The New York Giants host the Chicago Bears this Sunday. That means we turn to SB Nations Bears website, Windy City Gridiron, for our weekly ‘5 questions’ segment. WCG’s Patti Curl educates us about the 2022 Bears.
Ed: How are the Bears winning games with a passing “attack” that hasn’t totaled more than 105 yards in any of Chicago’s three games?
Patti: You’re right to put “attack” in quotes. The only thing the Bears have been attacking with their passing game is the hearts and hopes of Bears fans and the confidence of their young quarterback. As to how they’re winning, they are doing it the same way the did in the early 1940s when the Bears took home 3 out of 4 championships: running the ball and defense. The Bears defense in particular has had some very opportune takeaways, including red zone turnovers and Roquan Smith’s game winning interception against Davis Mills. There’s probably a little luck involved, but the defense has a lot of playmakers and the coaching staff stresses takeaways more than most.
Ed: While we’re on the passing attack, a Justin Fields question. Is he the long-term answer at quarterback in Chicago, and do Bears fans think last year’s trade up with the Giants was worthwhile?
Patti: If you had asked me one week ago, I’d have been pretty confident that Fields was the long-term answer. Today, I’m cautiously optimistic, but there’s a bit of a gut-churning feeling that maybe he doesn’t ever get comfortable enough to play fast and confident at the NFL level. Last Sunday’s game against the Texans was his worst performance to date because it was the first time it felt like the team won despite his play. He lacked confidence, was indecisive, and off target on easy throws. My belief — and hope — was that he took on too much and made the game too big for himself in his own head. He took the previous week’s Packers loss hard and was said to be getting up earlier last week to study film, and I think he got himself into a situation where he was thinking instead of playing. How he responds this week will say a lot about his prospects moving forward.
Ed: Ryan Poles was a finalist for the Giants’ GM job. How would you assess what Poles has done thus far, and do you think he was a good choice for Chicago?
Patti: I didn’t know much about Poles before he became a finalist for the Bears job, but I’ve quickly been impressed with his approach and (most of) his decisions. He’s more honest and transparent than most, and he has a clear plan with a goal of long term success. Specifically, he made trades and cuts that don’t help the cap or the team this year, but set the Bears up really well financially for 2023 and beyond. So far, his first draft looks really impressive, with an instant contributor 2nd round safety in Jaquan Brisker and two key day 3 contributors in Braxton Jones and Dominique Robinson. If Kyler Gordon gets comfortable in his new nickel position and Velus Jones Jr. gets on the field and contributes, it will look even better. I’m feeling like he was a good choice for Chicago for sure. Fair warning, I felt that way about Ryan Pace too, but I’m more convinced about Poles and wiser than I was when I fell for Pace’s good hair and smooth talking.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants’ roster and put him into Chicago’s starting lineup who would it be? Why?
Patti: I’m tempted to say Leonard Williams because I love big D linemen and he’d be an instant upgrade at 3-technique, which is one of the most important positions in Eberflus’ defense, but I have to say Andrew Thomas because it looks like he’s really hitting his stride as a franchise tackle. The Bears tackles Braxton Jones and Larry Borom are both playing better than expected for 5th round picks (Jones a Rookie and Borom in year 2). That doesn’t mean Thomas wouldn’t be a huge upgrade over either spot. Many of the broken passing plays come when a tackle is beat or just pushed into Fields line of sight, forcing Justin to react, sometimes much more than necessary. Thomas on either side would give Fields a lot more breathing room to build his confidence and get in rhythm.
Ed: The Giants are a slight favorite, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. What do you see as the key factor in this game, and what is your prediction?
Patti: I think the key factor will be whether the Giants defense can keep the Bears run game in check. The Bears passing game, as noted above, has been painfully ineffective and I’m going to say it will stay that way because if I’m wrong, I’ll be too elated to care that I made this prediction. My final prediction is Bears 17 Giants 16 in a game where both offenses struggle and nobody leaves feeling particularly good about their performance.