1. The matchup. The 3-8 Giants host first-year head coach Matt Nagy and his 8-3 Chicago Bears, who built on their lead in the NFC North by defeating the Detroit Lions for their fifth consecutive win. Big Blue sought three in a row and a place in the NFC East race last week but fell to the Eagles after an impressive first half. Since then, Dallas has taken control of the division, winning its fourth straight game on Thursday night.
2. Series history. The Giants have won three of the past four meetings with the Bears, including a 22-16 victory in their most recent matchup in 2016 at MetLife Stadium. They first played each other in 1925, making this Big Blue’s oldest active series. The Giants and Bears have met eight times in the postseason, including six NFL Championship Games. The other two came in Super Bowl title seasons – 1990 for the Giants and 1985 for the Bears.
3. Injury report. Tight end Evan Engram (hamstring) and linebacker B.J. Goodson (neck) have been ruled out of Sunday’s game. Engram suffered his injury during pregame warmups last week in Philadelphia and did not play. Rookie outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter (hip) is questionable while linebacker Tae Davis (ankle), cornerback Grant Haley (hamstring), safety Curtis Riley (shoulder), and defensive lineman Kerry Wynn (concussion) are full-go.
4. Bears being cautious with QB Trubisky. The Bears won on Thanksgiving Day with backup quarterback Chase Daniel, who went 27 of 37 for 230 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. The 10-year veteran started in place of Mitchell Trubisky after the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft injured his shoulder the week before against the Vikings. All signs are pointing toward Daniel starting on Sunday. Trubisky had been completing 65.4 percent of his passes and averaging 247 yards per game with 20 touchdowns to nine interceptions this season. He also has 51 rushing attempts for 363 yards and three touchdowns.
5. Eli to start. Shurmur confirmed that Eli Manning will start on Sunday and maintained that the rest of the season isn’t “player tryouts.” People want to know if and when rookie fourth-round draft choice will dress for a game, let alone play in one, but Shurmur said not to skip over second-stringer Alex Tanney. “We certainly have conversations about what runs parallel, the short-term and the long-term,” Shurmur said. “There’s conversations about that that happen all the time in any organization. You’re a big corporation, your short-term gains and, ‘Ok, where the hell are we going?’ I’m not foolish enough to think that doesn’t happen.”
6. From Watt to Mack. The Giants drew five of the past six NFL Defensive Players of the Year on their schedule this year. First up was J.J. Watt (2012, 2014, 2015), whose Texans fell to the Giants in Week 3. Next was Luke Kuechly (2013), whose Panthers won on a last-second 63-yard field goal in Week 5. On Sunday, it’s Khalil Mack (2016), who has reenergized a defense chasing the ghosts of the Monsters of the Midway. Traded on Sept. 1 from Oakland, Mack has 8.0 sacks in nine games to go along with five forced fumbles, two recoveries, and an interception return for a touchdown.
7. Hold on tight. The Bears lead the league in total takeaways (29) and interceptions (20), but more impressively they are also first in points off turnovers (104). The defense has scored six touchdowns, five on picks and one on a fumble return. Meanwhile, the Giants are plus-8 in turnover differential in their three wins. In their eight losses, they are minus-7.
8. Have you ever had to knock on wood? Of all the stats that rookie running back Saquon Barkley is piling up – and there are a lot of them – perhaps the most impressive one is his zero in the fumble column. He has run the ball 171 times (for 829 yards and eight touchdowns) and caught 71 passes (for 581 yards and four interceptions) – and not once has the ball hit the turf. Barkley has already set the franchise rookie record for yards from scrimmage and needs one more score to break the touchdown record.
9. Odell’s season just starting. Odell Beckham Jr. reached 1,000 yards last week for the fourth time in his career, one behind Amani Toomer’s franchise record of five. While he is on pace for career highs in receptions and yards, the team record doesn’t make it feel like that. “Each year I come in, 1,000 yards is a minimum,” Beckham said. “I don’t look at it like, ‘Oh, I need to get 1,000 yards.’ My season starts after 1,000 yards. Trying to see how many yards I can get after 1,000.”
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants take on the Bears at MetLife Stadium
10. Branching out. A quarter of the NFL’s head coaches stem from Andy Reid and his coaching tree, including Shurmur and Nagy. The three overlapped briefly during Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia before he moved onto Kansas City.
“I’ve coached in the West Coast system where Matt came from with Andy Reid, but he’s also got his offensive coordinator is a guy from the Oregon family that I worked in that system with Chip (Kelly), so I see elements of both,” Shurmur said. “They’ve got into more of a zone read type run game, their run game will be very similar to what we faced against Philadelphia, very similar in a lot of ways because Doug (Pederson), Matt and Andy were all together recently. I recognize the plays they’re running, certainly we’re going to have to defend them, and they’ve done a really good job. They’ve got some talented guys they get the ball to.”
“Coach Shurmur was the quarterbacks coach when I was there as an intern my first year,” Nagy said. “What I remember about him is just how good of a teacher he was, the three weeks that I was there with him. The one thing I thought was neat, and this is a story I haven’t really told too many people but it just speaks volumes of who he is. Me being a young guy still playing at the time, I was a player in the Arena League, I was building relationships with that internship. A lot of coaches, you get so busy whether it’s during the season or in the offseason and when you get so many different phone calls from people, and he was the one coach that would always return my phone call or return a text message and ask how I was doing. That went a long way with me. I thought that speaks volumes of who he is as a person, and I always remembered that, I hang on to that and use that when I run into situations now with people calling me and texting me. Take the football side out of it, that’s who he is as a person and I have a lot of respect for him.”