Behind Enemy Lines: Part III

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Ken Palmer of The Giant Insider, break down Sunday's game between the Bears and Giants at Soldier Field in Chicago. Let's finish this three-part series with some matchups to watch, game scenarios, and final predictions.

Matchup to watch when the Giants are on offense:
TE Jeremy Shockey vs. S Adam Archuleta

We all know that Archuleta is great against the run. It's a lack of coverage ability that has proven to be a liability for him. Shockey is a perennial Pro Bowler and, if the Giants are able to isolate Shockey on Archuleta, it could be a very long day for the Bears defense.

Matchup to watch when the Giants are on defense:
DE Osi Umenyiora vs. OT John Tait
As good as Tait is, he's certainly going to need help against Umenyiora, who has been tearing up opponents this season. Umenyiora has developed into not only a superb pass-rusher but a very consistent player against the run as well. Also helping Umenyiora has been the high level of play out of fellow defensive linemen Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Fred Robbins, which prevents opponents from giving Umenyiora the extra attention he deserves.

Matchup to watch when the Bears are on offense:
RB Adrian Peterson vs. LB Antonio Pierce


LB Antonio Pierce and RB Adrian Peterson
Getty Images
Most Bears fans considered Cedric Benson to be a colossal disappointment this season replacing Thomas Jones as the starter at tailback, but now they'll finally get a chance to see if Benson is indeed the reason why the Chicago running game has been so ineffective. Peterson gets the start Sunday with Benson being moved to injured reserve, and it's possible the Bears offense could be much more versatile because Peterson is a better receiver out of the backfield than Benson will ever be and also does a good job in pass protection. Pierce is New York's leading tackler and one of the more underrated linebackers in football, and he is listed as probable on the injury report despite missing some practice time this week with a bum ankle he suffered last Sunday.

A couple big days on the ground from Peterson down the stretch could prove devastating to Benson's future in the Windy City, but the offensive line will have even more questions to answer if he struggles just as badly.

Matchup to watch when the Bears are on defense:
CB Charles Tillman vs. WR Plaxico Burress
Burress did a lot of yapping in the press before last season's showdown between these two clubs in Week 10, saying that the Chicago cornerbacks were average at best and not among the league's elite. Tillman responded to the challenge, holding Burress to just four catches for 48 yards and keeping him out of the end zone in a 38-20 Bears victory. While he usually plays on the left side of the defense and is much more comfortable there, look for Tillman to once again follow Burress all over the field no matter where he lines up because Nathan Vasher (5-10) and rookie Trumaine McBride (5-9) don't have the size to consistently cover the 6-5 Burress.

This matchup could be an explosive one because both players are coming off big performances in Week 12, Burress catching seven balls for 93 yards and a score while Tillman intercepted a pass and blocked a punt.

The Giants will win this game if ...
... Eli Manning recovers from the worst game of his four-year career, and they're able to run the ball. If Manning's running the short passing game like he can and rookie Ahmad Bradshaw can make some plays on the ground, the Giants should be fine.

Needless to say, the Giants special teams will have to do a bang-up job against the dangerous Devin Hester. Don't expect Giants punter Jeff Feagles or kicker Lawrence Tynes to send the ball in Hester's direction all that often Sunday.

The Giants will lose this game if ...
... the Bears can get their ground game going. The Giants haven't exactly been bottling up running backs of late. Even though they came back against Denver last week, the Bears would be wise to get an early lead. New York's defense has done a great job of getting up on teams and holding on, most recently in Detroit two weeks ago.

But Manning is hardly out of the woods, and he'll need to play much better than he did against the Vikings for Big Blue to have a shot.

The Bears will win this game if ...
... Rex Grossman eliminates the turnovers he was guilty of last week. Make no mistake about it, the Midway Monsters had no business winning that overtime thriller against Denver and were bailed out by two kick-return touchdowns by Hester in the third quarter. Grossman threw an interception and lost a pair of fumbles, the second of which causing many Bears fans to head for the exits at Soldier Field. The Giants rush the passer as well as any team in the league and face a Chicago offensive line that's iffy at best, so Grossman must take extra care of the football and avoid those paralyzing miscues that get him into trouble.

It looks like Fred Miller will not be able to go at right tackle, meaning John St. Clair has the unenviable task of blocking Strahan all day long.


DE Osi Umenyiora and OT John Tait
Getty Images

The Bears will lose this game if ...
... Strahan and Umenyiora play like, well, Strahan and Umenyiora. Not only have those dominant defensive ends combined for 18 sacks so far this season, but Tuck has 7.5 of his own as a role player. The Giants lead the NFL with 38 QB takedowns, and they might be smelling blood in the water with Tait at left tackle still a little gimpy after offseason ankle surgery and St. Clair stepping in for the injured – not to mention embarrassingly ineffective – Miller on the right side. Grossman is not especially mobile in the pocket, suffering 19 sacks on only 173 pass attempts – and the G-Men know it.

Peterson is better at picking up blitzers than Benson and should be a big help against this dynamite pass rush, and you can also expect offensive coordinator Ron Turner to keep tight ends Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen in to block a little more than usual.

FINAL PREDICTIONS
Ken Palmer:
The Giants have played a lot of ugly games of late, and this one will follow form. But New York will do enough to outlast a fired-up Chicago club that's playing for its playoff life. While the Bears need this game a lot more than New York does, the Giants are just a better team and will show it on Sunday ...
GIANTS 20, BEARS 16

John Crist: The Monsters of the Midway have been gridiron yo-yos all season long, trading wins and losses back and forth each of the last eight games. They are right in the middle of the playoff hunt in a less-than-spectacular NFC, but there is still very little reason to be excited in Chicago. Both the offense and defense have been bailed out by sensational special teams play most of the year, but Tom Coughlin will learn from Mike Shanahan's mistakes and keep the ball out of Hester's hands at all costs ...
GIANTS 23, BEARS 17

To go back and read Part I of Behind Enemy Lines, where John answered five questions from Ken, Click Here. For Part II, where Ken answered five questions from John, Click Here.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. Ken Palmer is the Managing Editor for TheGiantInsider.com.


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