Sunday’s matchup between the New York Giants’ defense and the Chicago Bears’ offense is anything but a meeting of an immovable object vs. an irresistible force.
It is more like a meeting between a compliant Giants’ defense that is seemingly always ready and willing to suffer some type of breakdown vs. a sputtering Chicago offense that hasn’t been able to pull its weight much of the season.
The Bears’ offense is 28th in scoring, netting only 16.9 points per game. In losing five of six games, the Bears have reached 20 points only three times and topped the 300-yard mark in total offense just once. Chicago has topped 300 yards in total offense only once all season.
The Giants’ defense is 30th in the NFL, allowing 28.9 points per game. The Giants have surrendered more than 400 yards of offense five times and more than 300 on two other occasions. Opponents have scored more than 30 points against the Giants in four of the team’s last five games.
One of these not-so-dominant groups is going to emerge with an upper hand on Sunday. Let’s make the case for each.
The case for the Giants’ defense
OK, so having watched the porous Giants’ defense all season you’re wondering how I’m going to pull this off? How am I going to make the case for James Bettcher’s group? Well, so am I.
That has to start with what the Bears are not. Or, at least what they have not been for most of the season. A competent offense.
The Giants have truthfully looked like a capable NFL defense in just one of 10 games this season, a 24-3 victory over the woebegone Washington Redskins.
The Bears’ offensive line is not good, ranked 28th by Football Outsiders in Adjusted Line Yards (run blocking) and 23rd in Adjusted Sack Rate (pass-blocking). The Giants are only 24th in Pass Rush Win Rate per ESPN, but perhaps this is a week where Markus Golden, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson, Leonard Williams, B.J. Hill, and Lorenzo Carter can win the battle at the line of scrimmage.
We know how leaky the Giants’ pass defense has been. The Giants have given up 12 passing plays of 40 or more yards, most in the NFL. Only five teams have given up more 20+ yard passing plays than the 41 allowed by the Giants. Only four teams have a worse passer rating against than the Giants’ 103.5.
Teams have looked at the Giants’ propensity to give up big plays and responded by attacking again and again with the deep ball until the secondary inevitably breaks down. Per NFL Savant, 22.7 percent of passes against the Giants this season have been considered “deep” balls. In contract, despite Daniel Jones being ranked No. 3 in the league in aggressiveness among quarterbacks by Next Gen Stats, the Giants have thrown only 15.7 percent deep passes.
The Bears, though, might be a team not in a position to exploit that weakness. That starts with struggling quarterback Mitchell Trubisky — if he plays instead of backup Chase Daniel — and a passing attack 30th in the league with 182.8 yards gained per game. The Bears average just 9.1 yards per reception, last in the NFL. They have no one with double-digit catches averaging more than 11.9 yards per reception. The Bears have only one completed pass of 40 or more yards this season and their 21 passes completed of 20 or more yards in tied with Washington for last in the league.
Chicago is also averaging just 3.5 yards per rushing attempt, 29th in the league.
What it boils down to is that Chicago hasn’t shown the ability to exploit the things the Giants do poorly on defense.
The case for the Bears’ offense
By Wednesday, Trubisky was already claiming to feel better than he did after injuring his hip Sunday night. Sooner or later, you would think the third-year quarterback will have at least one game that reminds Bears fans of why they thought he might be ready to lead them to a Super Bowl this season.
That pretty much goes for the entire Chicago offense. The Law of Averages says the Bears have to have a good game eventually, right? Why not at home against a leaky Giants’ defense?
Tarik Cohen is a weapon as a runner, receiver, and returner. He hasn’t come close to matching his 1,599 total yards from a season ago, but he’s a dangerous player. Wide receivers Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson are capable, perhaps better than they have shown thus far. Tight end Trey Burton has only 14 receptions in eight games after hauling in 54 passes a season ago.
Both the Giant defense and Bear offense have to be looking at this game as one that affords them an opportunity to get on track. Who will be right?