Bears

15 on 6: Sunday could build confidence for Cutler

15 on 6: Sunday could build confidence for Cutler

Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010
8:15 PM
By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

Protect the Passer

Tomorrow's game presents a good challenge for Jay Cutler and company. The Jets have multiple sacks in six of their seven road games this season. The pass protection of Jay will be paramount for the Bears to keep their No. 2 seeding for the playoffs. There is a lot on the line for both teams as the Jets come to town attempting to earn a playoff berth.

Third Downs

When playing against a Rex Ryan-led defense, it always comes down to winning on third down. The Bears must convert at a minimum of 40 percent tomorrow, which is a big challenge vs a Rex Ryan-run defense. Defensively, the Jets run what they call "Chaos" on third downs. It looks like chaos to a fan or the opponent, but it is very coordinated and well schemed. Simply, it is multiple blitzers overloadingoutnumbering one side of the offensive line. Rex will attack protection schemes, which have been faulty for the Bears most of the season. He wants to to obliterate what the Bears have been doing well, which is playaction pass protection. Therefore, Cutler's pass production must be on first and second down, not third downs! Third down and medium situations need to be a run down for the Bears where as Martz gets a feel for Rex after the first two series calls the right run call away from the Blitz.

This will be a low scoring game, unless special teams can blow it open. Expect a 14-13 game. Defense will rule the day on both sides. This is a huge test for Jay to be patient and throw the ball away. He must understand one bad decision decides the outcome. The Jets are not a juggernaut of a team offensively, even though their skill position players dictate they should be. If Jay plays his cards smartly by having a turnover free game, the Bears win.

Importance

Not only is this game important for earning a No. 2 seed for the playoffs, it also would provide a jolt for the confidence of Jay and the offense. If the Bears can pass this test versus a quality opponent which they were unable to accomplish against New England, they would be difficult to stop in the playoffs.

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

Bears-Packers Inactives: No Roy Robertson-Harris against Green Bay

8-15royrobertsonharris.jpg
USA Today

Bears-Packers Inactives: No Roy Robertson-Harris against Green Bay

The Bears' inactives have been released, and there's only one real "surprise": 

They'll be without Roy Robertson Harris, who was listed as DNP (foot) for Wednesday and Thursday's practices. He was a limited participant in Friday's practice, however, and was considered questionable when the Bears sent out their Game Status report on Saturday. 

"As far as Roy Robertson-Harris and Javon [Wims] — both questionable," Matt Nagy told reporters on Friday. "The goal is to get them ready and see where they’re at, but we’ll kind of see here tomorrow and the next day. But they’re arrow-up." 

In better news, both Akiem Hicks and Prince Amukamara will play. Hicks was activated off the IR on Saturday, and Amukamara has been out for several weeks with a hamstring injury. 

(Too) Bold Predictions: Akiem Hicks' return to the Bears will be felt immediately. Literally.

(Too) Bold Predictions: Akiem Hicks' return to the Bears will be felt immediately. Literally.

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

Cam Ellis
1. Akiem Hicks has a sack on the first series of the game
The Packers have the best pass-blocking unit in football, and Aaron Rodgers is averaging something like three seconds per dropback to throw. Still, there are going to be far more one-on-one matchups on the line because of his return, but I imagine the Packers are still focused on stopping Khalil Mack first and foremost. With so much attention to both edges – because you'll remember Leonard Floyd is basically Khalil Mack against the Packers – Hicks is going to get some single-man looks. Hicks gets to Rodgers somewhere on the Bears' first defensive series, and the upset is off.

2Kyle Fuller finally connects on jumping a route ... twice 
It feels like Fuller's been painfully close to a pick-six a bunch of times this season. There was the one in Denver, and in Los Angeles, and the latest came against Dak Prescott last Thursday night. I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting one or two also. At one point, he's going to connect, and the weirdest possible moment would be against a quarterback that doesn't throw interceptions that plays on a team that doesn't turn the ball over. We'll say only one goes for a touchdown, but if tomorrow gets weird, it's going to get weird. 

Rob Schaefer
1. Khail Mack logs three sacks in Akiem Hicks' return
Our long national nightmare is over. Akiem Hicks is back, and with him, could come an unleashing of Khalil Mack the likes of which we haven’t seen this season.

We’ve written about the impact of Hicks’ presence on Mack’s production before. The theory is simple: With another all-world talent eating up the inside of opponents’ offensive lines, teams have less capacity to focus extra attention on Mack. Granted, the Bears have gotten decent production along the line this season in the form of Nick Williams (six sacks), Roy Robertson-Harris (10 QB hits) and flashes of Leonard Floyd. But this week, the potential is there for their pass rush to return to its 2018 form, and that starts with Mack.

The Packers have the fourth-highest PFF pass block rating (79.4) in the NFL and Aaron Rodgers is notoriously slippery, which is what makes this prediction bold. But Mack has been trending up recently (two of his 7.5 sacks and six of his 13 QB hits have come in the Bears’ last three games). Perhaps the return of Hicks will push him to new heights.

2. David Montgomery has his second 100+ yard rushing performance of the season
If there’s a soft spot in this Packers defense, it’s in the heart of their front seven. On the outside, Preston and Za’Darius Smith are often used to edge-rush and contain — roles they’ve been effective in — but the two backers in the middle of their base 3-4, Blake Martinez and B.J. Goodson, both enter this one with average PFF grades (as do defensive ends Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster). Frank Clark is, admittedly, a beast, but again… Bold predictions.

As a team, the Packers allow the eighth-most rushing yards per game (122.8) in the NFL, and Matt Nagy has displayed intention in establishing the run as the season has worn on. With conditions set to be frigid and Montgomery coming off his third game with 20+ rush attempts of the season last week against Dallas, a breakout from him is plausible.