Week 7 features a huge inter-conference matchup as the New England Patriots head to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field. This will be the only 14th meeting between this franchises which includes the Bears beat down of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX to the tune of 46-10. Since that fateful game in January of 1986, the Patriots have dominated this series having won 7 of the last 8 matchups.
Chicago (3-2) enters this week game after an inexcusable loss to the lowly Miami Dolphins. In that game, the Dolphins found some offensive life behind backup Quarterback Brock Osweiler and were able to put up 541 yards of offense against the vaunted Bears Defense. While the Bears are in a three-way tie at the top of the NFC West, they look to shake off last weeks’ loss to keep pace with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.
The Patriots (4-2) are coming off their most impressive win of the season beating the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs in an offensive battle that came down to a last second field goal. While defensively New England is still suspect, their offense appears to have turned a corner and have averaged 39.6 points per game on their current 3 game win streak.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for these two teams so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – PATRIOTS: The Bears Mitchell Trubisky has given all of Chicago a quarterback that they can finally cheer for. In his first 5 games this season he has been an efficient passer completing over 70% of his passes and isn’t afraid of throwing the ball down field. However, he is going against arguably the best quarterback in NFL history in Tom Brady who seems to be getting more and more comfortable with this supporting cast.
Running Backs – PUSH: From a yardage standpoint, the Bears duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are even with the Patriots’ Sony Michel and James White. There is a slight edge for the Patriots Running Backs the touchdown production over their Bears counterparts but not enough to swing the advantage to the Patriots.
Wide Receivers – BEARS: While the Patriots wide receiving corps has been in flux and is slowly developing this season, the Bears duo of Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson have provided a huge boost to Chicago’s passing offense.
Tight Ends – PATRIOTS: This off season the Bears added Trey Burton…Yes…that Trey “Philly Philly” Burton formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles. Even though everyone knows that he can throw a pass, from a receiving and blocking standpoint he doesn’t measure up to what Rob Gronkowski gives to the Patriots.
Offensive Line – PATRIOTS: From a statistical standpoint, both offensive lines have run blocked fairly evenly this year. However, the Patriots offensive line has done a much better job protecting their passer.
Defensive Front Seven – BEARS: The Bears have one of the best front seven units in the NFL. They are top 5 or better at stopping the run, allowing the fewest rushing yards, and sacking the quarterback. The Patriots, on the other hand, are not. Barring injury there is no reason that Chicago’s Khalil Mack shouldn’t be in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year at the end of the season.
Secondary – BEARS: The Bears have the statistical edge in allowing fewer yards per game, allowing a lower opposing quarterback rating, and having more interceptions than the Patriots. Surprisingly, however, the difference in statistical performance in these areas is not as wide as one would think.
Special Teams – PUSH: From both a kicking and return standpoint, these team are virtually identical and feature two of the most consistent kickers in Stephen Gostkowski for New England and Stephen Hauschka for Chicago.
Coaching – PATRIOTS: The Bears Matt Nagy was a surprise hire in many respects. However he fit the mold of many of the previous Bears’ head coaches: Cheap. However Nagy had done fairly good job with modernizing the Bears offense and has provided some needed attention to developing Chicago’s young quarterback. However, the downside is that Nagy does lack experience and has made some really bad rookie head coach mistakes with situational play calling and time management…..Well…What else would you expect from a guy that worked for Andy Reid right? On the opposing sideline you have Bill Belichick who continues to find ways to put the Patriots in situations where they have a chance to win.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Betting Line: Patriots -3
Key’s to a Patriots Victory:
1) Find Khalil Mack: In recent memory there has not been a defensive player that has switched teams and made such an impactful presence so suddenly. That being said, the Patriots need to make sure they identify where Mack is lining up and provide help either with a double team or by using someone to chip him on every play. Leaving Mack 1 on 1 with anyone is a recipe for disaster.
2) Defensive Disguise: Mitchell Trubisky has had a surprisingly solid start to the season but this Sunday will be only his 18th NFL start. While Trubisky has the ability to be mobile to pick up 1st downs or extend plays, when faced to hold the ball too long his mechanics break down. New England needs to mix up the looks they give to Trubisky in an effort to force him into some mistakes.
3) Take What the Defense Gives You: When facing a defense that is solid at each level, there is no shame in taking check downs or short runs in order to manage the down and distance for 2nd and 3rd down.
The Patriots are going up against a very young and talented team that is looking to take the next step in their development. Look for New England to use multiple offensive formations to confuse the young Chicago defenders and coverage disguises to force Chicago Mitchell Trubisky into some bad throws.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 23 – Bears 21