The New York Giants return to Soldier Field on Sunday for the third consecutive season. It is the fourth matchup between the two franchises in as many years. The scripts for both teams have been eerily similar in 2021. Both teams have solid defensive units with offenses that hold the success and potential of the team back.
Both head coaches - Joe Judge and Matt Nagy - are sitting on magma chairs, with Nagy’s on the brink of eruption. Nagy was hired as an offensive mind to maximize Mitchell Trubisky; the quarterback drafted second overall in the previous season. Realistic arguments can be formulated that Nagy was successful with Trubisky since he achieved playoff berths twice since arriving in Chicago.
However, questionable personnel usage, a 2021 offense that struggles, and an unideal attitude towards the media may be the final demise of Nagy in Chicago. The offensive MonstArs of the Midway are akin to the nerdlucks, and the Giants offensive production is almost non-existent.
The Bears are predominantly an 11-personnel team. They align in 11 65 percent of the time while using 12 personnel 24 percent of the time. Those are their two main personnel groupings.
The over/under on this game, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, is a gross 37, and that’s completely understandable. Every Giants fan knows the ugliness of their offense, and the Bears’ aren’t pretty either. Chicago ranks 28th in the NFL in points with an average of 17.7. The Giants average 16.5 - a point less than last season.
Chicago is also 26th in yards per game, with an average of 308. They rank 8th in rushing yards per game with an average of 122 and dead last in passing yards per game with an average of 185.3. The Bears’ inability to throw the football with any consistency as spanned through three starters: rookie Justin Fields, Andy Dalton, and Nick Foles.
Foles only played last week in a come-from-behind victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Much to the dismay of Giants fans, the Bears’ first-round pick has now slid down the board, thanks to that win.
According to Pro Football Reference, Fields is second in the NFL in bad throw percentage, just behind the Jets’ Zach Wilson. Fields is the most exciting quarterback of this bunch but is prone to mistakes - as many rookies tend to be. He has rushed for 420 yards, mostly on broken plays. Many have criticized head coach Matt Nagy for not using Fields’ incredible athletic gifts. Fields has the fifth-highest pressure rate in the league. His offensive line isn’t great; however, he is prone to holding onto the football too long. This can lead to some strip-sacks if the Giants’ defensive front - and Patrick Graham’s five-man pressure looks - can get home.
Running back David Montgomery missed time throughout the season with various ailments. He is now back and is the focal point of the offense. The quarterback frequently looks his way as a check-down option, and he is a solid overall running back, despite down statistics. He has five touchdowns on the ground and 713 yards; his yards per carry is only 3.9, which doesn’t look great compared to rookie Khalil Herbert’s 4.3.
Montgomery also has 277 yards through the air on 38-catches this season. He handles the majority of the snaps, but Herbert will spell him. No one will deny Montgomery’s rushing ability, but Herbert may have a bit more juice when he gets into open space. Either way, the split mostly goes to Montgomery.
Veteran running back Damien Willams will sometimes play on third down, but Herbert has usurped him. Montgomery is mostly used as a three-down back.
The quarterback situation doesn’t maximize the wide receiver position. Allen Robinson is having the worst year of his career, playing on the franchise tag. He will more than likely hit free agency on the cheap. He’s dealt with injuries and was just activated off the COVID-19 list, but he has only 32 catches for 353-yards and one touchdown this season.
Robinson is no longer the number one option at wide receiver - that honor would go to Darnell Mooney. The deep threat has developed his game into an overall asset who can run routes and win at all three levels of the field. Mooney has 62 receptions on 107-targets for 860-yards. Not the most efficient, but a lot of passes are uncatchable. He does have four drops on the season.
One of the more explosive players in the league is Jakeem Grant, who missed last week’s game with a concussion. Grant should be back against the Giants, and he is one touch away from housing every pass he receives. Damiere Byrd has 20 catches on 29 targets for 259 yards. He also caught a touchdown and a very important two-point conversion that gave the Bears a one-point lead last week.
Mooney played 63 snaps last week, and Byrd played 62. With the return of Robinson and Grant, Byrd’s snaps will be reduced a bit. Marquise Goodwin and Dazz Newsome’s snaps will dive as well; Goodwin played 23 snaps, and Newsome 34. The latter is more of a slot receiver who should still have a role, but Grant will take some reps away.
The Bears love throwing the football to Jimmy Graham in the red zone. He caught the game-tying touchdown last week that set up Byrd’s two-point conversion. He only has 12-catches this season for 151yards, but three of them are touchdowns.
Starting tight end Cole Kmet is the receiving threat with downfield capability, but he has yet to find the end zone in 2021. Kmet has 53 catches on 80-targets for 539 yards. The former Notre Dame star is 6-foot-6, 258 pounds, and he consistently makes contested catches over the middle of the field. Kmet averages 10.2 yards per catch.
The Bears’ offensive line is similar to the Giants - they’re shuffling players around, and they’re not all that effective. According to Pro Football Focus, the Bears rank 18th in pass blocking on the season and 23rd in run blocking.
Jason Peters decided to return to the gridiron to be the Bears’ left tackle. He has played in 13 games, surrendered 23 pressures and five sacks this year. He has been playing through injury but has missed the last two games. Rookie Teven Jenkins was hurt early in last week’s win over Seattle, but he returned to practice on Wednesday. Germain Ifeadi filled in for Jenkins last week.
In the middle of the offensive line, Sam Mustipher starts at center, with James Daniels and Cody Whitehair as the guards. The two guards have good professional tape but aren’t having the best season in 2021. Here’s their Pro Football Focus pass blocking stats
Even without Dexter Lawrence, the Giants’ defense can take advantage of a poor offense in the Bears. It will be interesting to see if Azeez Ojulari, Quincy Roche, Leonard Williams and company can exploit a Bears’ offensive line that hasn’t been good all year,