NFL: New York Giants-Chicago Bears: Week 4 Game Preview and Prediction
The Bears are a team coming into town on their high horse at 3-0, knocking off the the Cowboys in Dallas and beating the Packers—a team that was predicted by many to make the Super Bowl—on Monday Night Football. Jay Cutler finally seems like he has his groove and Julius Peppers has raised his game a level since landing in the Windy City via free agency this offseason.
On the other hand, the Giants have been all the talk after their embarrassing loss to the Titans last week in which they turned the ball over three times—twice inside the Titans 10-yard line—sparking some locker room talk between players on whether Tom Coughlin has a grip on this team any more.
New York is in desperate need of a win and could get a nice boost to jump-start their season by beating the Bears.
Chicago's Offense vs. New York's Defense
Chicago comes into this game with the fifth-ranked pass offense and the 29th-ranked run offense, which is no surprise considering Mike Martz doesn't believe in running the ball much.
Jay Cutler has looked very good in the early going, remaining poised and limiting his turnovers. This year, Cutler has thrown for 870 yards with six touchdowns and only two interceptions. His lone interception on Monday was an ugly one, but he didn't beat himself up and ended up leading his team to victory—with the help of Green Bay's little penalty problem.
The most impressive thing about Cutler's stats is that he really doesn't have a go-to guy at the receiver position—Matt Forte leads the team with 14 catches—yet he has spread the ball around nicely and really seems to be clicking with almost all of his targets. Devin Hester and Johnny Knox are both very fast, but lack the star quality to take over ball games—although I must say Hester has improved his game tremendously and is always a threat to take one to the house.
The problem is that the Giants defense has a pretty stout secondary, ranked fourth against the pass, but has struggled against the run this year, allowing 136.7 yards per game on the ground, 26th in the NFL. This means that Chicago's offense almost plays into New York's style of defense. New arrival Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips make up quite the duo at safety, and Terrell Thomas is turning into one of the better corners in football.
Justin Tuck and company will need to get to Cutler if they want to force turnovers, as he has shown some maturity this year, throwing more accurately and not forcing many balls into coverage when given time. Look for Perry Fewell to dial up some blitzes, forcing Cutler to have to make quick decisions, something he hasn't done so well in the past.
New York's Offense vs. Chicago's Defense
The G-Men are the ninth-ranked pass offense and the 14th-ranked run offense, giving them a pretty balanced attack so far. Factor in 10 turnovers—six interceptions and four fumbles lost—in only three games, and that equals a below average offense, at least in my eyes.
The Giants offense has had its fair share of woes already in 2010. I can count four dropped balls that have turned into Eli Manning interceptions, killing drives and the morale of this team.
Tom Coughlin has been forced to return to the hot seat, answering questions about whether or not he feels his job is secure, which can be a distraction, especially in New York. His team will need to show improvement over the next few weeks, or we may have a coaching change on our hands.
Ahmad Bradshaw has run the ball well, amassing 253 yards on 52 carries with two scores, but has fumbled twice already, one of them at the six-yard line in last week's loss to Tennessee, which sucked all the life out of New York.
I do expect a solid performance this week from the offense though, as Chicago has a weak secondary and Eli has looked very good early in the season, despite the turnovers. He has thrown for 810 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions, but most of those picks were not his fault.
The Bears defense looked good at times against Green Bay, but the Packers displayed strictly a passing attack, and it will be interesting to see how they fair against a more balanced offense. To their credit, they have been superb against the run this season, ranking first in the NFL in that category. They have struggled against the pass—ranked 28th—but Dallas and Green Bay throw the ball very well, so the rankings could be skewed.
Look for Julius Peppers to be a deciding factor in this game. If he can get to Eli Manning early and often, it could spell trouble for Big Blue. Tommie Harris is finally healthy this season, which also doesn't bode well for the Giants' aging offensive line.
As we all know, special teams play a big factor in field position and can be the key to victory at times. Robbie Gould is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history and he has only missed one field goal in seven attempts this year, a 49-yard kick last Monday against Green Bay.
A slight contrast to Gould's success, Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes struggled last week, missing two big field goals in the loss to Tennessee. He will need to make a kick or two this week if the Giants want to win this game, as the Bears are a tough team to score on in the red zone.
Devin Hester, Danieal Manning, and Johnny Knox are all very good returning ball, and they have a lot speed. With the Giants not having one of the stronger special teams units in the league, a big return—or three—could be in the cards for Chicago.
Darius Reynaud made his way to the "Big Apple" along with Sage Rosenfels in a trade during the preseason, and he is still trying to make his mark in New York. He is a talented return man, and I think this may be the week when he shows his worth to Tom Coughlin and Giants fans.
Both teams have had punting problems. Matt Dodge, the Giants rookie punter, has been inconsistent this year, but TC is confident in his leg and thinks he will continue to improve. Bears punter Brad Maynard has only averaged 37.2 yards per punt, which isn't very good, but it is early in the season and he has been a solid punter for years.
The Bears have an advantage on special teams and if Hester can break one, the Giants are in for a long game. I do think that the Giants coaching staff will opt not to punt to him—a mistake Mike McCarthy wished he never made last week.
The Giants have really struggled this year, but it seems like every time the Giants get off to a rough start, they find a way to stay in the mix and win some big games. If they can find a way to force some turnovers and use a balanced offensive attack to keep the Bears on their heels, they can win this game, and win it convincingly.
This is a Giants team that has a history of winning and a quarterback in Eli Manning who knows how to get the job done. I think the Bears will get an unpleasant surprise from Coughlin and the Giants, struggling to get anything going on offense, consequently costing them the game
Giants 24, Bears 10
Phil Lombardo is a Bleacher Report writing intern and a senior journalism/mass communications major at St. Bonaventure University.
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