Another week, another must-win game for the Chicago Bears.
The offense certainly was impressive on Monday night, but going against this Browns’ defense will be a much stiffer challenge. Though the Browns are just 4-9 and have lost four straight, they took an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter against the Patriots and haven’t given up.
Plus, the Bears have lost three games on the road to teams with sub-.500 records this season.
Here are my keys to the game:
Bears aren’t the only team with a dynamic duo
While the tandem of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall has garnered a lot of attention — rightfully so — the Browns’ duo of Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron has also been pretty special, though Cameron is a TE and not a WR.
Last week vs. New England, each put up more than 100 yards, catching 16 passes for a combined 272 yards and a pair of TDs.
On the season, Gordon has caught 71 balls for 1,400 yards and eight TDs. He is averaging almost 20 yards per reception. Cameron is on pace to eclipse 1,000 yards as well. Gordon has twice set a Browns’ record for single game receiving yardage and last week set the all-time record for yards in a season.
Gordon has done all this despite missing the first two games of the season due to a league mandated suspension.
The defense must play well to stop Cameron underneath and wrap up Gordon, who is second in the league in RAC (run after catch).
Stop the run
While this is the mantra nearly every week for a Bears’ defense that has been awful vs. the run, it is especially true this week, as Cleveland has been one of the worst running teams this season. Still, watching the game tape of Chicago should implore them to try running against the Bears.
Willis McGahee suffered a concussion last week and is likely out. They traded Trent Richardson in Week-3, so the cupboard is bare. But we’ve seen no-name backs run wild against the Bears this season, so keeping them one dimensional is another key.
Cleveland has the third-fewest rushing attempts this season, but I fully expect them to try and exploit the Bears’ porous run defense.
Shake off the rust
The Bears are fortunate to have two good QBs, but Jay Cutler has started just one game over the last six, and he couldn’t finish that Detroit game.
So Cutler may be rusty, and yet the Bears can’t afford to get off to a slow start against a Browns’ defense that is very solid. Even if his arm isn’t rusty, you have to wonder if he’s in game shape.
It will be worth watching to see if Cutler has his usual mobility on Sunday. He may need to escape the rush and extend drives with his legs, and that’s when we will really find out if his high ankle sprain is healed.
He’s been medically cleared to play, but then again he was cleared against Detroit, and while he started that game strong, he was hurting by halftime.
It will also be interesting to see if Trestman will pull Cutler for McCown if he struggles or starts to show any signs of being limited. My gut says no. And I have a big gut, so it knows, believe me.
Browns’ 3-4 defense
Cutler has struggled at times against 3-4 defenses, and that scheme will be a test for a mostly young offensive line that is playing well. They’ve faced a 3-4 this season, but the Browns have a good one.
Cleveland’s defense has allowed just 4.6 yards per play, which is the second-fewest in the NFL. They rank ninth in limiting opposing passing yards and fourth in rushing yards allowed.
The Browns sacked Tom Brady four times last week, two coming from LB Paul Kruger. On the season, they rank ninth in the league with 37 sacks. Cleveland also forced two turnovers last week.
However, the Browns have picked the ball off just 10 times this year, which is 21st in the league. Plus, they rank last in the NFL with only seven forced fumbles. Meanwhile, Brady did throw for over 400 yards, and the Patriots were 75% inside the red zone last week, so the Bears can have success.
Which Jason Campbell will show up?
Revenge factor? That is a stretch, as there really hasn’t been anything that I have seen reported where the ex-Bears’ QB left under bad terms last season. Plus, he was only here for one season, and those coaches are gone.
Still, he is a key to the game, because you never know which Campbell is going to show up, although I can tell you the one that played the Patriots last week was pretty damn good.
He threw for almost 400 yards and three TDs with no interceptions, good for a 116.8 QB rating. (Hey, in Chicago those kinds of numbers get you benched!)
Yet he looked terrible for the Bears last season and he has been inconsistent this year as well. Against the Steelers, he threw for just 124 yards, and he tossed three INTs vs. Cincinnati with a QB rating of 44.3.
However, in three of his five games he has been good for a 100+ QB rating, and he can run, so stopping Campbell is a key to a Bears’ win.
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Filed under: Game Preview