-yard scoring pass from Jake Delhomme against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII. He had four catches for 140 yards in the 32-29 loss.
With the Bears featuring a conservative offensive approach with rookie quarterback Kyle Orton, Muhammad is not putting up big numbers this season. He still leads the club with 38 catches for 474 yards and two touchdowns.
Thanks to the NFL's top-ranked defense that is allowing just 11.9 points per game and a running game that ranks fifth, Chicago has been a major surprise.
The Bears have won five straight games and hold a two-game lead over both Minnesota and Detroit in the NFC North. They last won six in a row during the 2001 season when they won the NFC Central.
Amid extremely windy conditions, the Bears posted a 17-9 victory over San Francisco last week. Third-string running back Adrian Peterson rushed for a career-high 120 yards and a touchdown.
Peterson saw extended work with the absence of Thomas Jones and rookie Cedric Benson, who suffered a sprained knee ligament in the first half. But Jones, who has rushed for 753 yards and six touchdowns in the first eight games of the season, is expected to return after being sidelined with bruised ribs.
Jones will be tested against the Panthers, who rank fifth against the run and 10th overall in total defense.
The Panthers enter the contest with a six-game winning streak. It is their longest streak since winning seven in a row to close the 1996 season.
Carolina holds a one-game lead over Tampa Bay and Atlanta in the NFC South. Steve Smith has more than made up for Muhammad's absence. He has 58 receptions for 937 yards and nine touchdowns.
Matchup to watch: Smith against right cornerback Nathan Vasher, who returned a missed field goal an NFL-record 108 yards for a touchdown in last week's win.
Series: Tied, 1-1.
Next week: Carolina visits Buffalo, November 27 Chicago visits Tampa Bay, November 27
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Panthers' defense will try to confuse rookie Orton
This game features two of the strongest defenses in the league. While no team is giving up fewer yards per game than the Bears, no NFC team has generated more turnovers than Carolina. Chicago will look to take Panthers WR Steve Smith out of the game by frequently doubling him and rolling the coverage to his side of the field. This will force Carolina to rely on its inconsistent running game and force QB Jake Delhomme to look for his complementary receivers.
The most glaring difference in these two teams is experience at quarterback, as Delhomme has played in a Super Bowl and Bears' QB Kyle Orton sill makes some rookie mistakes. Carolina will look to take advantage by throwing multiple looks at Orton. However, the Panthers have to stop the run before they can rush the passer, and there's reason to believe they will have a tough time getting that done this week.
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|Avg Points Allowed||17.9||11.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||CAR|
|Rush Yds Allowed||CAR|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Carolina leads 2-1|
|Dec 22, 2002||CAR 24, CHI 14|