On Sunday, a game will be played between two 5-7 NFC teams, one that sits in first place of their division and another that has the slimmest of chances to sneak into the wildcard race.
The Bears play host to the Washington Redskins. Both teams are fresh off losses last Sunday, but for Washington, they currently sit a top the NFC East with Philadelphia, New York at 5-7 and Dallas still hanging around at 4-8. For the Bears, they had their huge chance of moving to 6-6 last week against San Francisco but failed to pick up the much-needed victory.
Now, Washington visits Soldier Field for the first time since 2010 with one goal, getting a win. The Bears know they should be focused on 2016 with tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receiver Marquess Wilson going on injured reserve this week. The future is brighter than a miracle wildcard bid as the current No. 11 team in the conference.
The last time these two teams squared off, Donovan McNabb was the quarterback for Washington while Chris Cooley was the leading receiver as Jay Cutler tossed four interceptions for the Bears, all to DeAngelo Hall. The Bears have dropped five straight games against Washington including six of the last eight at home.
Here’s a breakdown of what both teams are thinking heading into Sunday’s 49th all-time meeting.
What Washington is thinking
Eighth-year wideout DeSean Jackson has been back in the starting lineup for the past five games after missing six earlier this season. Over the last three weeks, Jackson has been a dynamic playmaker for Washington adding a touchdown in each game along with a combined 13 receptions for 226 yards.
He did lose a fumble in last Monday night’s loss to division rival Dallas. But, Jackson has made up for his time out with big plays which Washington’s offense has been lacking for most of the year. He has receptions of 63, 56, 42 and 28 yards just in this last four-game stretch.
If Kirk Cousins can find Jackson early and often in this one it will open things up for this struggling offense. The run game should have a nice day against a soft Bears’ front that has struggled at the point of attack. Jackson’s ability to hit the home run is the key in this game and expect Cousins to look for him often (31 targets in six games this season).
On defense, Washington has been so-so, allowing 23.8 points per game which ranks 16th overall and giving up 362.6 total yards per game which is 12th.
As for their pass rush, just 21 sacks have been generated, placing them 26th in the league’s rankings. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan leads the way with 6.5 sacks, including three over the last three games while defensive tackle Chris Baker has five. Against a rather solid Bears’ offensive line it may be tough for Washington to rattle Jay Cutler.
What the Bears are thinking
No Martellus Bennett, no Marquess Wilson and possibly no Eddie Royal. This should have Jay Cutler wondering who his reliable pass catchers will be.
Alshon Jeffery and Zach Miller are his top two playmakers while Marc Mariani, Josh Bellamy, Cameron Meredith and Deonte Thompson are all going to get chances in certain wide receiver packages. Another option is rookie tight end Khari Lee who has one catch for seven yards, but could earn some looks.
Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford will not only carry the bulk in the backfield as runners on Sunday and over the final four games, but as receivers as well. Ka’Deem Carey scored his first career touchdown last week and should see the field often as the Bears want to see what his value is going into next season.
This offense has been ever changing all year long with offensive coordinator Adam Gase having to deal with injuries at all positions starting from the top with Cutler. Much like this game Sunday, the rest of the season is important for Cutler and Gase to be on the same page especially if Gase is going to be back in 2016.
Vic Fangio’s defensive unit has to deal with tight end Jordan Reed, who leads Washington with six touchdowns and 574 receiving yards on 58 receptions and 83 targets. He will find open space against a Bears’ linebacking core that isn’t the finest.
The pass rush for the Bears has been improved as of late even with Pernell McPhee banged up. Eddie Goldman had two sacks while Willie Young had 1.5 sacks last week against the 49ers. As a defense they posted seven quarterback hits. The pass rush is crucial in this game and for the future success.
Bears – OUT: Wide receiver Marquess Wilson (foot)
DOUBTFUL: Linebacker Pernell McPhee (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Linebacker Sam Acho (shoulder), cornerback Bryce Callahan (quadricep), tight end Zach Miller (rib), safety Antrel Rolle (knee), wide receiver Eddie Royal (knee)
PROBABLE: Linebacker Shea McClellin (knee)
Washington– OUT: Safety Jeron Johnson (hamstring), linebacker Perry Riley Jr. (foot), running back Chris Thompson (shoulder).
QUESTIONABLE: Tight end Derrek Carrier (ankle), defensive end Jason Hatcher (neck/ankle), wide receiver Andre Roberts (knee), linebacker Keenan Robinson (shoulder)
PROBABLE: Linebacker Will Compton (shoulder), cornerback Quinton Dunbar (finger), cornerback Deshazor Everett (hamstring), safety Dashon Goldson (knee/hamstring/wrist), cornerback DeAngelo Hall (toe)
Final Score Prediction
Washington 23, Bears 17
The Bears just don’t have enough offensive firepower to score points. Washington isn’t very good on either side of the ball, but they are slightly better than the Bears and much healthier. This one could go either way, but I give the slight edge to the road team.
Season predictions: (6-6)
A steady rain in the morning. Showers continuing in the afternoon. High 62F. Winds SSE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 80%. Rainfall around a quarter of an inch.
The Bears travel to Minnesota to face the division rival Vikings next Sunday.
Read up on the five Bears players you should keep an eye on in Sunday’s game against Washington, here.
Thoughts on the Washington-Bears Week 14 matchup? Make sure to weigh in on the comment section below.
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