If you would have told me a month ago that the Chicago Bears would be the last remaining undefeated team in the NFC, I most likely would have told you to schedule a CAT Scan with your doctor as soon as possible. Well, here we are, 3 weeks into the season and the Bears sit atop the NFC with a 3-0 record…this is the beauty of the NFL. There are always surprises and disappointments as we navigate our way through the 17 week season. The Giants on the other hand, would be labeled a disappointment thus far, stumbling out of the gates to a 1-2 record with issues on both sides of the ball. So the Bears must be heavily favored to win on Sunday right? Not so fast…remember, this is the NFL where anyone can beat anyone, anywhere. The Giants are favored by 4 points for a reason. The reason is this: the Bears played an extremely emotional game on Monday night vs the Packers and now have to travel to New York on ashort week to meet a Giants team faced with a must win game at home.
The Giants offense hasn’t had trouble moving the ball (8th in yards per game), the problem has been actually scoring once they enter the red zone. They rank 20th in the NFL with 18.3 points per game, as a result of 10 turnovers (30th in the NFL) through the first 3 weeks. There probably isn’t a more important stat in the NFL than turnover margin and the Giants rank near the bottom with a -4 differential. The greatest indicator of success in the NFL is turnover margin. This generally determines the outcome of games considering most teams are fairly even based on talent levels. On the other side of the coin, the Bears rank near the top with a +3 margin thanks in large part to 8 takeaways, tied for 2nd in the league.
Led by Jay Cutler and offensive coordinator Mike Martz, these aren’t the old Lovie Smith Bears that “get off the bus running the football”. The Bears rank 5th in the NFL in passing yards per game and 29th in rushing yards per game. Much like the Giants, the Bears aren’t having any trouble moving the ball down the field through the air, but have also struggled a bit in the redzone, already failing twice this season on 4th and goal inside the 1 yard line. This demonstrates once again how fine a line it is between being 3-0 with everyone talking about how good you are, and 1-2 with everyone talking about how terrible you are. The difference between these two teams really is one ridiculous call in week 1 vs the Lions and a Devin Hester punt return TD. Vegas certainly isn’t fooled, determining to be 4 point favorites at home against a team playing on short rest.
Defensively, the Bears play the dreaded “bend don’t break” defense to perfection. I have a newfound respect for this philosophy that forces teams to dink and dunk all the way down the field (i.e. Green Bay on Monday Night), thus creating more chances for an opportunistic defense like the Bears to either create a turnover or force a field goal instead of a touchdown. It worked in 2006 and it’s working in 2010. Yes, the Bears rank 1st in the NFL in rush defense at just under 40 yards per game, but they rank 28th in pass defense, allowing nearly 280 yards per game. The most telling stat between these two defenses? The Bears allow 13 more yards per game than the Giants (319-306), yet the Giants allow 11 more points per game than the Bears (28-17). Folks, this is the beauty of the bend don’t break defense, embrace it Bears fans, it really does work.
So what is going to happen on Sunday night? Well, we know the Bears will continue to rush only their 4 down lineman the majority of the night, blitzing infrequently, allowing Eli Manning and the Giants to throw short passes all the way down the field. It is unlikely they will have much success running the ball, so I would expect them to be fairly one dimensional. The key factor will revolve around Eli Manning and whether or not he can have success against a defense that completely takes away the big play (which he relies on heavily) and forces you to not make any mistakes despite running a high volume number of plays. The game will come down the +/- margin and if the Giants continue to turn the ball over, the Bears will win. I don’t think the Bears will have much trouble moving the ball against this Giants defense. Expect a similar approach to what we saw in Dallas due to the above average Giants pass rush. Martz will call a number of “quick hitters” for Cutler allowing his receivers to make plays. Don’t underestimate this group of WR’s in Chicago, they are young, but they are very fast and greatly improved from last year. That said, I’ll take the desperate home team to cover against the team on short rest coming off an emotional high from their win over the Packers. Did you see what happened to the Niners last week after their emotional MNF game vs the Saints? I expect to see a similar effect on the Bears, just not a blowout…Giants 27 Bears 20.
About the Author
Written by Tim Lewis