Bears

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Lions

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Lions

1. Complete passes to open guys. While the Lions are allowing the fourth-fewest passing yards per game in the NFL (214.6), this isn’t a very good pass defense: They rank 30th in passing defense DVOA and have the third-worst coverage grade by Pro Football Focus. Six of the eight quarterbacks to face the Lions have had a passer rating of 108 or higher, including Russell Wilson, who had a perfect 158.3 rating while only throwing for 248 yards on Oct. 28. Wilson and Kirk Cousins both completed over 80 percent of their passes against this defense. And, on top of all this: Darius Slay, Detroit’s best cornerback, will miss Sunday’s game. Mitch Trubisky’s accuracy has waned in his last three games (54.5 percent), but he’ll need to connect with a group of receivers that should be running open for most of the afternoon. 
 
2. Pack your Kerryon. It’s not a coincidence that running back Kerryon Johnson’s three best games have come in Detroit’s three wins (16 carries/101 yards vs. New England, 12 carries/70 yards vs. Green Bay, 19 carries/158 yards at Miami). In Detroit’s last two games — which they’ve lost by a combined 29 points — Johnson has totaled 59 yards on 20 carries, though. With starting left guard T.J. Lang out on Sunday, this should be a good opportunity for Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman to own the interior and make the Lions one-dimensional. While Matthew Stafford has had success against the Bears in recent years, he was sacked 10 times last week and forcing him into third-and-longs should allow Khalil Mack and this pass rush to make an impact. 
 
3. Make plays when it counts. Stafford is 5-1 against the Bears since Vic Fangio became the team’s defensive coordinator, with some gaudy numbers behind it: 145/216 (67 percent), 1,675 yards (279.2 yards/game), 12 TDs, 5 INTs, 99.2 passer rating. And since he threw four picks against the Jets in Week 1, Stafford has largely been good, completing 69.6 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions. In the absence of turnovers or 10 sacks, the Bears need to succeed on third down and/or hold the Lions to field goals. The good news: Detroit is a middle-of-the-road offense on converting third downs (40 percent) and is among the league’s worst at turning red zone possessions into touchdowns (44.4 percent, fourth-worst). 
 
Prediction: Bears 27, Lions 16. The Bears’ defense is good enough to hold the Lions to a single touchdown and a few field goals, while the offense takes advantage of Slay’s absence and cruises to a comfortable win. 

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Under Center Podcast: Is Matt Nagy right to rest his starters in preseason games?

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USA Today

Under Center Podcast: Is Matt Nagy right to rest his starters in preseason games?

J.J. Stankevitz is joined by John "Moon" Mullin and Cam Ellis to debate whether or not Mitchell Trubisky, and the rest of the Bears starters, need preseason reps to fully prepare for Week 1. Plus, the guys share their latest thoughts on Eddy Pineiro and the kicking situation.

00:40 - Moon doesn't think everything adds up with Matt Nagy holding Trubisky out of preseason games

03:20 - Highlights from Matt Nagy's Wednesday press conference on the growing trend of coaches sitting starters in the preseason

05:45 - Cam understands why coaches don't want to risk injury in the preseason, but also thinks something else may be afoot with Nagy sitting Trubisky

08:10 - Is joint practice the future of preseason football?

14:00 - Can teams really get the same quality of work done in practice as they can in a preseason game?

19:50 - Talking about Kalyn Kahler's Sports Illustrated article that gave an inside look to the Bears' kicking competition from rookie minicamp

21:20 - Moon says that the Bears are actually in a worse position now, than they were last year with Cody Parkey

23:15 - Did the Bears do future kickers a disservice by fixating on 43-yard kicks?

24:50 - All the guys are excited for Olin Kreutz to join Football Aftershow this season

Listen here on in the embedded player below. 

Under Center Podcast

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Bears sitting QB Mitch Trubisky through preseason doesn’t make complete sense. At all.

Bears sitting QB Mitch Trubisky through preseason doesn’t make complete sense. At all.

Something jus don’ feel right about this Bears not playing Mitchell Trubisky in preseason… . Jus’ don’ feel right.

 

It’s not so much the starters; coaches Matt Nagy and Frank Reich texted this week and agreed that they weren’t playing their starters, although it was apparently more a case of Reich following Nagy’s no-starters lead. Whatever.

