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Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Redskins

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Redskins

1. Don’t let it come down to a kick. Eddy Pineiro’s surprise inclusion on Saturday’s injury report, and official “questionable” status, does leave open the possibility the Bears don’t have a kicker on Monday night. Matt Nagy sounded optimistic about Pineiro’s injury being "minor" and having him available at FedEx Field, but the best thing the Bears can do is make sure they don’t desperately need their kicker to win (as they did last week).

Maybe Pineiro plays, maybe he doesn’t. But this is more of a general key: The Bears need roster talent advantage to take over on Monday night. Pineiro proved he can make the big kick last week, but if he’s at all banged up, it would be best to make sure he doesn’t need to make a kick to win at the end.

2. Hit intermediate throws and downfield shots. The Bears’ offensive line righted itself last week in Denver after a rough beginning of the season, and should provide ample time for Mitch Trubisky to push the ball downfield. Washington only has two sacks and 20 total pressures this year, and doesn’t have the talent in its secondary — even with big names like Josh Norman and Landon Collins — to make plays downfield. 

To wit: Carson Wentz completed six of eight intermediate throws (traveling 10-20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage) and threw two touchdowns on passes traveling 20 yards or more beyond the line of scrimmage. A week later, Dak Prescott completed all six of his intermediate throws and hucked a touchdown on a deep ball.

Prescott and Wentz have, of course, looked much better than Trubisky over the first two weeks of the season. But at the very least, the opportunities for Trubisky to push the ball downfield should be there. The 2017 No. 2 overall pick needs to take advantage of those openings when they present themselves.

Succeeding here will require a good run-pass balance, though, because while Washington hasn’t got much out of their pass rush it does feature four former first-round picks (Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen — provided Allen plays) who can still get after a quarterback if a passing play becomes obvious.

3. Don’t get beat on play action. While Washington has one of the NFL’s worst rushing offenses (ranking 30th in yards per rush and rushing yards per game), Case Keenum has been one of the NFL’s most effective quarterbacks when using play action. Rookie receiver Terry McLaurin is a legitimate deep threat of whom Eddie Jackson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will need to be aware. 

But the Bears’ defense is outstanding, and should be able to generate pressure on Keenum against an offensive line missing holdout left tackle Trent Williams. That could help keep a lid on Washington's offense, which ranks fifth in DVOA, just as effectively as Jackson and Clinton-Dix could. 

Prediction: Bears 20, Redskins 17. For those hoping Monday night will be the breakout game for the Bears’ offense, they’ll still be waiting. Washington’s defense isn’t very good, and the crowd atmosphere at FedEx Field won’t intimidate anyone on the Bears’ sideline. But this is still a road game, and the Bears only won one road game by more than a touchdown in 2018 (against a Buffalo Bills team quarterbacked by Nathan Peterman).

The expectation, though, is for the Bears’ offense to be better than it was in Weeks 1 and 2. That may not lead to a 2018-Week-4 level of explosion, but merely getting to 20 points would represent progress for this offense. What’ll be key, though: The Bears’ defense will force multiple takeaways, offsetting a handful of big plays made by Case Keenum and helping secure a narrow victory in Maryland. 

Former Bears DC Vic Fangio off to rough start as Broncos coach

Former Bears DC Vic Fangio off to rough start as Broncos coach

Former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was one of the few head-coaching candidates last offseason whose reputation in the league was based on defense. With most teams looking for the next young offensive guru, Fangio's stature as a veteran defensive coach made the Denver Broncos' decision to name him their head coach a pretty bold move.

After a 3-6 start and a change from Joe Flacco to Brandon Allen at quarterback, Denver's lacking offense has sparked internal frustration, according to CBS Sports' Jason LaCanfora.

The real source of the difficulty, however, appears to be Fangio.

Fangio has had issues with offensive assistants, the sources said, and at one point top receiver Emmanuel Sanders in essence walked out on the team, leading to his eventual trade. Lines of communication have been strained, and Fangio has been quick to dispute play calls and come across as overbearing on the headsets, sources said, which has created issues in-game and otherwise.

Fangio's time in Chicago was highlighted by the dominant performance of the Bears' defense in 2018, one that led the team to an NFC North championship and its first playoff berth since 2010.

But he was never able to establish himself as the kind of coach who could handle the media or other responsibilities that come along with being atop the coaching food chain. His to-the-point and sometimes brutally honest style worked well for a grizzled defensive coordinator, but head coaches are held to a different standard.

It would be unfair to expect Fangio to change who he is at this point in his coaching career, which began with the New Orleans Saints 33 seasons ago. 

Maybe we're just starting to see why it took so long for him to actually land a head coaching position.

(Too) Bold Predictions: The Blake Bortles-Mitch Trubisky debate gets answered once and for all

(Too) Bold Predictions: The Blake Bortles-Mitch Trubisky debate gets answered once and for all

(Too) Bold Predictions aims to take nuanced, well-researched information and use it to make wildly improbable predictions. Analysis! 

J.J. Stankevitz
1. Eddie Jackson -- finally! -- has his first two interceptions of the season.
Does this count as a bold prediction if I've predicted it, incorrectly, multiple times this year? Whatever. Either way: It finally happens! Jared Goff has nine interceptions this year and the Rams' offense has looked broken at times. Sunday should be a nice opportunity for Jackson to finally get that takeaway he's so hungry for, and we'll say he stacks another one on it. These things do come in bunches, after all.

2. Blake Bortles vs. Mitch Trubisky gets settled once and for all.
Sean McVay intentionally put Blake Bortles in the Rams' loss to the Steelers last week, as if one of the NFL's foremost offensive minds was taken over by Jason from "The Good Place." The prediction here: Things go catastrophically wrong for Goff in the first half Sunday night, but the Bears aren't able to capitalize, holding a 6-0 lead at halftime. With the Rams' season on the line, McVay breaks the glass and gives Bortles a shot in the second half, which goes...actually, kind of well? I have the Rams beating the Bears in my official prediction, and I wouldn't imagine a Bortles-led offense would be good enough to beat the Bears. But is a Trubisky-led offense good enough for the Bears to beat the Rams? This could be an ugly, yet fascinating, night if Bortles and Trubisky wind up quarterbacking against each other.

Cam Ellis
1. David Montgomery has his most impressive game of the season. 
The Bears probably aren't going to have a lot of success running it through some of the interior gaps, because, you know, Aaron Donald and all. The Rams' run defense is great (3rd in DVOA) so getting over the (kind of arbitrary) 100-yard mark may not happen, but without Adam Shaheen, Trey Burton, and Jalen Ramsey smothering Allen Robinson, the Bears aren't going to have that many options available to them on Sunday night. It sounds like Montgomery may be a gametime decision, but it's hard to imagine how the Bears move the ball at all without him. Whether it's total yardage, the number of touchdowns, or some jaw-dropping display of his space alien abilities to avoid being tackled, Montgomery's the story on Monday morning. 

2. The Bears' offense looks as good as it has all year. 
Like I said in prediction 1, the Bears' offense goes into Sunday night with a serious lack of NFL experience at the skill position. Shaheen and Burton are out, so they'll have to rely on JP Holtz, Ben Braunecker, and Bradley Sowell, who I promise are all real people. Allen Robinson has to go up against Ramsey, and David Montgomery's ankle has made him a maybe. But who cares?! All the common sense says a Trubisky/Cohen/Braunecker core probably isn't getting the best of Wade Phillips, but (Too) Bolds is not the place for common sense. For no rhyme or reason, something about the Bears' offense clicks tonight. Will it be fun? Yes! Will it continue going forward? No!