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Bears-Redskins Ultimate Game Preview

A jam-packed preview of Sunday's contest between the Chicago Bears (5-7) and the Washington Redskins (5-7), including matchups to watch, game keys, stats of note and more.

Game Information

Who: Chicago Bears (5-7) vs. Washington Redskins (5-7)
Where: Soldier Field 
When: Noon CT
RADIO: WBBM 780 AM & 105.9 FM

Series History

The Bears-Redskins series is one of the oldest in NFL history with the first meeting coming in 1932, when the franchise was known as the Boston Braves. The team adopted its current nickname in its second season of existence before moving to the Nation's Capital for the 1937 season. 

The Redskins have a slight edge in the all-time series 24-23-1. Washington has won the last five meetings in a row, dating back to 2004. The Bears last won in 2003, a 27-24 victory at Soldier Field. Each of the last seven meetings have been decided by eight points or less (4.0 margin of victory). 

The largest Bears win versus Washington was their 73-0 rout in the 1940 Championship game. In 1974, Chicago suffered its worst defeat at the hands of Washington, 42-0. 

Following Sunday's contest, the Bears will have back-to-back road games against the Minnesota Vikings (Dec. 20) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Dec. 27). 

Bears-Redskins Connections

-DL Jarvis Jenkins spent four seasons with the Redskins after being selected by Washington in the second round (41st overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft. 

-CB Tracy Porter spent the 2014 season with Washington, appearing in three games with one start, collecting 5 tackles and 1 pass breakup. 

-WR Josh Bellamy appeared in five games for the Redskins in 2013, recording 2 special teams tackles. 

-Redskins quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh served in the same role with the Bears from 2013-14. Head strength and conditioning coach Mike Clark was Chicago's strength and conditioning coordinator from 2013-14. Assistant offensive line coach Shane Day was the Bears quarterbacks coach from 2010-11. Defensive backs coach Perry Fewell held the same role for Chicago in 2005. Assistant strength and conditioning/skill development coach Joe Kim was a strength/skill development specialist for the Bears in 2014. 

-Washington C Brian de la Puente appeared in eight games with six starts (four at C and two at LG) for the Bears in 2014. LB Mason Foster spent the 2015 preseason with Chicago. DT Stephen Paea spent four seasons with Chicago (2011-14) after being selected by the Bears in the second round (53rd overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft, appearing in 55 games with 40 starts. WR Rashad Ross appeared in two games for the Bears in 2014. P Tress Way entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Bears in 2013 and spent parts of the 2013 and 2014 preseason with Chicago. 

Head-Coach Comparison

124-96 (.564) Regular Season Record (pct.) 9-19 (.321)
8-7 Playoff Record 0-0
14th Years as NFL head coach 2nd
1st Years as team's head coach 2nd
0-0 Career Head-to-Head 0-0
3-1 Career vs. Team 0-0

Injury Report

The Bears will likely have to make do without outside linebacker Pernell McPhee. The team's leader in sacks (5.0) is still dealing with a lingering knee injury and is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins. 

WR Marquess Wilson (foot) has been ruled out, while the following Bears are questionable: 

CB Bryce Callahan (knee)
WR Eddie Royal (knee)
TE Zach Miller (rib)
OLB Sam Acho (shoulder)
S Antrel Rolle (knee)
CB Tracy Porter (ankle)

ILB Shea McClellin (ankle) is probable and expected to play. 

For the Redskins, S Jeron Johnson (hamstring), LB Perry Riley Jr. (foot) and RB Chris Thompson (shoulder) have been ruled out. 

The following Washington players are questionable: 

TE Derek Carrier (ankle)
DE Jason Hatcher (neck/ankle)
WR Andre Roberts (knee)
LB Keenan Robinson (shoulder)

The following Redskins are probable: 

LB Will Compton (shoulder)
CB Quinton Dunbar (finger)
CB Deshazor Everett (hamstring)
S Dahson Goldson (knee/hamstring/wrist)
CB DeAngelo Hall (toe)

Head-to-Head Comparison

20.9 (24th) Points Scored 21.4 (21st)
347.9 (19th) Total Offense 333.4 (25th)
115.7 (T-11th) Rushing Offense 94.3 (26th)
232.3 (20th) Passing Offense 239.2 (17th)
24.2 (18th) Points Allowed 23.8 (17th)
338.8 (12th) Total Defense 362.5 (21st)
127.9 (29th) Rushing Defense 124.2 (25th)
210.8 (2nd) Passing Defense 238.3 (10th)
-2 (T-19th) Turnover Ratio 0 (16th)

The Cutler Files

In his last three games, Jay Cutler has thrown just one touchdown and two interceptions. In his last two games, he has just 402 passing yards combined, while his 64.2 QB rating against the 49ers last week was his worst of the season. 

