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Eye On the Bears: Breaking down the matchup

Posted Nov 17, 2016

Giants.com's Michael Eisen scouts the team's Week 11 opponent :

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – One of the NFL’s oldest and most storied rivalries will resume Sunday when the Giants host the Chicago Bears in MetLife Stadium. This will be the 50th regular-season meeting between the teams. Chicago leads the regular-season series, 28-19-2, and the postseason series, 5-3.

>> GIANTS KEYS TO VICTORY

The teams last met on Oct. 10, 2013, a 27-21 Bears victory in Soldier Field. The Giants won the previous meeting, 17-3, on Oct. 3, 2010 in their third-ever game in MetLife. On Monday night, the Giants stretched their winning streak to four games with a 21-20 defeat of Cincinnati that improved their record to 6-3. The Bears are 2-7 after losing at Tampa Bay, 36-10, their fourth defeat in five games.

What is the Bears’ biggest strength?

An exceptional defensive front seven that includes three outstanding edge-rushing linebackers, plus end Akiem Hicks. Willie Young leads the team with 6.5 sacks, first-round draft choice Leonard Floyd has 4.5 sacks in his last three games and 5.0 overall, and Pernell McPhee, who spent the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury, has a sack in each of the last two games. Inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan – both free agent acquisitions – are Chicago’s top two tacklers.

Which player is key to the Bears’ offense?

Rookie running back Jordan Howard is listed third on the Bears’ depth chart, but he has been a consistent producer on a unit plagued by injuries and suspensions. A fifth-round draft choice this year from Indiana, Howard didn’t play in the season opener and had just 12 carries in the next two games.

>> GIANTS VS. BEARS STORYLINES

But he has since had four 100-yard games, including each of the last two, and is first on the team with 605 rushing yards and a 5.3-yard average. Howard is a big (222 pounds), strong back with excellent vision. He has also caught 18 passes.


What is the strength of the Bears’ offense?

First, they deserve credit for persevering. Only three teams have placed more players on injured reserve, and Chicago is one of three teams that have used at least three quarterbacks this season. Jay Cutler missed five games with a thumb injury. His replacement, Brian Hoyer, fractured his forearm and is on injured reserve. When he went down, third-stringer Matt Barkley had to pitch in. Three-time Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long, who had missed just one start in four years, fractured his ankle last week. Leading wide receiver Alshon Jeffery this week was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Despite their issues, the Bears have moved the ball. They are 16th in the NFL in yards-per-game with 347.3. But they haven’t been able to convert those yards into points. Chicago is 31st in the league, averaging 15.7 per game. The Bears like to throw the ball to tight end Zach Miller (team-high 40 catches) and Jeffery, but must now play without one member of that duo.


Which player is key to the Bears’ defense?

Freeman, who plays one of the inside linebacker spots. He runs the show on defense and has missed only six snaps all season. And his 82 tackles (62 solo) place him seventh in the NFL and are 32 more than the total of runner-up Trevathan (who missed two games with a thumb injury).

What is the strength of the Bears’ defense?

That Freeman-led front seven in coordinator Vic Fangio’s 3-4 base scheme. Early in the season, the group was short-staffed because of injuries, but it has gotten stingier as players returned to action. The run defense has significantly improved. Bears opponents ran for more than 100 yards in each of the first three games, but were held under the century mark in five of the last six. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman returned to action Sunday after missing six games and the Buccaneers ran for just 80 yards. Chicago’s 24 sacks are tied for the league’s eighth-highest total.

Which player is key to the Bears’ special teams?

Backup cornerback Sherrick McManis led Chicago in special teams tackles each of the last two seasons, and is second this season with six, one behind team-leader Christian Jones. And watch out for punt returner Eddie Royal, who is averaging 10.0 yards a runback, and had a 65-yard touchdown vs. Philadelphia.


Based on the scouting report, the Giants must do this one thing to win:

Block Chicago’s voracious front seven so they can run the ball and keep them away from Eli Manning.

Statistics you should know:

1. Chicago is the only team in NFL that has scored 23 or fewer points in every one of its games.

2. The Bears have won four fewer games than the Giants, but they are gaining more (347.4-341.1) and allowing fewer (341.2-359.3) yards per game.

3. Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin, who was second in the NFL with 1,402 rushing yards last season, was held to 33 yards on 16 carries against Chicago last week.

4. The Bears are second in the NFL in yards-per-play on first down (6.8).