Looking ahead to the Bears' first home game of 2020:
Spread: Bears -5.5
Moneyline: Bears -245 | Giants +195
1. Don’t let Saquon Barkley beat you.
This seems obvious, right? Barkley is the Giants’ best player on offense, yet had just six yards on 15 carries in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Giants managed 16 points in a 10-point home loss.
But here’s what minimizing Barkley’s impact would mean: More obvious passing downs for second-year quarterback Daniel Jones, who showed a good connection with receiver Darius Slayton on Monday night…but also is throwing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. The Giants’ O-line had the lowest pass block win rate in Week 1. And the Bears very well could have Robert Quinn available on Sunday.
Translation: Yikes. Or, in more detail: Stopping Barkley means Quinn and Khalil Mack should combine for a destructive afternoon. Jones led the NFL with 18 fumbles in 2019; as long as he’s dealing with a lot of second/third-and-long downs, we’ll find out if those ball security issues are fixed or not with the Bears’ pass rush going after him on Sunday.
2. Pick on Corey Ballentine – again.
In last year’s Bears-Giants game, Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller combined for 10 catches on 10 targets for 184 yards and a touchdown when matched up against then-rookie cornerback Corey Ballentine. He allowed four catches on five targets for 50 yards in Week 1 of this year, and all four of those receptions went for first downs.
While big-money free agent James Bradberry struggled in his Giants debut, he’s a good player and someone you’d expect to bounce back. Ballentine is the kind of guy Robinson and Miller should relish the opportunity to line up against. Maybe New York will have a better plan to protect Ballentine, but that plan might mean leaving Bradberry on an island against Robinson – a matchup Robinson, one of the best receivers in the NFL, should win most of the time.
3. Keep it up on first down.
The Bears averaged 7.9 yards per play on first down in Week 1, the third-highest average in the NFL – and nearly a three-yard increase from their average yards per play on first down in 2019. Having success on first down is critical to establishing an offensive identity, something the Bears never quite found a year ago.
If the Bears are still gaining good chunks of yards on first down, either via the run or the pass, it’ll be tough for the Giants to stop them on Sunday. Of course, Mitch Trubisky needs to make better decisions and display better accuracy throughout the game – but the Giants defense, like the Lions’, represents another good identity-building opportunity for Trubisky, Matt Nagy and the Bears’ offense.
Prediction: Bears 24, Giants 13
First-year Giants coach Joe Judge looks like he’s doing some good things in New York, but Sunday will still be this team’s first road game with a new head coach. The Giants’ offensive line is leaky, and with or without Quinn, the Bears should be able to generate consistent pressure on Jones. There are too many favorable matchups in this game for the Bears for it to be particularly close. The Bears improve to 2-0 with a comfortable win at Soldier Field.
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