Jets @ Bears Preview

The Jets can clinch a second consecutive playoff berth on Sunday with a win at Soldier Field.

The Chicago Bears (10-4) won the NFC North last week, and the New York Jets (10-4) can clinch a playoff berth with a victory at Soldier Field Sunday.

What to watch for when the Bears are on offense:

This season, Chicago has had the fourth-fewest plays from scrimmage (817) and the third-fewest yards per game (291.6), mainly because quarterback Jay Cutler gets sacked all the time and the Chicago offense is put in second- and third-and-unlikely situations. The Jets will blitz Cutler early on to force three-and-outs and limit the Bears' possessions.

What to watch for when the Bears are on defense:

Individually, the Bears don't have anyone on defense who stands out statistically. But as a team, they're tough. Chicago gives up only 4.9 yards a play, and the Bears get out of third-down situations 65 percent of the time. The Jets are only 38 percent converting first downs on offense, so that will be a critical down in this matchup.

A Bears strength:

The return game – Thanks to Devin Hester, the Bears average 27 yards per kick return and 16.4 per punt return. Dude's pretty good. He set an NFL record for career returns for scores (14) when he earned paydirt on a 64-yard punt return against the Vikings last week. Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff will probably elect to punt out of bounds as much as possible.

A Bears weakness:

Protecting the quarterback – The Bears offensive line has given up a league-high 48 sacks and sixth-most quarterback hits (81). However, Cutler was given stout protection last week, and running back Matt Forte had all kinds of room to run against what used to be a good front-four in Minnesota.

Matchup to watch:

Led by Hester, Chicago is ranked second in the league in kick-return average, and the Jets are ranked fourth thanks to Brad Smith, who has taken two kick returns to the house this season. The best matchup in this game is each team's kick returner vs. the opposition's kick coverage as it will be a battle of starting field position all afternoon.

Final thoughts and Nick's picking:

The Jets only won last week because I picked against them. But I don't want to do it again. Jay-Eee-Tee-Ess 20, Da Bears 17.


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