I know this headline is going to have some folks raising an eyebrow or two. I recognize that the Patriots are clearly the class of the AFC and look to be unbeatable at home. I understand they may possess the best head coach/quarterback combination in the history of the sport. But I think the normal, almost understandable reaction to their 45-3 thrashing of the Jets will be an overreaction. The Patriots are not as good as they played Monday night. The Jets are certainly not as bad. But perhaps most importantly, the Bears defense is far better than this current Jets defense and better equipped to play the Pats. Let me explain.
- If Tom Brady is given time in the pocket, he's lethal. The Jets have struggled all season long to generate pressure with four men and been forced into predictable blitz schemes. This made them susceptible to the screen and short routes all night. The emergence of Israel Idonije opposite Julius Peppers seems to have cured this issue for the Bears.
- The Pats can't run the ball effectively and the Bears are not a team they'll want to spread out and throw 50 times at - a la their approach to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- The Pats passing game is the kind of passing game the Bears love to play. They thrive on the short slant route. They don't really have a home run hitter on the outside since Randy Moss was shipped to Minnesota. The Bears are more than willing to make Brady go 10-12 plays each drive, stiffen up in the red zone and force Shayne Graham to make big field goals.
- On the special teams front, I thought the game went errant for the Jets with the combination of Nick Folk's ten-yards short field goal attempt and Steve Weatherford's twelve-yard net gain punt in the first quarter. The Bears don't make those kinds of mistakes.
- How many Patriots receivers were able to settle in the middle of the field and wait for the ball from Brady? The Lovie Deuce explicitly prohibits this behavior from receivers and it does so with the guy wearing #54.
- The player that worries me is Gronkowski from the tight end position. He reminds of me the Jeff King-type player that always makes the big play in the seam against the Bears.
- But the Pats defense is not good. Don't think last night was their defense. The Jets offense does not score points against good opponents.
The Patriots are good. They're damn good. But this is a league of match-ups and the Patriots don't create a lot of mismatches for the Bears. This will be a game about discipline for the Bears defenders. They have to tackle the players in front of them. They have to hold the front at safety. And if they do that, they can win.