A preview and breakdown of the matchup between the Bears and Jaguars on Oct. 7, 2012.
Bears offense vs. Jaguars defense
This is what we call a “take care of business” game, one which the Bears know they can win but they still have to punch the clock at the office and put in a complete day’s work. It’s not an overly challenging game and it will not require a complex game plan used to exploit certain weaknesses in a defense, because, let’s face it: the Jaguars have weaknesses everywhere. The Bears have a strong run game and they’ll be able to run effectively against a Jaguars defense ranked 30th against the run. The Bears have the weapons to be explosive in the passing game and they’ll be able to beat a Jaguars secondary that has zero interceptions on the season. The only area that has limited the Bears offense from being among the league’s best through four weeks has been the offensive line and its protection woes. But the Jaguars have just two sacks on the season, worst in the NFL. Both sacks came from defensive tackles, and the Bears are better equipped in the middle of the line. The strength of the Jaguars defense appears to be their second level, where linebackers Russell Allen and Paul Posluszny lead the team in tackles. Posluszny even has one of the team’s two interceptions. The other pick came from linebacker Kyle Bosworth. Up front, defensive ends Andre Branch and Jeremy Mincey — whom the Bears were close to signing this offseason before Mincey re-upped with the Jags — are a talented duo but a far cry from the pass rushers the Bears have seen in recent weeks — Green Bay’s Clay Matthews, St. Louis’ Chris Long, and Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware. Tackles Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton clog up the middle of the line but are susceptible to the run. In the secondary, cornerback Aaron Ross is the most renown of the group, having played five seasons with the New York Giants and winning two Super Bowls with the team. He had four interceptions a year ago but has failed to tally one yet this year. Derek Cox lines up opposite him and hasn’t recorded an interception since 2010. Veteran Dawan Landry lines up at strong safety in his second season with the team after spending his first five years with the Ravens. He’s third on the team in tackles. Dwight Lowery lines up next to him at free safety. With the combination of Matt Forte and Michael Bush carrying the rock and Brandon Marshall having a huge size-speed advantage over the secondary, the Bears should be able to do whatever they’d like offensively.
Bears defense vs. Jaguars offense
The Bears defense has an opportunity to not only make a statement against the league’s worst offense, but it has the chance to shore up any mistakes it has made through the first quarter of the season against a team not likely to make them pay for their minor mistakes. The one player the Bears have to be mindful of is running back Maurice Jones-Drew, one of the top backs in the league who has the ability to break a long run if given a crease. Fortunately, the Bears have the league’s No. 3 run defense through four games, allowing just 67.2 yards per game on the ground. The Jaguars rarely take to the air — ranked 31st in that department — because, frankly, they have a bad quarterback. Blaine Gabbert finds himself ranked near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories including completion percentage (28th), yards per game (31st), and yards per attempt (32nd). Gabbert has only thrown one interception and that’s because he doesn’t take his chances down the field — he’s inaccurate and he doesn’t have much time to throw the ball, ranking as the sixth-most sacked quarterback in the league. Rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon has all the physical tools needed to be a great receiver in this league, but he’s playing for a poor offense with a lousy quarterback throwing to him. One has to wonder if the Bears have ever had a good receiver come through the organization in the two decades before Jay Cutler arrived in town, because the quarterback carousel essentially made it difficult for any receiver to thrive. The Jaguars overspent on journeyman receiver Laurent Robinson — now with his fourth team in six seasons — and Robinson won’t even face the Bears as he’s out with a concussion. Assuming the Bears jump out to a big early lead in this one, the Jaguars will be forced to take to the air and that’s when the Bears can add to their league-leading 11 interceptions. Not to mention, as we learned from Tony Romo’s 5-interception game last Monday, when it rains, it pours, and one mistake can lead to another and perhaps the Bears can punch a few balls loose, too.
Is this the week Devin Hester finally breaks a return for a touchdown? Jaguars punter Bryan Anger is second in the league with a whopping 52-yard average, but he’s got just a 43.2-yard net average, meaning his coverage team gives up big returns. He’s second in the league in return attempts against him and fourth in return yards. Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee has been an erratic kicker throughout his nine years in the league. He’s got a 79.5 career field goal percentage, but has had seasons as bad as 64.3%, 76%, and 76.7%. This year, he’s made all seven of his field goal attempts with a long of 47. I’ll take Robbie Gould’s 86.3 career percentage and his 8-of-8 this year with a long of 54. Gould has also been unbelievable with his kickoffs this year, as he’s fourth in the league with 16 touchbacks, ninth in the league with only 8 kickoffs returned, and eighth in the league with a 20.8 net return average against him. Scobee’s had 12 touchbacks but is giving up the 10th-highest return average of 27.1 yards per return. Mike Thomas is the primary punt returner and Jalen Parmele handles the kickoff duties. Neither has put up impressive numbers, certainly not close to what Hester is capable of doing. The Bears coverage units have been outstanding this year.
There’s not much to analyze in this one. The Bears are a much better football team and while the Jaguars aren’t exactly going to lie down and let the Bears walk all over them, there’s little they can do to put up a fight. A bad team with a decent pass rush can give the Bears a game most days because of the Bears’ offensive line woes, but the Jaguars don’t even have a pass rush. A team with a bad defense but a good offense can give the Bears a game most days because they can compete in a shootout. But the Jaguars have the worst-ranked offense in the NFL. A team with a stout defense but a struggling offense can … okay, you get the idea. The Jaguars are not equipped to handle the Bears on either side of the ball. Jacksonville had to open an additional section of seating for this game because of the high demand for tickets. With a 1-3 football team located in Jacksonville, Florida, I assure you it’s not because they’re excited to see the Jaguars. Bears fans always travel well and they made their voices heard down in Arlington, Texas, on Monday against the Cowboys. Cameras even caught Brian Urlacher on the sideline mouthing, “Wow! Wow!” when the chants of “Let’s go Bears!” were clearly heard throughout the stadium. While no road stadium will ever truly feel like a home game, this one will be as neutral a site as they get. The Bears beat the Cowboys for many reasons last week, but one of which was how well coached and prepared they were to play. Lovie Smith has his guys feeling confident and yet still hungry to prove something. First-year offensive coordinator Mike Tice is getting better with his play calling each week, and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has his boys playing exactly the kind of attacking, takeaway defense that Smith brought to town back in 2004. It’s time for the Bears to pick up their fourth victory of the season in convincing fashion and head into their bye week on top of the NFC North.
Final Score: Chicago 34, Jacksonville 10