The New York Giants find themselves back at MetLife Stadium in Week 11 as they look to increase their win streak to five straight games. Their opponent: The 2-7 Chicago Bears who are looking to dig themselves out of the trenches this week. To learn more about the Giants’ opponent, we go Behind Enemy Lines with Bear Report’s, Jeremy Stoltz, to see where the Bears stand halfway through the season and what they will try to do to defeat Big Blue this Sunday.
ST: The Bears have not had a good week so far as not only did they suffer a horrible loss to the Bucs, but RG Kyle Long is now out for the season, and star WR Alshon Jeffery was suspended four games for PEDs. What is the atmosphere around this team after all of this bad news?
JS: The atmosphere for the Bears is one of extreme disappointment. This is a 2-7 club coming off a 28-point blowout loss to a sub-.500 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team, and they just lost their best two offensive players. Almost nothing has gone right for the Bears this year and the wheels are starting to fall off. At this point, the team is searching for something to hang their hat on, while finding a way to finish the season with a sliver of pride still intact.
ST: Staying with the offense, the Bears just have not found their niche on this side of the ball. They currently sit second to last in points per game and starting QB Jay Cutler is certainly underperforming with a QBR of 77.1 while throwing only three touchdowns and four picks. What do you think is the reasoning behind this poor offense? Does it fall on one or two players, or is it the offense as a whole?
JS: What’s interesting is that, outside of scoring, the Bears have been about average on offense this year. The club’s new-look offensive line has been very solid, while rookie RB Jordan Howard has breathed new life into the rushing attack. Yet no matter who is under center, the Bears just can’t find a way to score points. Everyone has played a part, and Cutler was certainly the culprit during his four-turnover outing last week. Costly turnovers, drive-stalling penalties and an inability to execute in the red zone have crippled a fairly talented offense.
ST: The defense, on the other hand, has been holding its own as the 10th best in the league. At the halfway mark, how would you rate this Chicago defense?
JS: The defensive front seven has been a bright silver lining for the Bears this year. They’ve been consistent against the run, with strong LB play from both Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. In the middle, Akiem Hicks has commanded double teams all year, while first-round OLB Leonard Floyd leads all NFL rookies with 5.0 sacks. The strong play up front has masked a Chicago secondary severely lacking in talent, although CB Tracy Porter has been very steady against opposing No. 1 receivers.
ST: In reference to the Giants’ offense, LB Pernell McPhee told the media, “We’re going to tear their ass up. I don’t care what everybody else did. We’re going to sack him [Eli Manning]. He can throw the ball however many ties he wants. I’m going to make sure of that.” McPhee has only played in but he has three sacks in the last two games. Do you see him getting to Manning all game long like he promised?
JS: McPhee has provided a spark to the pass rush since his return three weeks ago. His brute power and explosiveness off the edge is tough for most offensive tackles to handle. His presence has benefited both Hicks and Floyd, who have excelled since McPhee’s return. The Bears have 11 sacks in the three games since McPhee’s return, including nine the past two weeks combined. Right now, Chicago’s pass rush is running on all cylinders. The Giants have been outstanding in pass protection all season but the Bears should be able to harass Eli Manning a bit on Sunday.
ST: In the secondary, how do you see the corners and safeties stopping the wide receiving threats of the Giants?
JS: The Bears are banged up in the secondary, so pass rush will be crucial. If Manning is given time in the pocket, he’s going to pick them apart. That said, Tracy Porter is having an excellent season and has consistently locked down opposing No. 1 receivers. Porter isn’t a household name but he’s played like one. Odell Beckham presents a great taste but to this point, Porter has been up to each and every challenge, which should create a fan matchup to watch.
ST: In your opinion, what do you think is the biggest challenge the Bears present the Giants this week?
JS: The Bears will attempt to make the Giants one-dimensional on offense and should have no problem limiting New York’s 31st-ranked rushing attack. If they can do that, then McPhee, Floyd, Hicks and Willie Young (6.5 sacks this season) can pin their ears back and get after Manning. If they can collapse the pocket, that could force some early throws and lead to some timely interceptions. If the Bears can make Manning uncomfortable in the pocket and pry a few balls loose, they have an outside chance of pulling off the upset, but only if they force multiple turnovers.
ST: Finally, with the Bears road record 0-5, do you think this is the week they get that first win as the away team?
JS: I don’t see it happening. The Bears are a team in free fall and are now without their top two offensive players. I expect the defense to play well but they’ll eventually get worn down, just like they did last week, and the Giants will win this one going away.