New York Giants at Chicago Bears – Week 6 Preview

 

chicago – ny

 

Week 6 – New York Giants at Chicago Bears

­­Part 6 of a 17 part series analyzing each week of the Bears’ season

 

After their second straight loss, the Chicago Bears have a short week to prepare for their Thursday night matchup with the New York Giants. Some of the growing pains are starting to catch up with them, and the team has struggled on multiple fronts.

They have played extremely well, but as Marc Trestman said, they need to play well for all four quarters and put together a full, solid game. This week, the Bears have an excellent opportunity to do it against a desperate Giants team that has really played poorly this season.

The Giants have shocked the league with how badly they have played this season. Last season they were 9-7 and in the playoff hunt for most of the season. They underwent some significant changes this offseason, losing key players such as Ahmad Bradshaw, Kenny Phillips, and Osi Umenyiora, among others.

It is apparent that they are missing a lot the talent they lost, but it is up to the players to come together and overcome their deficiencies. The season is not over for the Giants, and a win in Chicago would certainly jump-start it.

 

Key Matchups

Giants’ WR Victor Cruz versus Bears’ CB Tim Jennings

Despite the Giants’ putrid offensive performances, Victor Cruz is still having himself a very good season. He is fifth in the league in receiving yards with 473 through five games and he is also tied for seventh in the league with four receiving touchdowns and fourth among wide receivers.

He has had three games with more than 100 receiving yards this season and teams have struggled to find away to slow him down.

Tim Jennings will likely be the guy who faces Cruz, while Charles Tillman will be put to the task of staying with Hakeem Nicks, both of whom have been up and down this season. Jennings led the league in interceptions in 2012, and he already has a pick-six to boot in 2013.

While he probably won’t be the league-leader again, he is still always a threat to make a big turnover. For Jennings, they came in bunches, as he had three multi-interception games.

He has been pretty good in coverage this season too and has not been a liability on the Bears’ struggling defense. He got beaten a few times week one, but he has played much better since then. However, he has yet to face a wide receiver of Cruz’ talent this season.

It is going to be a challenge for Jennings, and if he struggles, Cruz could have yet another 100-yard game. If Jennings keeps him under control, it will make it even harder for the Giants.

 

Giants CB Prince Amukamara versus Bears’ WR Alshon Jeffery

Much like Cruz and Jennings, this matchup features the Giants’ second cornerback against the Bears’ second wide receiver. Prince Amukamara is one of the many Giants’ cornerbacks that have been injured this season, but he has not missed significant time this season.

Despite the shifting in the secondary around him, he is having a pretty good season, leading the team in pass deflections to go with an interception and a force fumble.

Alshon Jeffery, like Cruz, is having a great season. He leads the Bears in receiving yards after his franchise-record 218-yard game against the New Orleans Saints. He has really built off of his successful rookie season and has established himself as a legitimate number two receiver in the league.

While opposing defenses focus Brandon Marshall, Jeffery finds himself in favorable one-on-one matchups, and Jay Cutler has really gained a lot of trust in him. Alshon is now making defenses respect him, which could mean less coverage on Marshall and other receivers, making the offense better as a whole.

Keeping Jeffery contained has been a struggle for some cornerbacks this season, and Amukamara will certainly be tested in this game. Jeffery is one of the hottest receivers in the league right now and it will be up to Prince to slow him down.

If Amukamara struggles, Jeffery could see his third straight 100-yard game, but if he can be slowed down, Cutler will have to look elsewhere to keep the ball moving.

 

 

Biggest Questions

Can the Giants protect Eli Manning?

Eli is tied for the third most-sacked quarterback in the league through five weeks with 15. It is extremely difficult for a quarterback to operate effectively while he is under pressure; both Bears and Giants fans know that well.

Manning has been rushed on numerous throws and as a result he is having one of the worst seasons of his career.

At times, he has looked like a completely different quarterback, and it all starts up front. The left side of the line is the same as it was last year with Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe. While they were not spectacular last year, they were not this inept. The rest of the line has had some moving parts.

Center David Baas is missing significant time with a neck injury and has been replaced with Jim Cordle. At right guard, Chris Snee went on injured reserve with a knee injury and has been replaced by David Diehl. Right tackle has been manned by rookie first-round pick Justin Pugh.

The problems have not just been because of one or two players; it has been a group failure. Injuries have decimated the line as illustrated above, but in the NFL, it is next man up, and the Giants’ reserves have not produced.

It has been a ripple effect on the rest of the team. The running game cannot get going and Manning has not had time to throw. With the offense struggling, the team gets behind early and the defense is on the field for an extended period of time.

When the offense faces a large deficit, they can’t afford to burn a lot of clock time running the ball, and they become one-dimensional. The defense knows they have to pass and are ready for it, which makes it harder for the offense which puts them in a bigger hole and so on and so forth. For the Giants, it all starts up front.

If they can get it together against the Bears, a team that has struggled getting to the quarterback, they can get the offense moving again and maybe get their first win. If not, it is going to be more of the same for Manning.

