Panthers at Bears -- Week 8

Where: Soldier Field, Chicago (grass, outdoors)

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

Spread: Bears by 7.5

Forecast: Windy; projected kickoff temperature: high-40s

Records: Bears (Overall: 5-1, NFC North: 1-1); Panthers (Overall: 1-5, NFC South: 1-2)

Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Oct. 2, 2011: Bears 34, Panthers 29; Oct. 10, 2010: Bears 23, Panthers 6. Series record: Bears hold an 4-3 edge.

What matters: The Panthers’ season is spiraling out of control.  The team dismissed general manager Marty Hurney on Monday, meaning that everyone on the team is playing and coaching for their jobs. The Bears are off to their best start in six years, led primarily by their defense. The offense has struggled at times to produce points.

Who matters: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton bounced back from his career-worst performance against Seattle. He threw for 233 yards and rushed for 64, but his interception in the end zone ended the Panthers’ best first-half drive. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has thrown for fewer than 200 yards in three of the last five games. He’s recovering from bruised ribs suffered against Detroit, Monday night.

Key matchups: Defensive end Julius Peppers faces his old teammate, Jordan Gross.  The Panthers left tackle is one of the few pieces that have remained intact on an offensive line that has been scrambled by injury, but Gross has had a tough year, suffering several blown blocks and getting flagged for penalties.

Injuries of note: The Panthers put MLB Jon Beason (knee) and CB Chris Gamble (shoulder) on injured reserve this week. Defensive ends Charles Johnson (hip), Antwan Applewhite (thigh), and Thomas Keiser (elbow) have also been hampered by injuries this week. For Chicago, Cutler participated fully in practice on Thursday. WR Alshon Jeffery (hand) and TE Brody Eldridge (illness) have missed practice time for the Bears.

Inside stuff: Red-zone performance has been a large part of the reason for both teams’ struggles scoring points this season. Newton has completed less than 48 percent of his passes inside the opponent’s 20 and has a passer rating of 60.5.  Cutler has completed 40 percent, but he’s avoided turnovers.

Connections: Panthers coach Ron Rivera won a Super Bowl as a linebacker for the 1985 Bears. Peppers played for the Panthers from 2002 to 2009 and went to a Super Bowl with the team.

Stat you should know: Carolina ranks 27th in the league on third-down efficiency on both offense and defense. Chicago is 13th on offensive third-down efficiency and fourth on defense.

Record watch: Gross will set the Panthers career record for games started. He’s currently tied with Mike Minter and Muhsin Muhammad at 141 starts.

Bulletin board quote: “If you put half-effort out there, that’s what you’re going to get.” -- Newton on his team’s struggles.

Looking ahead: The Panthers stay on the road for another week, with a game at Washington, against rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Bears travel to Tennessee for a game against the Titans.

Prediction: Bears 24, Panthers 13

For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Carolina Panthers from blogger Shawn Krest, follow @CBSPanthers.