Either the two-straight victories have instilled a false sense of confidence, or the Chicago Bears really do stand a chance against the Saints down in New Orleans.
In this episode, Will DeWitt goes through his weekly five matchups and three keys that you must pay attention to in this week’s game.
First up, let’s analyze the five critical matchups.
1. Bobby Massie vs Cameron Jordan
Surpise, Surprise. Okay, not really. Massie is going to have his hands full all game long going against one of the best in the league in Jordan. In the Saints’ four wins, Jordan has four sacks and four tackles for loss. Coincidence? I think not.
Jordan currently leads the Saints with five sacks and has also done a great job all season long setting the edge in run support. He’s able to beat you in a multitude of ways. He can get by you with his speed, and then follow it up by overpowering you on the next. A perfect example of this was the Saints’ recent game against Detroit when he knocked back their right tackle into the lap of Matthew Stafford.
I’m expecting Massie to struggle against this athletic rusher all game long. Not due to Leno Jr’s lack of ability, but rather, Jordan’s freakish traits that have allowed him to dominate all season long. Out of Jordan’s 31 pressures and five sacks, he’s gotten 28 and four respectively lining against offenses’ right sides.
He has too many ways he can beat opposing tackles. Massie tends to struggle against speed, and with the Bears going off the silent count, he’ll have to really be on top of his game. Or else, Jordan will blow right by him and get to Trubisky in a blink of an eye.
Edge: Cameron Jordan
2. Zach Miller vs Kenny Vaccaro
I spent all week trying to figure out who can step up for the Bears in the passing game, because going up against the fourth-highest scoring offense in the NFL it just seems apparent that the Bears must find a way to move the ball through the air.
Miller is going to be that guy. He’s been a security blanket of sorts for Trubisky, and when you watch the tape he’s been the only receiver outside of Kendall Wright who can gain separation and get open.
Typically, the Saints put Vaccaro on opposing tight ends. He does have the team-high with three interceptions and six passes defensed, so it’s not exactly an ideal matchup. However, perhaps Trubisky and the Bears can find a way to take advantage of the height disparity between the two. Vaccaro is 6-foot and Miller is 6-foot-4. Those four inches may be all of the difference if Trubisky puts the ball in the right spot.
Miller is second on the team in targets and I don’t expect his role to decrease anytime soon. The Bears must find a way to move the ball through the air, and this may be there best chance as neither matchup along the outside is ideal. If I were Chicago, I’d put Miller and Wright on the field at the same time. Then, I’d see who Vaccaro is covering, and the other should have a solid matchup against a linebacker.
But in terms of a straight-up matchup, this one does not exactly go in Chicago’s favor.
Edge: Kenny Vaccaro
3. Prince Amukamara vs Michael Thomas
Now healthy, Amukamara is making his mark. You don’t hear his name a ton during the game, which is exactly what you want out of your top cornerback. He’s rarely been targetted. Currently, he’s seeing a pass come his way every 12.8 snaps, which is the second-best mark in the NFL. Out of his 166 coverage snaps, Amukamara has only given up seven catches for 97 yards and has been able to keep his opponent in check.
He has a tough task this week in Thomas, who leads the Saints with 35 catches and 403 yards. He’s also accounted for the most first downs through the air on the team by a long shot with 24. He is dealing with a knee injury, but should be ready to go. Detroit held him to three catches for only 11 yards, and even though replicating that will be tough for Chicago, it does prove he can be limited and I believe Amukamara is the man for the job.
This will be a fun battle to watch on the outside all game long, especially in the red zone as that’s where both of Thomas’s touchdowns have came. Thomas has the height, speed, and hands to make an impact every game. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he has a future HOF quarterback throwing his way. But, if Amukamara is up to the challenge and can handle Thomas – shut him down, it’ll make the Bears’ chances of winning exponentially greater.
Edge: Prince Amukamara
4. Danny Trevathan vs Alvin Kamara
Trevathan tends to make the five matchups every week, and for good reason, as he has the most responsibility on the Bears’ defense. I talk about it every week how important it is for him to be on the top of his game both physically and mentally.
He will be tasked with handling two different running backs in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, and of course, the focus here is on the later. Kamara is averaging 6.3 yards per carry this season. After the Saints’ bye week, his role has increased. Over the past two games, he’s run the ball 19 times for 132 yards (roughly 7 yards per rush) and has also added eight catches for 62 yards.
Like Cohen in Chicago, he’s the sparkplug type of back. Someone who can enter the game and make an impact in a hurry. A player that doesn’t need a ton of touches to change a game.
So, it’ll be on Trevathan to limit the back, who is able to make his own space as a runner, not just on the ground but also as a receiver. When Kamara comes out of the backfield on a route, look for Trevathan (the Bears best coverage linebacker) to follow him. However, there are going to be times when the duty of covering Kamara will switch to a corner, and in that case, it’ll be on Trevathan to verbalize the coverage and ensure everybody knows who is covering the explosive rookie.
Trevathan has been the lifeblood of this defense ever since he returned from his suspension, and I don’t expect that to change.
Edge: Danny Trevathan
5. Akiem Hicks vs Senio Kelemete
Here we go. This is the matchup that can, in fact, change the game. It’s funny because I feel like I say that every time I highlight a matchup with Hicks, but it’s only because he is a game-changing player.
For what I believe is the third time this season, Hicks catches a break as the Saints starting right guard (Larry Warford) is out with an injury, so the backup Kelemete is now tasked with stopping the former Saint, and to him I say – good luck.
Hicks has been dominant all season long. He’s only missed two tackles and has 18 run stops on the year (most of all 3-4 defensive ends). He’s been overbearing all season long with his pure power and determination on every single down. He can run through guards. He can swim over their shoulders. He can spin around them. Whatever trick he wants to pull out of his bag simply works and offenses have had a hard time slowing him down.
Drew Brees has only been sacked five times this season and never more than once in a single game. Going against his former team, you must believe that Hicks wants to change that and he has the matchup to do it. Hicks averages roughly four quarterback pressures and 2.5 hurries per game and his six sacks too leads all 3-4 defensive ends.
With a little extra motivation this week, expect Hicks to play relentlessly all game long. He’ll have no problem against Kelemete and should be able to help Chicago not only shut down the run but put pressure on Brees in the middle of the pocket, which is exactly what the Bears must do to disrupt the rhythm and vision of the short quarterback.
Edge: Akiem Hicks