 

Will the Giants be able to establish the running game?

The Giants are the worst rushing team in the NFL, ranking dead last in both yards and attempts, averaging a horrendous 3.3 yards per carry. Their leading rusher, David Wilson has only 146 yards on the season, good for 29.2 yards per game.

Four runningbacks in the NFL have rushed for more yards in a game than Wilson has all season, and one runningback, LeSean McCoy, has done it twice.

A lot of the problem starts up front with the offensive line, where most of the Giants’ issues occur. A runningback can only do so much when the blocking is not there. Wilson has played like hot garbage, but the offensive line has not done anything to help him.

Last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, Wilson injured his neck, and he is going to miss the game against the Bears. That leaves them with Brandon Jacobs and young Da’Rel Scott, both of whom have been just as awful this season.

Getting the running game going would be huge for the Giants’ offense. It would allow Eli Manning to run effective play action passes and it would keep opposing defenses from dropping everyone back into coverage.

In many of Manning’s best games in his career, he has had a solid running game going that has allowed him to have such excellent performances. Running the ball effectively would certainly not be a cure-all for the Giants, but it would definitely help get them on the right track.

 

 

Team Comparison

Offense

Manning’s surprising struggles have made the quarterback comparison difficult, as normally he is the superior player in the game, but Cutler is coming off a 358-yard performance against the Saints and is having one of the best seasons of his career. Runningbacks make a much easier comparison, as the Giants’ struggles have been documented above while Matt Forte is having an excellent season.

At wide receiver, both teams are getting excellent play from their studs and young guns, but the Giants group may get the nod because of their three-headed attack with Cruz, Nicks, and Rueben Randle, although Brandon Marshall and Jeffery are having great seasons too.

At tight end, both teams are featuring players in their first season with the team. In free agency, Martellus Bennett was widely considered the better of the two players, and in addition, he will be playing against his former team.

The offensive line situation has been pretty well laid out. While the Bears’ group has struggled at times in recent weeks, the Giants have one of the worst lines in the league. It is as simple as that.

 

Defense

The Giants’ defensive line has been one of the top units in the league in for the last seven-plus seasons. Although they are having a down year so far, the Bears’ defensive line is having an even poorer year, and on talent alone, the Giants have the better group.

Conversely, the Bears’ linebacking corps has been one of the best groups of the last decade while the Giants’ trio has always been solid. Both team’s positions have undergone some major changes, but the Bears’ have had the superior performance in 2013.

In the secondary, the Giants always seem to be decimated with injuries, and 2013 has been no exception. Three of their top four cornerbacks missed last week’s game, and on a short week, they could be thin in that department once again.

The Bears have had some minor injuries at the position, but nothing to the extent of the Giants’ situation. Health is what gives the Bears the advantage at corner.

Safety is a difficult position to compare here as well because both team have had inconsistency from their players. Major Wright and Chris Conte have been excellent at times and struggled in others. The Giants safeties have been mediocre, allowing 11 plays of 25 or more yards this season. Neither group is definitively better than the other.

 

Special Teams

Giants’ kicker Josh Brown has played pretty poorly this season, hitting only four of his six field goals, while Robbie Gould of the Bears has hit all eight of his attempts. Meanwhile, Steve Weatherford is having another excellent season for the Giants, averaging 47.5 yards per punt, and Bears’ punter Adam Podlesh has continued his struggles, averaging only 43.8 per.

Devin Hester has had a great season returning kickoffs when given the opportunity, but teams have tried their hardest not to let him touch the ball since his record-setting game against the Minnesota Vikings week two. David Wilson of the Giants has been mediocre, but not completely awful as the team’s kickoff returner.

Both Hester and Giant’s punt returner Rueben Randle have been able to do very little with the limited number of punts they have been able to return.

 

 

Conclusions

This Giants team has been uncharacteristically bad, and although they have faced some tough teams, they were also shut out by the 1-3 Carolina Panthers.

They have a number of issues they need to work on, and a short week leading up to a Thursday night game is a difficult time to do so. Injuries have greatly contributed to their issues, but that is a problem that every team must overcome.

They are a team that beat the San Fransisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, and Saints in 2012. There is still a lot of talent on this team and eventually they are going to put it together. At this point, the playoffs look like a long shot, but these Giants can never be counted out. They are sick of losing and are desperate for a win. Under those circumstances, anything can happen.

The Bears are also hungry for a win after losing two straight. After starting out the season strong, they have regressed slightly and are looking to bounce back. This will be Trestman’s first Thursday night game in the NFL, although he experienced them quite often in the CFL.

Like the Giants, they will have little time to work on adjustments this week, but given his experience in short weeks, he should have the team ready to go.

Both of these teams really want to win this game. Even though one is more desperate than the other, both teams will be more emotionally involved in this game due to their recent struggles. When two teams are battling it out for a crucial win, it is always entertaining.

Just because the Giants are 0-5 does not mean this will be easy for the Bears. They have been through a lot and eventually it will come together. It is only a matter of time.

 

 

Game Prediction: New York Giants 20 – Chicago Bears 31