Game Preview: Chicago Bears at New York Giants, November 20, 2016
Almost every New York Giants fan is thinking the same thing: the Giants should beat the 2-7 Chicago Bears and 0-10 Cleveland Browns and be 8-3 in two weeks. Clearly that is the most likely scenario if the Giants remain focused and don’t take the Bears and Browns lightly. That said, keep in mind the Giants have won six games by a total of 21 points. Every game has been a struggle.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- RB Orleans Darkwa (lower leg) – questionable
- WR Victor Cruz (ankle) – probable
- WR Dwayne Harris (toe) – probable
- OG Justin Pugh (knee) – out
- OL Brett Jones (calf) – out
- OL Adam Gettis (calf) – questionable
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Bears are a well-coached 3-4 defense under former Giants defensive coordinator John Fox and former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Despite not having a lot of top talent, the Bears are 11th in defense (11th against the run, 12th against the pass). The good news for the Giants is the Bears are really beat up on defense. Two starting defensive linemen – NT Eddie Goldman (ankle – questionable) and DE Mitch Unrein (back – doubtful) – have missed practice this week. So has reserve CB Deiondre’ Hall (ankle – doubtful). Four more starting defenders have been limited, including LB Pernell McPhee (knee – questionable), LB Willie Young (ankle – questionable), CB Tracy Porter (knee – questionable), and CB Bryce Callahan (hamstring – questionable). Reserve NT Will Sutton was placed on IR this week.
As is the case with 3-4 defenses, the primary pass-rushing threats come from the outside linebackers. Young leads the Bears with 6.5 sacks, while top reserve and Giants 2016 Draft target LB Leonard Floyd is second on the team with five sacks. Given the depleted nature of the Bears defense, expect Fox and Fangio to play it conservatively. They will focus on preventing the big play in the passing game with extra attention of course being given to Odell Beckham, Jr. This should open up opportunities for the running game as well as other passing targets, namely Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz, and the backs and tight ends.
What we’re about to discover is if the Giants rushing success against the Bengals was a mirage or not. If the Giants cannot consistently run the ball against the Bears, they will have to continue to live and die with a passing game that has largely been dependent on the big play. The good news for the Giants is that they have really cut down on penalties in recent weeks. But turnovers remain a problem and the blocking up front remains inconsistent. Thus, the offense has largely been feast or famine.
What we’re really all waiting for is a clean game (no turnovers) with consistent running-game performance that results in 30+ points on the scoreboard. The Giants will be very thin up front for this game. Both Justin Pugh and Brett Jones are out and Adam Gettis is questionable.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Bears are a middle-of-the-pack offense (16th overall, 21st rushing, 18th passing). But like the defense, the Bears are hurting on this side of the ball. Their best offensive weapon – WR Alshon Jeffery – has been suspended. Right guard Kyle Long was placed on Injured Reserve. RT Bobby Massie (concussion) is doubtful. LG Josh Sitton (ankle – questionable), WR Eddie Royal (toe – questionable), and WR Marquess Wilson (foot – questionable) were all limited in practice.
The Bears offense has long succeeded or failed on the incredibly inconsistent play of QB Jay Cutler. There are occasional moments when Cutler looks like a world-beater, but he has the make-up of a loser who loves to bitch-and-whine when things don’t go his way. Without Jeffery, Cutler’s primary targets will likely be TE Zach Miller (44 catches, 3 touchdowns), Royal (30 catches, 2 touchdowns), and WR Cameron Meredith (29 catches, 2 touchdowns). The Giants secondary should be able to handle this group provided the linebackers and safeties can keep Miller under control.
Despite Chicago’s 21st-ranking in the run game, RB Jordan Howard is a dangerous back. He’s rushed for 605 yards on 114 carries (5.3 yards per carry). Running backs Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey are averaging 4.0 yards per carry. The focal point must be on stopping the run. If the Giants stymie Chicago’s running game and make it difficult for Miller to get open down the middle of the field, the Bears offense will be in trouble. Look for Cutler to get frustrated and start making mistakes.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Tom Quinn’s special teams units are giving up too many big returns. Eddie Royal is a dangerous punt returner who already has returned one punt for a touchdown this season (and has three in his career). Robbie Gould gets a chance to help or hurt his old team. Dwayne Harris (who is probable) is battling a nagging toe injury and it remains to be seen if Bobby Rainey takes over return duties this weekend. If he does, keep in mind that Rainey has had fumbling issues as a returner throughout his career.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan on the Bears outside linebackers: “If you’re talking about the outside linebackers that become different defensive ends, obviously they’re a very talented defensive front. That’s not coach speak. You put the tape on and there aren’t too many quarterbacks that are back there that either are not getting hit or they’re having to reset and move in the pocket or they’re getting sacked. Of course with Floyd, he’s a young guy that’s really coming into his groove. McPhee is a heck of a player, he’s been on a pitch count, if you will, because of his injuries. Hicks, of course, is tremendous and young; that’s a great group. You asked about the outside guys, they become defensive ends when we go to our zebra package and so obviously we have to be aware of opportunities that we have and trying to make sure that if we want to push the ball down the field, we account for those guys, trying to help tackles when necessary and do various things because they definitely do present a challenge.”
THE FINAL WORD:
The Bears are going nowhere and banged up. They also gave the Giants a gift this week by oddly talking trash. “We’re gonna tear their ass up,” said Pernell McPhee. It’s been a long time since the Giants blew anyone out. Could this finally be the week?