Chicago Bears (3-0) at New York Giants (1-2)
The Giants will be a desperate, angry team Sunday night, but they're not better than the Bears (though sometimes in the NFL that doesn't matter as much as the desperation). If I'd seen the Giants play with any consistency in the first 12 quarters, I'd be inclined to have them win a game they have to have. But I haven't seen the Giants' big players -- Eli Manning, Justin Tuck, Steve Smith -- play big so far, and the first three weeks of the season have been highlight-filled by Chicago's Jay Cutler and Brian Urlacher, among other Bears. If I were Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, I'd be sending the house at Cutler, trying to force him into errors. But I'm not sure that'll win this game.
Tackle Chris Williams (hamstring) and safety Major Wright (hamstring) have been ruled out for Sunday night. Guard Roberto Garza (knee), safety Chris Harris (neck) and defensive end Israel Idonije (foot) are probable.
For the Giants, defensive lineman Mathias Kiwanuka, tackle Will Beatty (foot) and center Shaun O'Hara (ankle/Achilles) are out, linebacker Keith Bulluck (toe) is doubtful, and defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (back) and defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee) are questionable. Linebacker Chase Blackburn (knee), linebacker Phillip Dillard (hamstring), wide receiver Mario Manningham (concussion) and returner Darius Reynaud (illness) are probable.
In advance of Sunday's Bears-Giants game, ESPNChicago.com's Michael Wright and ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk debate which unit has the advantage when the Bears' defense takes on Eli Manning and the Giants' offense. Here's a look at the case for Chicago.
Don’t be misled by the Bears’ 28th-ranked pass defense. Each of the club’s first three opponents rank in the top 12 in passing offense, and two of the quarterbacks the Bears faced -- Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Dallas’ Tony Romo -- sit among the league’s top 10 in passing yardage, averaging 313.3 and 253 yards, respectively.
Besides that, it’s not Chicago’s ability to defend the pass that sets it apart. The Bears destroy opponents’ rushing attacks, which we all know is one of the basic tenets of winning football.
Teams are rushing for a 39.7-yard average against the Bears, led by defensive end Julius Peppers and arguably the league’s most athletic group of linebackers in Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa. The club’s best defensive tackle, Tommie Harris, wasn’t even active Monday night against the Packers, yet the Bears never missed a beat.
Teams set up the passing game by running the football ball. But if you can’t run, what are you setting up?
While it’s true the Bears’ sack numbers (2) aren’t impressive, opponents are devoting so much to neutralizing Peppers that other defenders have pressured quarterbacks 17 times.
Let’s not forget about Chicago’s penchant for forcing turnovers, either. Ranked eighth in turnover differential, the Bears have made four interceptions, in addition to forcing and recovering four fumbles. It’s no coincidence that the top three teams in turnover differential (Steelers, Jets, and Buccaneers) own a combined 7-2 record while the bottom three (49ers, Panthers, Ravens) are 2-7.
In advance of Sunday's Bears-Giants game, ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk and ESPNChicago.com's Michael Wright debate which unit has the advantage when the Bears' defense takes on the Giants' offense. Here's a look at the case for Big Blue.
Let’s face it, Chicago’s defense isn’t the second-coming of Buddy Ryan’s famed Bears. And the Giants' offense isn’t as bad it has appeared this season.
Yes, Eli Manning has thrown six interceptions, tied for most in the league with Brett Favre. But outside of one Favre-like left-handed pass that ended up in an interception in the end zone last week against Tennessee, Manning has been mostly unlucky.
Five of Manning’s interceptions have glanced off his receivers’ hands. Even with the interceptions, Manning is 10th in the NFL in completion percentage (65.7) and ninth in passing yards (810).
Manning, who has thrown for more yards than Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, completed 34-of-48 passes for 386 yards last week and will need to have a similar outing, without the interceptions, against Chicago. He is very good when the Giants go no-huddle and he’s been working toward getting on the same page with his weapons -- Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.
The Bears are excellent against the run but the Giants have to rely more on the pass these days. The Giants should try to get Ahmad Bradshaw outside and in space with pitch outs and short passes like they did last week.
The offensive line has had its difficulties and center Shaun O’Hara is out. But Adam Koets will make his second straight start and tackles David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie will likely have help against Julius Peppers with Shawn Andrews possibly playing more.
After turning the ball over twice inside the five against Tennessee, Tom Coughlin will have his offense brainwashed into protecting the football. The Giants are desperate and Manning knows what it takes to win a big game.
7. The hot seat moves from the Windy City: No coach was on the hot seat more than the Bears' Lovie Smith. A 3-0 start has turned down the temperature and made the Bears, who play the Giants on Sunday night, a legitimate playoff contender. The hot seat focus now shifts to New York, where Giants coach Tom Coughlin is under fire. The Giants are making more mental mistakes than big plays. New York, known as one of the best-coached teams in the NFL, looks undisciplined at times. And here are interesting passing numbers: According to ESPN Stats & Information, Eli Manning is throwing well, completing 31 of 43 passes for a 10.6-yard average on throws outside the numbers on the field. Inside the numbers, though, he's 36-for-59 for a 6-yard average and six interceptions. Not good.
Bears at New York Giants
7:20 p.m. Sunday, NBC, AM-780
Northwest Herald sports writer Tom Musick breaks down this week’s Bears game:
Bears’ rushing offense vs. Giants’ rushing defense
The Bears used to “get off the bus running.” These days, apparently, they get off of the plane passing. Bears leading rusher Matt Forte is No. 35 in the NFL with 108 rushing yards, and no other player on the team is in the top 50. The Bears rank 29th in the run game.
Bears’ passing offense vs. Giants’ passing defense
This might be the most intriguing matchup heading into Sunday’s game. The Bears are fifth in passing offense with 277 yards a game, while the Giants are fourth in passing defense with only 169 yards allowed a game. Quarterback Jay Cutler has earned the benefit of the doubt so far.
Giants’ rushing offense vs. Bears’ rushing defense
The next big-time rushing performance that the Bears defense allows will be the first. Thanks to a terrific set of linebackers, the Bears are No. 1 in run defense with only 39.7 rushing yards allowed a game. Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw is good but not great.
Giants’ passing offense vs. Bears’ passing defense
Which is more important, history or current events? On one hand, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has a miserable 44.2 passer rating in two starts against the Bears. On the other, Manning leads the ninth-ranked passing offense against the Bears’ No. 28 passing defense.
Is it too late to hop on the Bears’ bandwagon? Confidence is brimming at Halas Hall after three consecutive wins, and players are happy to enter Sunday’s game as underdogs yet again. The Giants have beaten themselves with turnovers and penalties this season, and they are teetering on the verge of collapse. The Bears take advantage for another key win.