Five Things to Watch Sunday

Bear Report is covering the afternoon matchup in Week 13 between the Bears and Giants at Soldier Field in Chicago, and here are the top five things to be on the lookout for that could have a major effect on the final score.

1. Can Grossman take advantage of a thinned-out Giants secondary?
The G-Men will be down a few key defensive contributors in Sunday's game, as safety Gibril Wilson and rookie cornerback Aaron Ross didn't even make the trip to the Windy City. Wilson actually leads the team in both solo tackles (64) and interceptions (4), and Ross has really come on strong as of late opposite veteran Sam Madison. We all know that Rex Grossman is more effective when offensive coordinator Ron Turner loosens the reigns a little bit and lets the gunslinger do his thing, although disgusting weather in Chicago might make it quite difficult to throw the football consistently in this game.

But even if the Bears can take advantage of mismatches on the outside against second-string defensive backs, it won't matter much if Grossman is getting manhandled by D-ends Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan every time he drops back in the pocket.

2. Who will win the Burress vs. Tillman matchup when New York has the ball?
Plaxico Burress challenged the Chicago cornerbacks before last season's meeting in Week 10, and Charles Tillman responded by holding the rangy wideout to just four catches for 48 yards on the evening. Burress got off to an incredible start this season and was making big plays every week, but an ankle injury has cut into his production and the Big Apple passing game has taken a step back as a result. And while the Bears get reinforcements this week as Nathan Vasher will suit up for the first time since Week 3, whomever wins Round 2 of Burress-Tillman on the other side of the field will most likely put his team is position to win this game.

The Giants are a bit more dynamic and well-balanced in the passing game this season with Amani Toomer back in the fold, but it's still Burress who makes most of the highlight-reel plays.

3. Could Peterson actually makes the Bears offense better without Benson?

RB Adrian Peterson
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Cedric Benson was not overly impressive in his 11-game run as the featured back in Chicago, although he was starting to turn the corner before last week's ankle injury that cut short his 2007 campaign. Adrian Peterson makes his first start of the year in the backfield, which means Bears fans will finally get to see for themselves if the offensive line has truly slipped and can't open holes consistently or if indeed Benson was the root of the problem all along. Peterson is a good receiver out of the backfield and knows his assignments in terms of pass protection, but he's never carried the ball more than 76 times in any of his six seasons and will have to answer the durability question right away.

If Peterson can't get the job done, the Midway Monsters could be in big trouble on the ground because diminutive rookie Garrett Wolfe is the only other tailback on the roster right now and hasn't proven a thing in his NFL career to date.

4. Is Manning going to throw the Bears a few freebies like he did last week?
Not only was Eli Manning picked off four times in a 41-17 drubbing at the hands of the Vikings in Week 12, but three of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns. Like his counterpart Grossman, Manning tends to make mistakes in bunches and can see his off days really snowball out of control in a hurry. The Bears have only come up with seven INTs all season long after 24 – second most in the league – the year before, so it's possible that they could be overdue for a few early Christmas gifts from Manning in this game.

Starting tailback Brandon Jacobs is out of the lineup due to injury and second-stringer Derrick Ward is a gametime decision himself, so Manning might have to take to the air quite often Sunday if he wants to put points on the board.

5. How many chances will Hester get this week in the return game?
The Monsters of the Midway should have been dead in the water against the Broncos last Sunday, but the incomparable Devin Hester stole the show once again by returning both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in the third quarter to keep his team in the game. Tom Coughlin has vowed not to make the same mistake that Mike Shanahan did, and Giants punter Jeff Feagles is already on record saying that both he and kicker Lawrence Tynes will go out of their way to keep the ball out of Hester's electrifying hands. Special teams coach Dave Toub might have to get awfully creative in this contest if he wants the most dangerous weapon in the NFL to have any sort of impact Sunday.

Grossman is more than happy to take possession at the 40- or 45-yard line every time after those yellow-bellied squib kicks, but that might be pretty good strategy by the Giants considering how up-and-down the Bears offense has been this season – especially if the weather is as much of a factor as it's predicted to be.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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