 

No, it’s about Trubisky. Because so much of the 2019 Bears and beyond is absolutely still about Trubisky, for whom his coach has been a public cheerleader but who said before training camp that the focus was on ball security, then has had practices speckled with anything but. Whether Nagy is in fact entirely pleased with his young quarterback is between them – not every tick of information says that Nagy is – and the coach is protecting his quarterback at least verbally, again, that’s between them. But it’s preseason and practice, so leave it at that for the time being.

 

But the situation is difficult to understand, for more than a few reasons.

 

Nagy’s NFL roots are of the Andy Reid tree. While Nagy was a member of Reid’s staff in Philadelphia, the Eagles in third preseason games started Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick – all on their ways to starting game one’s. In his five years with Kansas City, Nagy was part of the Reid offensive staff that started Alex Smith in every game three, on through 2017 when Smith played 44 (63 percent) of the Chiefs’ 68 snaps in a game three vs. Minnesota.

 

Nagy isn’t Reid and he doesn’t do or remotely need to do everything Reid did/does, including playing starters, particularly his quarterback, “just because that’s where our team’s at,” Nagy said after the New York Giants game. “Coach [Reid] has his way and I think coach Reid would be the first to tell you that if I’m not being me and if I’m not trying to do what I think is right for our team, then I’m not coach Reid. I’ve learned from him and I’ve learned so much from him, but for our team and our situation, I need to do what’s best for us and just feel like that’s where it’s at. September 5th is an important day for us.”

 

Ok. Seems to make sense philosophically. Seems to… .

 

But NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes needs to play (game three last preseason, game two already this year), mentored by Reid, and Trubisky doesn’t? Houston’s Deshaun Watson needed to play the ’18 game three/’19 game two combo, and Trubisky doesn’t? Six-time Pro Bowl’er Russell Wilson and his Seattle Super Bowl ring needed to, but Trubisky didn’t?

 

Preseason as it is currently constituted needs to go away and probably will at some point. Joint practices are exponentially more preferred both for quality of work starters-vs.-starters and managing player utilization. But right now, preseason is the hand the NFL has dealt its players and coaches.

 

One vein of thinking is that teams that don’t expend starters in preseason leave more in their tanks at year end, and there may be something to that. Not much, however: Nagy holding his 1’s out virtually of the 2018 preseason doesn’t support that argument.

 

The Bears finished anything but strong last season. The two playoff teams that the Bears faced over their final 11 games held the Nagy offense to 15 points, including the Eagles and close coaching friend Doug Pederson. It doesn’t necessarily foreshadow or suggest that good teams were beginning to figure Nagy and Trubisky out as the season wound down, but it’s been hinted at in this space previously. In any case, the Bears weren’t in demonstrably, meaningfully better shape down the stretch.

 

The health thing is a very valid concern; it is with every player, starter or No. 90. Linebacker Leonard Floyd played a chunk of ’18 in a hand cast and then a brace because of a preseason injury, and tight end Adam Shaheen went on IR for much of the year with a lower-leg injury in preseason game two (although Shaheen ended his rookie/2017 season on IR with a chest injury, too).

 

But tracing the Bears’ exceptional collective good health of 2018 to keeping most of the starters out of preseason will take more than one season to trust as cause-effect.

 

The fact is that the Bears lost three of their first six games, only two of which (Seattle, New England) were against teams that eventually reached the postseason. The Los Angeles Rams, whose coach Sean McVay held quarterback Jason Goff out of preseason altogether, were the only other playoff team the Bears faced in Nagy’s first season as a head coach, before meeting Philadelphia in those playoffs.

 

Nagy may indeed be pleased with Trubisky’s practice work and progress. I don’t believe that. I believe there is a lot of coach-speak in play. I also don’t believe that Nagy is going no-starters to match any “trend” that McVay and some younger coaches represent; Nagy isn’t smarter than Reid, Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll and others, but he also is not a follower.

 

But something about sitting a still-forming Trubisky, who needs to prove to his coach and more that he can in fact throw into tight places without interceptions in an actual game setting, for example, even a “practice” game…that just doesn’t make complete sense.

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