The New York Giants dreams of postseason glory have turned into a nightmare entering Week 6 of the 2013 season, as they take on the Chicago Bears on Thursday Night Football.
It is difficult to explain the winless Giants fall from prominence, and the road to getting back on track is made even more difficult by the short week and a road game in Chicago.
As far as the 3-2 Bears are concerned, hosting New York is a blessing, considering they are coming off back-to-back losses in Weeks 4 and 5. Taking on the hapless Giants is perhaps the best means for Chicago to correct its recent woes.
Both teams are looking to rebound from recent losses. New York is obviously desperate for a win, while the Bears have more at stake given their standing in the NFC North.
By examining some critical elements of each team's game plan, we can get an idea of just how this Week 6 matchup will play out. There are a number of keys that both the Giants and Bears will need to follow if they want to get back into the win column.
Resurrect the Defense
Remember those days when the Bears defense was one of the most feared in the league?
Well, that is not the case anymore—Chicago's defense now ranks 26th in the league in points allowed at 28.0 per game.
The good news is that the Bears are good at forcing turnovers. Their six interceptions puts them among the NFL's top ten in that category. That and their 11 forced fumbles bode well against a Giants offense that's been plagued by turnovers all season.
New York's offense is not very good, and Chicago can benefit from that especially at home at Soldier Field. Expect a few critical turnovers during this game.
Get Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffery Involved
Quarterback Jay Cutler is starting to develop a nice rhythm with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Jeffery has 15 receptions for 325 yards with two touchdowns over the last two weeks, after catching just 13 passes for 104 and no scores in the first three. The second-year wideout's emergence has been due in large part to opponents locking up Cutler's favorite receiver, Brandon Marshall.
Cutler should be able to continue his rapport with Jeffery, considering the lackluster and porous Giants defense.
Feed Running Back Matt Forte the Ball
Running back Matt Forte is averaging 75.0 yards per game thus far into the season, and he should expect that average to rise significantly in Week 6.
The Giants have given up 630 yards rushing up to this point, and it is safe to say that their defense is no longer what it used to be.
Forte should be able to break off some nice runs to start the game, which, in turn, should set up the passing game. Once Chicago gets out to a comfortable lead, Forte will continue to pad his stats, as the Bears offense looks to eat up the clock.
New York Giants
Protect Eli Manning
It is an obvious statement that the Giants offensive line has struggled to prevent pressure from getting to quarterback Eli Manning.
So far, Manning has been sacked a total of 15 times, and as a result of this pressure, Manning is often delivering passes too early. It doesn't help that his targets are not getting open. His eight touchdowns versus 12 interceptions speaks volumes to this.
Even head coach Tom Coughlin has pointed out Manning's woes, as stated via USA Today.
"I honestly believe that he's trying so hard to get us a win, he's almost put too much on himself," Coughlin said. "He keeps it all pretty much inside."
Regardless of what New York's offensive line is going through right now, it needs to do a better job of giving Manning time to throw the ball, to let him do what he is capable of doing.
Get the Wide Receivers Involved
It is that simple.
Cruz has netted 473 receiving yards and four touchdowns while Nicks has only 372 and zero scores.
Chicago will look to shut down Manning's favorite target, Cruz, which means Nicks should get plenty of opportunities to make plays. The veteran wide receiver has stated the need for New York's offense to find their groove.
That has yet to happen, but if the Giants want to avoid an 0-6 start, they will need to do so sooner rather than later.
The Running Game Needs to Produce
Regardless, the Giants' running game has been anything but good thus far this season. New York ranks dead last in rushing yards per game—averaging a mere 56.8 yards.
With these lowly numbers, opponents have easily forced New York into being one dimensional, and the Giants passing game has suffered for it.
Backs Brandon Jacobs and the recently re-signed Da'Rel Scott will look to split the load on the ground.
Simply put, New York's backs need to produce on the ground. If they can, the Giants offense should be able to put up a scrap against a Bears defense that is nowhere as dominating as it used to be.
A win for the Bears would put them at 4-2 and allow them to retain their hold atop the NFC North. They have the advantage of playing at home against the lowly Giants.
Yet, New York should come out with a sense of desperation in this one. It is safe to assume that this season is a lost cause for the Giants, yet the team does not want to be a total embarrassment. There is still plenty of talent on this team. They just need that talent to do its job.
In all likelihood, Chicago pulls this game out. New York will play better than they have for most of this season, but it will not be enough. Sadly for the Giants and their fans, New York will probably wind up 0-6 after it is all said and done.
For them, a good game will at least be a step in the right direction.
All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise stated.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.