New England Patriots vs. Chicago Bears: Game Preview
This week, the NFL-leading, 10-2 (4-2 away from home) Patriots will play the 9-3 (4-2 at home) Bears at Soldier Field. This match up is important in both the AFC and NFC playoff pictures.
The Patriots could be the first team to seal a playoff spot with a win and also further their chances of becoming the No. 1 seed in the AFC. A Bears win would keep them one game ahead of the Packers and on top of the NFC North.
So with a lot at stake for both teams, here are some keys to victory.
Julius Peppers has the potential to be so influential in this game that he deserves a slide all to himself.
Some people may feel Peppers isn't having a great season because he has only seven sacks, but anyone who has watched a Bears game this year knows he has been one of the main reasons for their success on defense.
Peppers has been lining up on both sides of the defensive line making him harder to gameplan for. This has allowed Peppers to be a constant nuisance in both the run and passing games.
If the Patriots manage to control Peppers somewhat, then their offense will be much more productive for it.
Much like the Patriots last match up, this game could come down to how well the opposing quarterbacks play. Last week Brady far outplayed Sanchez, but this week he is up against Jay Cutler. Cutler will likely provide a tougher challenge than Sanchez did.
Brady will have to go up against the third-ranked defense in the NFL in terms of points and yardage; however, they are only 13th against the pass.
Cutler will be up against the 31st-ranked pass defense, which has been giving up 390 total yards a game.
The Patriots showed on Monday night they can play well and they have a knack of coming up with important turnovers at important times, and we all know about Cutler's problems with interceptions.
Running Back Play
The Bears have the second-ranked run defence in the NFL and will have to game-plan for the innovative run game of the Patriots. The dangerous aspect of the Patriots comes from the complete change in styles between Green-Ellis and Woodhead. Woodhead also can split out wide and line up as a receiver, adding more confusion to an already complicated Patriots system.
The Bears running game is based around Matt Forte, who leads them in rushing yards but is also third in receiving yards. Forte already has over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns (5 rushing, 3 receiving).
The stats may not show this, but the Patriots themselves are good against the run and should be able to keep Forte in check on the ground at least.
This game could come down to field position, and both teams possess talented returners, with the Bears having three players who have return touchdowns in their careers (Hester, Knox, Manning).
Both teams will have to be cautious of where they kick the football, so expect a lot of punts aimed out of bounds or to the sideline.
Whichever team can win the field position battle and give their offense a short field has a good chance to win this game.
This may be one of the Patriots toughest games this season; however, I believe they will once again win the turnover battle and force the Bears into making mistakes.
With the extra possessions from turnovers, you have to believe the Patriots will come out on top.
Score Prediction: Patriots, 38-28