Chicago Bears vs. New York Jets: Five keys to soaring past the Jets

Chicago Bears vs. New York Jets: Five keys to soaring past the Jets

Now that Chicago Bears fans have come in off the ledge and actually believe in the team once again, there is a lot of anticipation for Monday night’s contest against the Jets, but also much trepidation.

The reason for the trepidation is that we really don’t know who the real Bears are. Are they the team that outplayed the Bills yet lost, or the ones who were outplayed by the Niners yet won? Additionally, is the real Bears defense the one that gave up 17 points and were outgained 197-93 yards in the first half vs. Frisco, or the dominating second half defense?

Well, with each passing week we learn more, and so another piece of the puzzle will be revealed in East Rutherford, NJ, as the pair of 1-1 teams face off on Monday night. Here are my keys to the game:

Take advantage of the Jets’ secondary

In each of my first two week keys, I included running the ball as a priority for the Bears. And while it still is, this is a Jets defense that is ranked third in the league overall, yet just 16th against the pass.

The Jets have a strong front, but their secondary has been weak. CB Dee Milliner can’t seem to stay healthy and if he can’t go Monday, the Bears will have a chance to get some big plays against Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls.

The Jets’ defense has allowed an average of 221.5 passing yards per game, and is tied for the most TDs via the pass. Add to that the fact that Bears QB Jay Cutler is coming off what was perhaps the best second half of his career last Sunday night and it could spell trouble for Rex Ryan’s team.

Meanwhile, the Jets’ run defense is ranked first in the league, giving up just 52.5 yards per game on average. They are tied with Detroit and Arizona in giving up only two yards per carry.

The Jets are one of only seven teams that have failed to record an interception. They do a lot of blitzing; in fact, they blitz more than any other team on third and seven or more. So the Bears’ offensive line will need to be stout against a very good Jets front seven.

Marshall and Jeffrey are another week healthier, and the Jets are one of only seven teams that have failed to record an interception, so they may as well try and exploit the Jets’ main weakness on defense. And hey, maybe former Jets WR Santonio Holmes could make an impact against his old team.

Stop the run

On the other side of the coin, the Bears are one of the worst teams against the run, continuing a trend that started last season. Teams have averaged five yards per carry against the Bears and 160 yards per game.

This is especially alarming, given the fact that the Jets rank second in rushing offense (they should return to first after the game — Atlanta has a game in hand).

The Jets average 179 yards per game, with Chris Ivory leading the way. Ivory averages 6.3 yards, and the Jets average five yards on first down. Chris Johnson was solid against Oakland in week one, though he was awful vs. Green Bay and is listed as questionable for this game.

Jets QB Geno Smith is mobile too, so that’s another rushing weapon the Bears’ defense has to deal with. Michael Vick could be used in certain situations, and with Eric Decker questionable at WR, the Jets will be even more intent on running the ball.

Get an early lead

One possible cure for an ailing Bears run offense is to get an early lead so they can focus on establishing the run. The Bears have fallen behind in each of their first two games, and when that happens, the team’s play calling gets unbalanced.

The Bears have passed the ball more than twice as often as they have attempted to run the football. Even though the Jets’ secondary is suspect, being one dimensional on offense is not a recipe for success, especially when you have Matt Forte in the huddle.

Improved special teams play

The Bears’ return game has been troubling, and in many cases, it makes more sense for them to take a knee than attempt to bring the ball out of the end zone. But anything that can help field position would be a much needed shot in the arm for the Bears on Monday.

One possible help for the return game is the addition of Rashad Ross, who probably won’t figure in the passing game but could make an impact fielding kicks and punts. Although the undrafted Ross spent last season on the practice squads of two teams, he did have 779 yards and two TDs in the return game with Arizona State.

Another step in the right direction would be for rookie punter Pat O’Donnell to show some improvement. He currently ranks 30th in the league in net average.

Intangibles

Momentum, if it truly exists in sports, likely only matters during a game. But if there is any truth to momentum carrying over to the next week, the Bears would seem to have a huge intangible on their side.

While the Bears are coming off a memorable comeback victory, the Jets did just the opposite: they blew a 21-3 lead, losing to the Packers 31-24. The Bears should be brimming with confidence, while the Jets must be licking their wounds.

Further, the Jets are a young team that has been very undisciplined this season. They have been flagged 22 times, including multiple roughing-the-passer and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. They even had a player ejected.

Prediction: Bears 24, Jets 17

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