Obviously, Cutler has leveled off following a Week 10 outing in which he threw for 258 yards and 3 TDs. The San Francisco contest was especially disappointing, as Cutler was able to lead the Bears to just 17 total points, despite facing one of the worst defenses in the NFL.

Cutler has not been helped by his receivers, who have been banged up at a laughable rate this year. Last week, both Marquess Wilson and Eddie Royal were out, meaning Alshon Jeffery was his only viable target. The good news is that Royal is expected to return this week, although Wilson will again be out after being placed on IR.

"It’s tough," Cutler said this week. "The good thing about it is it’s a really good room. And like you said, availability is key in this league and a lot of the guys have been up and down, up and down. You can go down the list. But I think it goes back to coaching. [Receivers coach] Mike Groh has down an excellent job with those guys and making sure the next guy up is prepared. And I think [coordinator] Adam [Gase] and the rest of the guys have done a fabulous job of being able to use their talents and what their strengths are.

"They’ve done a really good job of being where they’re supposed to be. I think it’s a credit to how hard they work, how much they study, and Mike making sure that they are prepared each and every week.”

Despite their preparedness, throwing to Marc Mariani and Josh Bellamy is a much tougher task than throwing at Royal and Wilson. In addition, Cutler will be without his outlet target, tight end Martellus Bennett, who was placed on IR this week - although that may not be such a bad thing. 

“It’s tough. That’s definitely tough," said Cutler. "Run game, pass game, [Bennett] had a lot of value to this team in both areas. Unbelievable blocker at the point of attack. We ran to his side a lot, and then in the passing game, he was a matchup problem for linebackers and safeties. That’s a tough loss for us, like anything else this year. The next guys step up and Zach and Khari, they’re ready to go.”

The Redskins have a good secondary and are ranked 10th in the NFL in passing defense. They are led by veteran DeAngelo Hall, who once intercepted Cutler four times in a single contest (Oct. 24, 2010). 

If Cutler struggles on Sunday again, the Bears are going to lose their sixth straight to Washington. 

GP/GS Att. Comp. Yards TD INT Rating
Cutler Career vs. Redskins 2/2 48 29 309 1 5 46.6

Bears on Offense

Matchups to Watch

RG Patrick Omameh vs. DE Chris Baker
Chris Baker has been an absolute beast this season. He's second on the team with 5.0 sacks and he's been nearly unblockable against the run. That's going to put stress on the right side of Chicago's offensive line, particularly right guard Patrick Omameh. This is a good matchup, as Omameh has been by far the club's best run blocker. With the passing game struggling, the Bears will look to run the ball plenty on Sunday, so the battle between Omameh and Baker will play a large role in Chicago's ability to pound the rock. 

OLB Ryan Kerrigan vs. LT Charles Leno
Ryan Kerrigan is Washington's leader in sack (6.5), while his 35 QB hurries are 7th most in the NFL among 3-4 outside linebackers (per Pro Football Focus). He's one of the better edge rushers in the game and will be a disruptive force in Chicago's backfield if left tackle Charles Leno has a bad day. Leno has settled in the past month, both as a run and pass blocker. He's faced some tough matchups to this point and Kerrigan is no different. If Leno can contain the Redskins' best pass rusher, the Bears stand a chance in the passing game. 

Keys on Offense

-Chicago's passing offense is struggling and things won't get any easier this week. The Redskins rank 10th in the league against the pass and have playmakers at every position in the secondary. It starts with Bashaud Breeland, who leads Washington with two interceptions and 13 pass breakups. At nickelback, Will Blackmon has given up just a 49.0 completion percentage against. DeAngelo Hall has been banged up this year and is questionable but he's had a lot of success against Cutler in the past.

Yet the Redskins cornerbacks are prone to allowing the big plays. Breeland, Blackmon and Chris Culliver have given up 14 touchdowns this year, while opposing passers have a 134.8 QB rating when throwing at Culliver. That should give Alshon Jeffery plenty of opportuities for big gains deep down the field. He's averaging almost 99 yards per game but hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 8. Expect coordinator Adam Gase to get the ball early and often to Jeffery, who has a great chance of scoring his third, and possibly fourth, touchdowns of the year.

