Bears-Giants Keys to the Game

We break down in detail tonight's contest between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, including statistics of note, matchups to watch, keys on offense and defense, and more.

Series History

The Chicago Bears and New York Giants will meet on Thursday night for the 57th time. The Bears hold a 32-22-2 edge in the series (27-19-2 in the regular season and 5-3 in the postseason), including 17-11 at home (13-11 regular season, 4-0 postseason).

The Bears currently boast a 3-2 record and are tied with the Detroit Lions for first place in the NFC North, with the Lions holding the tiebreaker. The Giants are 0-5 and sit at the bottom of the NFC East.

The Bears are 4-4 all-time on Thursday Night Football, dating back to 1985. Tonight's game will be the fifth regular-season meeting between the two teams on primetime television. They have met twice on Monday Night Football (split 1-1) and twice on Sunday Night Football (split 1-1).

Injuries

BEARS

Out: S Anthony Walters (hamstring)

Questionable: TE Martellus Bennett (knee), LB Lance Briggs (foot/hip), DT Stephen Paea (toe), CB Charles Tillman (knee)

Probable: WR Joseph Anderson (knee), T Eben Britton (foot), T Jermon Bushrod (calf), WR Alshon Jeffery (ankle)

Bennett and Briggs are expected to play, while Paea and Tillman will be game-time decisions. If Paea can't play, Landon Cohen will start at nose tackle. If Tillman sits out, Zack Bowman will start at cornerback.

The Bears placed Nate Collins on injured reserve this week with a torn ACL. Corey Wootton will now serve as the club's starting 3-technique defensive tackle for the remainder of the season. Zach Minter and newly elevated Christian Tupou will also rotate at DT.

GIANTS

Out: C David Bass (neck), CB Jayron Hosley (hamstring), TE Adrien Robsinson (foot), S Cooper Taylor (shoulder), CB Corey Webster (groin), RB David Wilson (neck)

Doubtful: DE Damontre Moore (hamstring) Questionable: DT Linval Joseph (ankle), WR Louis Murphy, Jr. (ankle), TE Brandon Myers (ankle)

Probable: LS Zak DeOssie (back), LB Mark Herzlich (toe), CB Terrell Thomas (knee)

Joseph is expected to play while Murphy will likely be inactive. Myers is a game-time decision and will be replaced by Bear Pascoe if he can't play.

Bears on Offense

Chicago's offensive rankings
Points Scored: 4th (29.0)
Total Offense: 11th (368.6)
Rushing Offense: 16th (108.0)
Passing Offense: 12th (260.6)

New York's defensive rankings
Points Allowed: 32nd (36.4)
Total Defense: 26th (395.2)
Rushing Defense: 27th (126.0)
Passing Defense: 22nd (269.2)
Turnover Ratio: 32nd (-13)

Matchups to Watch

WR Alshon Jeffery vs. CB Trumaine McBride
The Giants will be without Corey Webster and Jayron Hosley, meaning Trumaine McBride will get his second straight start. Against the Eagles last week, the Giants left McBride on the left side and Prince Amukamura on the right side. The Bears will be moving Brandon Marshall around in an effort to break his recent slump, so expect Jeffery to be out wide for most of the night. Against McBride, who is a very average cover corner, Jeffery should be able to have a lot of success. His confidence is at an all-time high and if the Giants, like Chicago's last three opponents, choose to bracket Marshall, Jeffery should have another big outing.

G Matt Slauson vs. DT Mike Patterson
The Giants rotate Cullen Jenkins at defensive tackle on passing downs, while Patterson stays in to stop the run, and he's been a beast in that role this season. New York has struggled in every phase of the game this year, yet run defense has been the occasional lone bright spot. Patterson is big and powerful. He can eat up space and occupy blockers, or shoot gaps and create havoc in the backfield. Slauson, who has been the Bears' most consistent offensive lineman this season, needs to leverage Patterson out of the hole if Matt Forte is going to have success running the ball.

