Unlocked: Nagy says Chicago Bears won’t let down vs. Giants
Bears fans, you could have seen this exclusive analysis first, in your inbox, on Friday morning if you subscribed to PFW: Chicago. Don’t miss out on in-depth analysis, without the fluff or hot takes. Subscribe today and get your first month FREE.
Could this be the game where the Bears suffer a letdown?
At 8-3, the Bears are vastly superior to the 3-8 Giants, at least in the standings. And the Bears have had three extra days to gloat about their epic three NFC North victories in 12 days and resulting 1 ½-game lead in the NFC North, while the Giants have only unrealistic hopes of the postseason.
“Forget about it,” is essentially the message from Bears coach Matt Nagy.
“No team in the NFL should ever be taken lightly and this team, at 3-8, I don’t care about the record,” Nagy said. “They’re in every single game. They’ve got good players across the board. They got good coaches, offense, defense, special teams. Other than that Philadelphia game on Thursday night (34-13 loss in Game Six), they’re in every game. So that’s an easy question to answer for us. We don’t care who we’re playing, or what the records are. I don’t care what you are, we’re going to prepare for you and give you our best.”
While the end results haven’t been pretty for the Giants, they do have star power and players worth watching, or if you’re the Bears, worrying about. WR Odell Beckham comes to mind. The mercurial Beckham is already over 1,000 receiving yards (1,017). In his three previous full seasons, Beckham has never finished with fewer than 1,300 yards or 10 touchdowns. And he has shown no diminishing of skills a year after playing just four games because of a season-ending fractured ankle.
Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was asked for his best advice in dealing with Beckham on Sunday.
“Going to mass on Saturday night,” Fangio cracked. “He’s really good. The guy is a tremendous athlete and has great ball skills, as everybody knows.”
Contrary to what some haters may say, the Giants’ much-maligned QB Eli Manning is having, at least statistically, one of the best seasons of his 15-year career. His 96.2 passer rating would be his best single-season mark ever, and he’s been intercepted just seven times.
The problem is that Manning has been sacked 38 times, tied for the most in the NFL with the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott. So, Bears OLB Khalil Mack will be worth watching, along with OLB Leonard Floyd, who has just one sack but has been more effective rushing the passer in recent weeks. The Bears should also benefit from the return of OLB Aaron Lynch, who missed last week with a concussion, forcing Floyd and Mack to play more snaps than they’re accustomed to.
It will also be worth watching the health of Bears DE Akiem Hicks, a potential Pro Bowler who did not practice Wednesday or Thursday because of an Achilles injury but participated fully in Friday before being listed as questionable. The run-stuffing Hicks would be greatly missed against the Giants’ phenomenal rookie RB Saquon Barkley. The Bears’ defense is No. 1 in average gain allowed per rush and No. 2 in rushing yards allowed, but a lot of that has to do with Hicks.
It appears likely the Bears will go to backup QB Chase Daniel for a second straight week, since Mitch Trubisky was not allowed to throw at all during practice Wednesday or Thursday and was listed as doubtul despite tossing on a pitch count to end the week. Daniel was excellent on Thanksgiving Day, his first start in four years, but that could change now that the Giants have update film on him.
The Bears appear to have ultimate confidence in Daniel, though, as Nagy sent three years with him as his position coach in Kansas City, even though the quarterback rarely played. He posted a 106.8 passer rating last week and threw two TD passes while taking care of the ball. The way the Bears’ defense is playing, that’s about all that’s needed from the QB position.