By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
The Chicago Bears enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving day after beating the Detroit Lions and then were rewarded with an entire weekend to themselves before returning to Halas Hall on Tuesday.
What awaited the Bears as the defining story of this week was the continuing health of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s shoulder. After Trubisky being limited in practice on Wednesday there were reports saying that backup quarterback Chase Daniel will be the starter again on Sunday against the New York Giants, who themselves are a team that struggled out of the gate losing seven of their first eight games.
In the weeks since New York has taken its 1-7 record into the bye week and have surprisingly taken a bit of a positive turn in winning two of their last three games. This week is another week where the Bears are clearly the better team coming in but will the team show up and show out against a lackluster Giants in the Meadowlands?
Chicago’s task this week is getting to 9-3, which would look a lot better in time for their next Sunday Night showdown against the Rams. Here are the four goals for the Bears to get another victory and keep their momentum train on schedule.
“It’s a Trap!!” — As the calendar turns one last time in 2018 the Bears are in the first of what will hopefully be a recurring situation going forward in the Matt Nagy regime — biding time across a trap game with much more important games laying ahead. In order to qualify for a trap game in the NFL you need three elements: First, you need at least a good team that is a threat to be a contender and that is what the Bears are in this situation.
Secondly, this good team needs to be matched with bad team that the good team is clearly better than, of course in this situation that is the Giants (it helps for said game to be on the road too, which this week’s game will be).
The third element is the good team needing a big game scheduled for their following contest, one big enough to threaten to steal focus and attention from the game at hand — the Bears have this in Dec. 9th’s Sunday Night Football match with the Los Angeles Rams, one of only two teams in the NFC with a better record than Chicago.
It’s been a while since the Bears franchise has been in this position so they may need a refresher course (or in the case of many of the fresh-faced players on the team, an initial course) in handling this kind of situation: good teams counter these trap games by not looking ahead and taking everything week by week.
A reason why Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is so boring in expressing himself to the media is because he’s simply expressing his single-minded mentality in preparing for each team each week, no matter how much of a threat that opponent is talent-wise. Good teams stick to their formulas of success and adjust when needed, they also never get too high from a win or too low from a loss.
Staying in control of emotions and putting emphasis on preparation is the best combination for a team to avoid losing trap games. The Bears need to stay the course and continue to do what they have done each week this season and that has been maintaining a readiness to play regardless of who’s in front of them.
Effective Quarterback Play — The injury to Trubisky’s shoulder against Minnesota was understandably severe enough to keep him out of the game against the Lions a mere 85 hours later. The Bears have gone to great lengths to be cautious and make sure this is an injury that will completely heal itself.
Bears brass is likely in the process of taking advantage of a weaker opponent in the Giants and letting Trubisky rest one more week. Perhaps Trubisky would play this Sunday if this week’s opponent was the Rams, but we won’t know. Regardless, the Bears have to get effective quarterback play from whomever gets the start this week if they want to keep things smooth.
Backup QB Chase Daniel did not have much practice time aside from a couple of walkthroughs for the Detroit game, but he already has nothing short of an expert-level knowledge of coach Nagy’s system, still Daniel is a guy that should play better with a week of actual practice. Trubisky brings more big play potential to the field and that could significant because the Giants offense can be extremely explosive itself and it may need to be matched on Sunday.
Whoever the Bears decide to go with, they better be ready to put points up on the board this week.
Cover the Playmakers — The Giants have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type of offense. Long-time franchise quarterback Eli Manning is a guy notorious for going on stretches of games with superhuman quarterback play until he just flattens out.
Manning’s play-makers fuel his play at its best and he isn’t short on those types, which include tight end Evan Engram, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Saquon Barkley. Manning has options and can burn a lot of defenses when everything is clicking and he gets protection, but that is far from a constant cause one of New York’s biggest weaknesses is its offensive line. Compounding that issue is that Manning is a statue in the backfield and can’t escape anyone and being under pressure has been a common theme for him this season.
The Giants offensive line is tied for second-worst in the league in total sacks given up at 38, just one away from tying the league worst. If the Bears defense can take away Barkley, Engram and Beckham Jr. then the Giants offensive line won’t give enough time for Manning to beat the Bears with his arm.
Barkley is especially key because shutting him down in the run game would put more pressure on the offensive line to protect Eli and give the Bears more opportunities to feed.
Get Off the Bus Running — As far as the Bears run attack goes, it officially has become one of the closest things resembling a negative in this overall positive season. Currently ranking 20th in the league in rushing, against Detroit, without the help of Trubisky, the team only ran for 38 yards in total.
The Bears didn’t do a good job committing to the run, but even when they went to it this part of the game was ineffective with just an average of 2.5 yards a carry, not the type of numbers a playoff-bound team wants to see. The Bears need their running backs, and not their quarterback, to be more effective in producing consistent positive yardage on the ground.
Like the losing team it is, the Giants defense ranks poorly in their run defense, giving up 126 yards through the ground weekly. This is a perfect game to run the ball with the potentially crappy weather in New Jersey punctuating a road trip to a fun city where they may want to hang out during the weekend while not worrying too much about playing another game without Money Making Mitch.
If the Bears can amass around a hundred yards rushing with their running backs, then the Bears should have no trouble leaving the Big Apple with another big win.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR