With an extended period of time to prepare, the Bears will look to get their season back on track when they square off against the Minnesota Vikings.
In this episode, Will DeWitt goes through his weekly five matchups and three keys that you must pay attention to Monday night.
First up, let’s analyze the five critical matchups.
1. Mitchell Trubisky vs Harrison Smith
In his rookie debut, Trubisky will be going up against one of the best safeties in the game in Smith. Both signal callers will be playing cat and mouse all game long.
For Trubisky, it’ll be imperative to know where Smith is at all times. He’s typically a safety quarterbacks don’t pick on. Also, the quarterback must ensure that he properly reads the coverage correctly to avoid any debacle.
Smith’s job is to get his secondary on the same page, and surely, going up against a rookie in his first-ever career game, Smith will have a few tricks up his sleeve in hopes to add a “wrinkle” that Trubisky hasn’t seen before.
Edge: Harrison Smith
2. Bryce Callahan vs Adam Theilen
This is going to be an intriguing matchup to watch all game long. Callahan has been arguably the Bears’ best corner this season. In fact, he currently holds the best coverage grade out of the bunch (78.7) according to Pro Football Focus.
Callahan will have his hands full with Theilen. He’s currently third in the league with 358 yards, and his 207 yards from the slot are second in the NFL. Theilen tends to bust out big gains. He has seven receptions that have gone for at least 20 yards.
The one thing Theilen has struggled with is finding the end zone. He currently has only one touchdown despite the vast amount of yards he’s been able to put up.
Callahan is currently fifth in the NFL in terms of slot coverage allowing a catch on every 14.3 cover snaps.
Edge: Bryce Callahan
3. Jordan Howard vs Anthony Barr
When Howard is most-effective this season, it’s when he runs outside of the tackles, not between them. That’ll mean he’ll primarily have to get around Barr who is typically a brick wall against the run.
Barr currently second on the Vikings in combined tackles with 26 and is 14th in run stop percentage according to PFF (5.5%). He hasn’t been as “lights out” as we’ve seen from him in the past but is still a player that Howard must be able to elude.
Howard is the 10th most elusive back this season with an elusive rating of 50.8 and is tied for second in the NFL with five runs that have gone for 15-plus yards.
No matter what side the Bears run the ball, Barr has the speed to make a play, but Howard just knows how to fight through contact and make big plays.
Edge: Jordan Howard
4. Bears’ Corners vs Stefon Diggs
For the fifth-straight week the Bears’ corners are going to have their hands full with a highly-productive receiver on the outside. This time, it’s Diggs who enters the game with the most receiving yards (391) and second-most touchdowns (4).
When targeting Diggs, quarterbacks have a QBR of 149.2, which leads the NFL. Like his counterpart Thielen, Diggs has been making big plays all season. He has eight catches that have gone for 20-plus yards, which leads the league. Surely, the Bears (who give up 11 yards per completion) will have their hands full trying to slow him down.
Doing so, it’ll likely be a combination of Marcus Cooper, Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara depending on who’s in the game and what side of the field Diggs lines up on.
Even though the Bears have done an admirable job this season going against top-tier wideouts, Diggs is just too hot. It’s hard to imagine him slowing down on Monday night.
Edge: Stefon Diggs
5.Charles Leno Jr vs Everson Griffen
Here’s my weekly matchup to watch in the trenches.
Griffen enters this game leading the Vikings in sacks with five, which is nearly half of the Vikings’ team total (11). He has nine career 2-plus sack games, seven of which have come since 2014, which is tied for fifth in the NFL in that time frame.
Griffen is second in the NFL in terms of total pressures coming from the right side (18) according to PFF. In fact, 80 percent of his sacks have come from that right edge.
Leno Jr has been pretty solid in his pass protection. He’s in the middle of the pack with 10 pressures allowed, however, Leno Jr has not allowed a sack through the first four games of the year.