Thursday Night Football
October 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm ET
NFL Network: Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Mike Mayock (analysis)
New York Giants (0-5) at Chicago Bears (3-2)
Line: Bears favored by 7½; over/under 47
Last week the Giants had their best opportunity to win a game when they were home against Philadelphia; the Eagles had lost three straight and their defense had been exposed, allowing an average of 35 points per game. As bad as Philly had looked, it turns out that Big Blue was just what the doctor ordered for Chip Kelly, as the Eagles won by 15 points.
How bad are the Giants? Their defense ranks dead last in the NFL, allowing 36.4 points per game. The G-men are known for having quality depth among the front seven, rotating players to keep the pass rushers energetic and productive. Jason Pierre-Paul has been ineffective, still not 100% after off-season back surgery and then a sprained MCL. JPP has been slow getting off the ball and nothing at all like the explosive and seemingly unblockable force that he was in his first three years in the league. Opponents no longer feel a need to double team him, easily handling him with just one lineman. Pierre-Paul has just 13 total tackles – that ranks 11th on the team’s totals – and has produced just one sack. With Pierre-Paul limited due to his health, somebody else needs to pick up the slack – bit nobody has. DE Justin Tuck is good, but he can’t do it all by himself. LB Mathias Kiwanuka is just a guy who is collecting a fat paycheck, and DT Cullen Jenkins is no longer the player he once was. You know things are bad when another team’s backup, LB Jon Beason, is viewed as an immediate upgrade. The Giants have been incapable of coming up with a crucial play; they are allowing opponents to convert on 49.4% of their third down opportunities (only Atlanta, at 50%, is worse).
As bad as things are on defense for the Giants, their real problem is on the other side of the ball. The offense has turned the ball over an astounding 20 times already. To put that into perspective, no other team has turned the ball over more than 12 times, and the total number of giveaways by the Giants is three more than the combined totals of four teams (the Titans, Colts, Chiefs and Saints). The offensive line is a sieve that can neither run block nor pass protect. The Giants running backs have combined to average a pitiful 3.0 yards per carry, while Eli Manning has already been sacked 15 times when he is not turning the ball over (13 picks, one fumble). There is really nothing positive to say about this team other than that because they play in the NFC East they are only two games off the division lead.
In Chicago the last few years the defense was great but the problem was the offense; now it is the opposite. The Bears are giving up 28 points per game; only five teams are allowing more than that. Just a couple years ago he was the best defensive player in the NFL; last week against New Orleans Julius Peppers was invisible. Perhaps he has an ailment (he’s listed as probable with an ambiguous chest injury), but the $100 million man didn’t show up at all on the stat sheet Sunday. Peppers has only 8 tackles and one sack so far this year (though to his credit he also has a fumble recovery of a blocked punt in garbage time against Pittsburgh for a touchdown). Pro Bowl DT Henry Melton has been sorely missed, accentuated by the fact his replacement, Nate Collins, has now also been placed on IR and 2nd year DE Shea McClellin has not yet played up to his first round draft status. Things are bad enough that the Bears signed the very well traveled Landon Cohen (you may recall that he was in the pats training camp two years ago) to their roster. Now the other starting DT (Stephen Paea) has joined CB Charles Tillman as probable on this week’s injury report. If Tillman can’t go the pass rush gets even worse; Tillman has had a variety of ailments all season, which his greatly reduced his effectiveness compared to last year.
One thing the Bears defense is continuing to do right is taking the ball away. The Bears rank third in the NFL with 14 takeaways, just one behind the Chiefs and Seahawks. Considering the Giants’ penchant for turning the ball over they could very well have a comfortable lead in that league ranking when this game is finished.
Pick • Bears 31, Giants 17
Bears -7½ (two units)
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