In another edition of Thursday Night Football, NFL fans get to see two of pro football’s oldest franchises square off at Solder Field.
The New York Giants enter at 0-5, but surprisingly enough, still remain alive to reach the postseason. The NFC East is the weakest division and right now it’s looking like a .500 record can take the top spot. Therefore, a win here by the Giants will certainly add to the excitement as we move through October.
On the flip side, the Chicago Bears began 3-0 but have dropped two straight. And with the NFC North remaining arguably pro football’s toughest division, Chicago must notch a win here to keep in the division title and wild card hunt. Not to mention losing at home to the winless Giants would crush confidence for the season’s second half.
So let’s breakdown this historical rivalry and see who propels forward in the 2013 NFC playoff race.
Spread: Bears -7.5
*Note: Spread courtesy of FootballLocks.com.
Giants Offense vs. Bears Defense
Much like 2012, Chicago’s defense continues to feed off of turnovers. Well, expect the Giants to keep this rolling for the Bears as New York has turned the rock over 18 times already this season. Factor in the extremely lackluster play of Eli Manning, who has tossed 12 picks to a mere eight scores, and playmakers like Charles Tillman should be salivating.
Now Big Blue still presents reliable targets in Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and tight end Brandon Myers. That said, New York has yet to find its running game which has always been the team’s backbone even during Manning’s best seasons.
Although Chicago is vulnerable against the pass, the Bears do know how to stop the run. And with the Giants struggling on the ground, the Bears will win the line of scrimmage battle to assist their offense.
Bears Offense vs. Giants Defense
It’s not much of a better situation for New York defensively compared to its offense. The Giants have allowed 12 passing scores, a 63.8 completion percentage and are ranked No. 22 in pass defense. As for the ground, Big Blue ranks No. 29 and gives up 3.9 yards per rush. Even though that’s rather low, it’s not like there’s much of a reason to run against the Giants when an offense can throw just as easily.
Expect Jay Cutler to have a field day with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and former Giants’ tight end Martellus Bennett. New York doesn’t have its pass rush anymore and Cutler’s pass protection has certainly improved. Factor in the ground game of Matt Forte and Michael Bush and the Bears should move the ball consistently.
Devin Hester remains the competitive advantage here by a long shot. Not only can you include his proven ability as a return man, but the Giants don’t have anyone to match his playmaking talent.
Hester gets 31.4 yards per kickoff return and is hitting seven per punt return. New York on the other hand, gets 24.7 from David Wilson (who is out according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com) and Rueben Randle gets 6.3 on punts. When Hester is gaining almost a whole first down more combined than Big Blue, special teams will impact the game.
Moving to the kickers and punters and the Bears keep the edge. Robbie Gould is a perfect 8-of-8 on field goals this year, whereas Josh Brown has already whiffed twice. Plus Gould’s leg is much stronger as he has already knocked from 58 yards this year.
In punting Steven Weatherford provides a slight edge for the Giants since he has a 47.5-yard per punt average right now. Chicago is just getting 43.8 from Adam Podlesh. Nevertheless, Big Blue allows 19.3 per punt return compared to just 15.2 for the Bears. Weatherford is the better punter, but Chicago is better at returning and covering.
Obviously on paper this matchup weighs heavily in favor of the Bears. And rightfully so, because Chicago sports a winning record and the Giants are a dismal 0-5. Count the Bears’ upgraded offense from last season, as well as New York’s unreliable defense and it’s a landslide.
The Bears may be susceptible defensively against high-powered offenses, and New York will make some plays to keep it close early. But until Eli Manning proves he won’t urn the rock over and the Giants’ defense figures out their identity, Chicago will blow past New York en route to its fourth victory of 2013.
Pick: Chicago straight up & against the spread
Bears 31, Giants 14
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