We’ve barely had the time to take a deep breath following the analysis of the Bears’ loss to the Saints on Sunday and already we’re ready for Week 6. I guess that’s a good thing, though, following two straight losses.
The Bears have a golden opportunity to rebound and feel good about themselves when they face the winless New York Giants on Thursday. But a loss would be devastating, both in the standings and in the Bears’ psyche, and they’d have 10 days to think about it before Week 7’s battle with the Redskins.
The Giants are not altogether a bad team or one bereft of talent, which is what separates them from the league’s other 0-5 team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. They have a two-time Super Bowl MVP in Eli Manning, a pair of solid receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks along with up-and-comer Rueben Randle, and a good tight end in Brandon Myers. On defense, despite only having 5 team sacks this season, they have solid veterans along the line in Justin Tuck, Shaun Rogers, and Mathias Kiwanuka. Keith Rivers and Dan Connor are pretty good veteran linebackers and Antrel Rolle is a solid safety.
But the Giants have had injury issues as well as poor play along both the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage, and that’ll get you beat more often than not in the NFL.
The biggest problems plaguing the Giants on offense are turnovers and a poor run game. They are ranked dead last in rushing yards, averaging just 56.8 yards per game. To make matters worse, running back David Wilson is out this week with a neck injury. There should be no reason why the Bears have trouble defending the run this week. They should be able to pin their ears back and tee off on Manning. Thus, it should improve their struggling pass rush.
The Bears are not without their own problems on the injury front. They’ve already lost Henry Melton and Nate Collins to torn ACLs and Stephen Paea is battling a toe injury, leaving the middle of their defensive line perilously thin. Defensive end Corey Wootton will be asked to move inside to play the three-technique, which may not be a bad thing. The Bears could use his pass rushing ability at that position to create pressure up the middle, but can he handle rushing in a confined area amongst bigger bodies, as opposed to his familiar “on the island” rush from the end position? That’ll be a key matchup to keep an eye on in this one.
Also injured are Charles Tillman — who has been battling injuries all season — and tight end Martellus Bennett — who I’m sure is anxious to play against his former team. Both are listed as questionable for the game. Lance Briggs also made the injury report this week with a hip problem. He’s questionable as well.
The Bears can win this game in the trenches if they take advantage of the opportunity. Matt Forte absolutely has to have a big role in this game because not only can the Giants not run the ball, they also can’t defend it. They’re ranked 27th in the league against the run. Forte could have a big role both on the ground and in the passing game. He almost will have to have a role in the passing game if the Bears have as much trouble with blitzes as they did last week against the Saints. If he’s not kept in to help with blitz pickup, he needs to slip out into the flat and catch the ball in open space and make something happen.
All eyes will be on Jay Cutler, per usual. We know of Cutler’s struggles in night games, but this is really one of those situations where he should excel. As long as the offensive line provides adequate protection for him, he could feast on the Giants’ secondary. Following a week in which Brandon Marshall vented about not getting the ball enough, paired with Alshon Jeffery’s huge game, I expect the Giants to not focus so much on Marshall and that could open up opportunities for him to have a big game.
The Bears have a golden opportunity to establish their pass defense this week. The Giants are going to have to throw the ball a whole lot because they can’t run the ball and they also have nothing to lose at 0-5. That should open up chances for the Bears’ secondary to create some turnovers. Manning is prone to giving the ball away as he leads the league with 12 interceptions. He’ll be serving that pigskin up on a platter quite a few times and it’s up to the secondary to go get it.
I have a hard time seeing a path to victory for the Giants in this one. The matchups are favorable to the Bears, including homefield advantage. The ball would have to take some awful bounces for the Bears not to secure this victory and move their record to 4-2.
Prediction: Chicago 31, New York 20