I’ll spare you the standard rhetoric of calling Sunday’s contest in Jacksonville a “Trap Game” for Chicago. They already know what it is to overestimate your own abilities on the road after a big win. That train left the station in Week-2.
What it is is a game they should win. There’s really no more to it than that. But we all know the phrase, “any given Sunday.” This will also be one motivated group, not looking to lose their third home game this season—something the Jaguars have never done to begin a season . . . ever.
Jacksonville is a mess defensively, and they’re one-dimensional on offense. Their only win—a 22-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts—came on a Blaine Gabbert 80-yard Hail Mary pass to Cecil Shorts III in the final 45 seconds of the game.
He won’t be doing that against the Bears—even if he is still upright in the final 45 seconds of the game. The Jags’ offensive line has allowed Gabbert to be hit just one less time than the Bears’ group, and they are, perhaps, an even worse unit.
On the flip-side, Jacksonville ranks dead last in the NFL in defensive sacks with two. They have four total takeaways (two INTs, two FRs), tied for the third lowest in the NFL.
There’s nothing they do particularly well aside from handing Maurice Jones-Drew a football and letting him go to work. MJD has accounted for an NFL-high 42.8 percent of the Jaguars’ offense through four games now.
Because he needs to.
They will look to get him going early in front of their home crowd on Sunday, because they can’t afford to fall too far behind these Bears and abandon the run.
Having said that . . .
Let’s start with the Bears’ defense
The Jags were forced to abandon the run early last week when they fell behind the Bengals at home early. While QB Blaine Gabbert played okay, the passing game hasn’t clicked yet, and it won’t against Chicago unless they can make MJD an early and significant threat.
The Bears’ run defense currently ranks third in the NFL, but they have yet to be tested by a rushing attack as potent as one led by MJD can be. The teams they have faced so far currently rank 19th, 21st, 25th and 29th in rushing the football. So, despite solid play thus far, the Chicago front will be contested on Sunday.
I’d expect to see extra personnel in the box for run support.
If the Bears can hold off MJD and force Gabbert to play catch-up, they’ll be able to get to the QB, kill drives, and continue to take the ball away.
Switching sides to the Bears’ offense
The Bears can’t abandon the run game, thinking the offensive line gets a break in Jacksonville this week. It will never be as easy as it looks on paper for this group. It looks like Matt Forte will play (ankle injury), and getting him going early will again be key in allowing Cutler and Marshall to get going.
I’d expect Jags’ CB Derek Cox to cover Marshall much of the night, but he better not be the only one. Marshall is too physical for the Jacksonville secondary and, while he doesn’t need to have the kind of game he had in Dallas, I’d be shocked if he doesn’t make a few big plays.
Here’s the way I see it: all the Bears absolutely need to do is show up. Don’t underestimate your opponent, and show up. Do that? You head into the bye week at 4-1.
How about some nuggets?
- The Jaguars and Bears are meeting for the sixth time and only the third time in Jacksonville. The Bears lead the overall series, 3-2. The teams last met in 2008 at Chicago with the Bears winning 23-10.
- The Jaguars will unveil black jerseys for the first time this season on Sunday. The Jaguars will no longer wear teal as their primary home jersey. The teal jerseys will be reserved for special occasions as the club’s alternate jersey. The Jaguars have worn black as a third ‘alternate’ jersey in the past for up to two games per season, but they have not worn black since 2009. (You like that one, don’t you?)
- Chicago is 7-2 the following week after a Monday Night Football contest since 2004, including 6-0 following a Monday night road contest.
- Bears’ offensive coordinator Mike Tice was the assistant head coach/tight ends in Jacksonville from 2007-09 after joining the team in 2006 as an assistant head coach.
- Punter Adam Podlesh was drafted the Jaguars in the fourth round (101st overall) in 2007. He went on to play in 59 games over four seasons for Jacksonville.
- DT Nate Collins spent the 2010-11 seasons in Jacksonville.
Official prediction: Bears 31, Jaguars 13