The Chicago Bears meeting with the New York Giants on Sunday may just be the most important game of the Matt Nagy era to date.
Picked by many to be a playoff contender this season, the Bears showed some exciting flashes last week in Detroit, but overall they raised more red flags than they did answer questions against a less-than-mediocre Lions team.
The Giants, on the other hand, are a rebuilding club likely to be an also-ran at best this season, and yet they held their own and were even impressive at times in their opener last week against what looks like a very good Pittsburgh Steelers team.
Yes, the Bears were on the road and the Giants were at home, but with both playing to empty stadiums, how much of an advantage or disadvantage will that really be this season?
Road clubs were 6-7 last Sunday.
Another sloppy win is obviously better than a loss, but teams can not build any sort of momentum playing the way the Bears did last Sunday. The next three weeks, traveling to Atlanta and then hosting Indianapolis and Tampa Bay, are likely to be a lot more challenging.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Giants OT’s Cameron Fleming and Andrew Thomas vs. Khalil Mack
I hate to be redundant here, but Mack actually got Lions backup Tyrell Crosby last Sunday and failed to dominate.
It’s not that Mack played poorly. He didn’t. But he is the tone setter for the entire defense and the tone was awfully dull last week.
Thomas is a highly touted first-round rookie, but he’s a rook Mack should take to school, and if he does, it could light a fire the defense sorely needs after last week, and Fleming is a journeyman Mack should be able to handle
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
Will defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano fire up his blitz packages?
The Bears pass rush was MIA for a good part of the afternoon in Detroit last Sunday, and while likely getting Robert Quinn back this week should be a big help, it’s not clear Pagano can afford to relax another week.
The Steelers main ingredient in knocking off the Giants last week and shutting down Saquon Barkley was relentless pressure keyed by multiple blitz looks from their base 3-4 defense and sub packages.
The Bears were particularly effective often last year sending one of the inside linebackers whether it was Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan or Nick Kwiatkoski. With Smith and Trevathan now both healthy, I’d be it will be surprising if both don’t get a couple or more free runs at second-year quarterback Daniel Jones.
PLAYER TO WATCH
WR Allen Robinson
It was a crazy week before Nagy and A-Rob stepped up and told us all is well, but by late Friday Robinson was still without new paper. Now we’ll see if he’s able to put everything aside and go out and make a difference. Will he go out and take over the game?
The Giants aren’t special with James Bradberry and Corey Ballantine on the corners, so this should set up well for Robinson.
OLB/ER Robert Quinn
This is pretty obvious isn’t it?
The pass rush was woefully inadequate last week, and the Bears gave Quinn 30 million reasons to make it better during the offseason.
This Sunday is declaration day for Quinn.
Giants WR Darius Slayton
Slayton was a fifth-round rookie last year that put up 48 catches for 740 yards and eight scores last year and then showed up last Monday night again with six for 102 and two TDs.
With Golden Tate likely back from injury and Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram all commanding attention, the Bears secondary can’t let Slayton get lost in the crowd.
Week 1: Giants 20-29, 1.5 yards per rush attempt; Lions 29-138, 4.8 yards per rush attempt
If the Bears Run ’D’ doesn’t show up again this week, Barkley can take over a game as he did two years ago in one of only four Bears' losses and things could get ugly.
THE FINAL WORD
Bears 27, Giants 13
After last week there is actually little to base this on with the Bears showing poorly and the Giants owning plenty of weapons at the skill positions.
But the Giants defense offers little to impress while I’m looking for a big bounce back from the Bears on that side of the ball.