It feels like so long ago that the Chicago Bears ended their two-game losing streak with a win over the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football, but the vacation will end when they hit the road to take on a talented Redskins team this week.
The win over the Giants wasn't the Bears' best game of the season, but it was important to get back in the win column. They were banged up and facing a short weak, but they got solid performances from quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall to go with three interceptions by their defense.
This week they take on a Redskins team who has far more talent than their 1-4 record suggests. Quarterback Robert Griffin III struggled to come back from a knee injury suffered last year, but is looking more comfortable every week. Their defense got off to an awful start, but they've been better in recent weeks, holding an explosive Dallas Cowboys team to just 213 total yards.
For more insight on this matchup, I contacted Redskins Featured Columnist James Dudko. Dudko has written over 1,000 articles for Bleacher Report, mostly on the Redskins.
What is something you’re concerned about with the Redskins facing the Bears?
There are actually two things that are a major concern after Week 6. The first is how Washington’s abysmal special teams will cope with Devin Hester.
Surrendering big returns cost the Redskins the game against the Dallas Cowboys. Hester can certainly have the same impact.
The other area of concern is how Washington’s offensive line will deal with the Bears' A-gap pressure schemes. Mel Tucker has crafted a dangerous blend of blitz and coverages from A-gap pressure looks. That part of his scheme is compensating for an otherwise struggling pass rush.
Chicago’s ability to collapse the pocket with just its front four may have diminished, but the Redskins have really struggled dealing with blitzes through the middle.
I understand why both are concerns, but I don't think Washington will have trouble with either.
Hester has struggled since having a big game against the Vikings. Lately, it's seemed he likes to take the ball from deep in the end zone and run into a crowd of people. Teams have been game-planning for Hester, and he's proven to be relatively easy to keep under control. He's simply not the same player he used to be.
It's also worth mentioning that the Dwayne Harris of the Cowboys is much more of a straight-line runner, whereas Hester dances around quite a bit.
As far as the A-gap blitzes: They've shown them, but they haven't gotten home a lot. I expect the Redskins to throw a lot of screens and short passes to keep the Bears' blitz in check.
What is one area you think the Redskins can exploit in the matchup?
Mike and Kyle Shanahan have to lean on their zone-running game against the Bears.
Although they are certainly no longer so dependent on the Tampa 2, the Bears still show a lot of two-deep looks. The Redskins have to be able to exploit seven-man fronts with their trademark stretch play.
They usually run it to the left, but Washington should take a page from the New York Giants and attack the right side of Chicago’s D-line.
Big Blue and Brandon Jacobs made a number of significant gains over the right side. The Redskins can do the same with either Alfred Morris or Roy Helu Jr. carrying the ball.
This is something that has to be a big concern for the Bears, but I don't know if you'll see quite as many two-deep looks against the Redskins.
Griffin doesn't have the arm strength that some of the other quarterbacks the Bears have faced this season—he's struggled to make plays down the field. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Griffin has completed just 4-of-20 passes that have traveled over 20 yards. That percentage is dead last among the 34 passers who have 10 or more deep attempts.
The Redskins have just 11 passing plays of 20 or more yards, tied for last in the league. Four of the Bears' six opponents have over 20. Of course, part of the reason is because they've played a Bears defense that is second-to-last in giving those kinds of plays up.
If Charles Tillman returns—as expected—after missing last week from injury, I think you'll see a lot of man defense from the Bears corners, and they'll stack the box to stop the run.
Who do you think wins and why?
I’m actually very confident Washington can win, even though I like a lot of what the Bears are doing this season.
Linebacker James Anderson was a good signing for the defense. Offensively, Marc Trestman has got a system better suited to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte.
But despite those positives, the Bears still look like a team in need of regeneration. Their key players are growing old together and there does not seem to be an obvious infusion of youth at a number of key positions.
The Redskins are certainly struggling, but I think their zone game can exploit the Bears defense while their blitzes should force Cutler into a key mistake.
I agree, Washington can win. But I don't think they will.
As I alluded to earlier, I'm not sure they can take advantage of the Bears' biggest weakness on defense and push the ball down the field. The Bears defense will get a big boost from Stephen Paea and Tillman returning.
The Bears should be worried about the Washington pass rush, but I think they have too many weapons for the Redskins' weak secondary to cover. If the Bears can hold up at the line of scrimmage, I don't think they'll have much trouble moving to 5-2.
I'm expecting games from Matt Forte and Cutler in a 35-24 Bears win.