Bears offense vs. Patriots defense
The matchup between the Bears defense and the Patriots offense will be the fun one to watch, but this matchup could be the more important one, the one that determines the outcome of the game. New England’s defense is ranked No. 31 in the league, which means they yield a lot of yards and allow teams to move the ball. They allow 22.4 points per game and their defense may be one of the reasons why their offense has to score so much. While their defense gives up big numbers, they also get big numbers, as in takeaways. The Patriots are second in the league with 18 interceptions and they’ve also recovered five fumbles, so they’re an opportunistic defense just like the Bears. With as good an offense as the Patriots have, Jay Cutler will need to take care of the ball and not relapse into a turnover machine because one interception by him could make the difference between winning and losing. Linebacker Jerod Mayo leads not only the team in tackles but the entire league as well. He plays sideline to sideline and always finds himself in position to make a play on the football. The Patriots use a 3-4 defense with Gerard Warren and Mike Wright at the ends and Vince Wilfork clogging up the middle. Wright leads the team in sacks with 5.5. Brandon Meriweather, at strong safety, is a player to keep an eye on. He’s fifth on the team in tackles, has two interceptions, and roams the secondary. Cornerback Devin McCourty leads the team with six interceptions. The Bears are going to have to continue their balanced mix of runs and passes. If they can’t get anything going on the ground, they still need to utilize Matt Forte and Chester Taylor out of the backfield in passing situations to spread the defense. Earl Bennett has been a solid contributor and I expect him to keep that up.
Bears defense vs. Patriots offense
It should be an enjoyable afternoon watching the Bears defense take on Tom Brady’s offense. Brady, one of the most accurate and intelligent quarterbacks in the league will surely manage to drive his offense down the field no matter how well the Bears play defensively. The Patriots have the highest scoring offense in the NFL, averaging 31.6 points per game. That total is higher than any single-game total the Bears have put up this season (.6 higher than the Eagles game). The Bears’ Cover-2 defense gives up short passes and that’s what Brady’s gang excels at. Brady likes to spread the ball around and he utilizes many different receivers. Wes Welker, as usual, is his go-to receiver. Welker has 72 receptions and is on pace for 96 on the season. The team reacquired Deion Branch this season and he factors into the game plan as well. The Patriots use a pair of tight ends in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski and they also utilize Danny Woodhead out of the backfield, a diminutive player who is fourth on the team in receptions. In the run game, BenJarvus Green-Ellis averages 4.3 yards per carry and is a load to bring down. The Bears are third in the league in points allowed, yielding just 16 points per game. They’re going to need that aspect of their defense to step up in order to keep the Patriots offense in check and give their own offense a fighting chance. The Bears are fifth in the league with 16 interceptions, although their best chance to increase that total against the Patriots is to somehow tip the ball because Brady is extremely careful with the football. His 109.5 passer rating is tops in the league and his four interceptions are second-fewest. Julius Peppers can step up his chances of being NFL defensive player of the year if he turns in a good performance and keeps Brady on the move.
New England’s Brandon Tate is a dangerous kick returner and has already returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this year, including a 103-yarder. He averages 26.3 yards per return which ranks him seventh among those returners with at least 10 returns. Julian Edelman handles the punt return duties and is a pretty good one as well. He averages 12.9 yards per return. I still like Devin Hester more, though, and this would be a great game to break the return touchdown record. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski was put on injured reserve and the team signed Shayne Graham to replace him. Graham, who spent most of his career with the Bengals, is a very accurate kicker. He has a career 85.5 percentage, which is dead-even with Robbie Gould’s career percentage. The Bears get the slight edge in special teams despite their coverage issues of late.
Chicago has a big rain and snow storm coming through the area Saturday night and through Sunday, so it could be a messy game come 3pm. The weather service calls for a 70% chance of snow at kickoff. The Patriots are a cold-weather team, so the notion of “Bear Weather” doesn’t really fit into the equation. What might factor into the outcome of the game, though, is the poor playing surface at Soldier Field, which is bad enough in normal weather conditions let alone rain and snow. The Patriots get the coaching edge as Bill Belichick is one of the best in the business. I hate the smug, hoodie-wearing jerk, but I have to give the man his due. It’ll take a supreme coaching effort on the part of the entire Bears coaching staff to get the job done. The last time the Bears faced the Patriots was in their Super Bowl season of 2006, and they just narrowly were defeated. I’d love to say that the Bears will go to the Super Bowl again this season, but that’s to be determined. But if that does happen, I have a feeling I’ll be saying the Bears were just narrowly defeated once again. I don’t feel the Bears offense can keep up with the Patriots offense so it might be a long afternoon on the lakefront.
Final Score: New England 24, Chicago 20