-The weather for Sunday's contest will be unseasonably warm, with temperatures topping out in the mid 60s. Those are good passing conditions but the Bears are still going to lean heavily on the rushing attack, which features a three-headed backfield. Matt Forte will again get the majority of the touches but Jeremy Langford will get at least three to four series, with Ka'Deem Carey sprinkled in throughout the contest. The Bears last week piled up 170 yards on the ground against San Francisco, and are averaging 127.5 rushing yards per game the past month. Expect at least 30 combined carries against the Redskins' 25th-ranked rushing defense.

-With Martellus Bennett on IR, Zach Miller becomes the club's starting tight end. Despite just 19 catches this year, he's tied for the team lead with four touchdowns. Miller is battling a rib injury but is expected to play. If he does, expect the Bears to utilize him in the middle of the field, as well as near the goal line.

-Washington ILB Perry Riley has been ruled out, meaning Keenan Robinson will make his ninth start of the season. That's good new for Chicago's ground game, as Robinson has been horrible against the run this year. Fellow ILB Will Compton has also struggled against the run, meaning the Bears need to consistently attack the Redskins' front seven between the tackles.

Bears on Defense

Matchups to Watch

TE Jordan Reed vs. ILB Shea McClellin
Jordan Reed is one of the most underrated pass-catching tight ends in the NFL. He leads the Redskins in targets (83), catches (58), receiving yards (574) and touchdowns (6). That is going to put a lot of stress on Jonathan Anderson, Chicago's nickel linebacker, as well as Shea McClellin, who is nursing ankle and knee injuries. McClellin struggled to change directions last week and it showed in coverage. If Reed can take advantage of 1-on-1 matchups against McClellin, the Bears' defense will find it difficult to get off the field.

LT Trent Williams vs. OLB Willie Young
Willie Young is Chicago's hottest defender. He has 3.5 sacks in the last three games combined and has taken over as the club's primary pass rusher while McPhee deals with his knee injury. Young gets a very tough test this week against Trent Williams, who has yet to allow a sack this season. In fact, in 11 starts this year, Williams has given up just 10 QB hurries. That's extremely impressive. If Williams has another strong game and dominates Young, Kirk Cousins is going to have all day to throw.

Keys on Defense

-WR DeSean Jackson has played just six games this year due to injury and has been relatively ineffective in those contests, accumulating just 18 receptions. Yet he's made the most of those opportunities, catching touchdown passes of 56, 63 and 26 yards the last three weeks in a row. Jackson has been inconsistent but he still has the speed to blow the top off Chicago's defense. That will put pressure on cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter, but more so on safeties Adrian Amos and Antrel Rolle, assuming he plays. The secondary last week had a crucial blown coverage in overtime that cost the Bears a win, so keeping Jackson from getting behind the defense will be paramount in this contest.

-RG Brandon Scherff is a big, mauling run blocker with the power to move the pile at the point of attack. Washington's run game has been very inconsistent this year and is ranked just 26th in the NFL. Yet both Alfred Morris and Matt Jones are hard-nosed ball carriers with the potential to wear down Chicago's 29th-ranked rushing defense. The Bears' front seven has been gashed the past two weeks and will need to be much stouter on Sunday if they're going to stop the Redskins' ground game.

-QB Kirk Cousins is having the best season of his four-year career. His 17 TD passes are seven more than his previous single-season high and he's added three more scores as a runner. With a 92.4 QB rating on the season, Cousins has shown poise in the pocket and has made a number of big plays in big moments. He's thrown just one interception his past four games and just two picks since Week 7. Cousins is no pushover, meaning the Bears need to make life miserable for him in the pocket. Along with Young off the left side, Lamarr Houston needs to win his one-on-one matchups against RT Morgan Moses, while NT Eddie Goldman must continue to collapse the pocket in Cousins' face.

Prediction: Bears 26, Redskins 23

Coming off one of their worst losses of the season, I expect the Bears to be very motivated in this game, especially since they aren't yet mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The Redskins are battling for NFC East supremacy but they've struggled in all three phases for most of the year. The Soldier Field crowd should push the Bears over the top in what will be a close contest.

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