Keys on Offense

-The Giants' linebackers have struggled this season, starting with MLB Mark Herzlich, which is why the team traded a late-round draft pick to Carolina last week for Jon Beason. He played sparingly against the Eagles in Week 5 but now that he's had a week to learn the system, expect Beason to get the lion's share of reps tonight. This should create opportunities for Martellus Bennett down the seams, who has the athleticism to exploit Beason in the passing game.

-In nickel sets, the Giants shift starting safety Antrel Rolle into the slot and put Will Hill alongside Ryan Mundy at safety. Hill was activated only a few weeks ago after the team placed Aaron Ross on injured reserve. If Bennett, or any of Chicago's receivers, can get a 1-on-1 matchup with Hill, it could lead to some big plays in the passing game.

-The Giants do not have a good defense and cannot pressure the quarterback. The team's 5.0 sacks are the fewest in the NFL, so Jay Cutler should have plenty of time to throw. The only way the Bears lose this game is if "Bad Jay" shows up and repeatedly turns the ball over. Cutler has no reason to force the ball against New York. If he takes what the defense gives him and relies on his playmakers, Chicago will win this one going away. But if he tries to play hero ball, he'll open the up the door for a huge primetime upset.

Bears on Defense

Chicago's defensive rankings
Points Allowed: 26th (28.0)
Total Defense: 19th (376.6)
Rushing Defense: 13th (98.2)
Passing Defense: 23rd (278.4)
Turnover Ratio: 6th (+4)

New York's offensive rankings
Points Scored: 30th (16.4)
Total Offense: 20th (337.0)
Rushing Offense: 32nd (56.8)
Passing Offense: 10th (280.2)

Matchups to Watch

DE Shea McClellin vs. RT Justin Pugh
Pugh is the Giants' first-round rookie. He's been inconsistent but has played very well at times. Yet this is a matchup that McClellin must exploit. With Corey Wootton shifting inside, McClellin is now a three-down defensive end. Now is time for him to justify his own first-round status. He must take advantage of Pugh in the passing game and collapse the pocket. His specialty is rushing the quarterback, as he's a revolving door against the run. If he gets owned by Pugh as a pass rusher, it could spell bad things for the Bears going forward. And despite his spotty play in the first part of the season, Eli Manning will eat up Chicago's secondary if he has time to throw the ball. McClelin has to be a man tonight.

CB Tim Jennings vs. WR Victor Cruz
If the Bears lose, it'll be because Cruz had a big night. Size-wise, Charles Tillman matches up better with Hakeem Nicks, so it'll be up to Jennings to corral Cruz, who is a big-play threat on every single snap. Cruz is 10th in the league with 31 receptions, fifth with 473 receiving yards and seventh with four receiving touchdowns. If Jennings struggles, Manning and Cruz will make him pay, which could give the Giants the life they need to pull off the upset. Jennings must be sound, as Cruz is as talented a receiver as he'll face all year.

Keys on Defense

-The Giants are the worst rushing team in the league and will be relying on 31-year-old Brandon Jacobs as the primary back tonight. If Chicago somehow gets gashed by Jacobs and New York's running game, then the injuries at defensive tackle are more devastating than anyone could have imagined.

-The Bears have just 8.0 sacks as a team, which is 30th in the league. That's entirely unacceptable. The pass rush must get better, starting tonight with the Giants, who are down three starting offensive linemen. If Chicago's front four can't generate pass rush – we're looking in your direction Julius Peppers – against the worst offensive line in the league, then Bears fans need to get used to high-scoring shootouts this season.

-The Giants may be forced to start Bear Pascoe at tight end if Brandon Myers can't play due to an ankle injury. That's right, Bear Pascoe, who has served as the club's fullback most of the year. That being the case, if Chris Conte allows New York's wide receivers to beat him deep down the sidelines, which has been a common occurrence all season, then it's time to consider Craig Steltz on the back end. Pascoe is no threat down the seams, so Conte must keep the wide receivers in front of him, as Manning loves to chuck the ball down the field. A few big plays in the passing game could be al the Giants need to steal a win.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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