The New York Jets (10-4) Vs. Chicago Bears (10-4) at Soldier Field; Chicago, Ill.
Line: Bears -2
StatLine: Jets are 6-1 on the road this year.
StatLine (II): Bears rank dead-last in allowing sacks (48 this season).
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
QB Jay Cutler + Bears' passing attack Vs. Jets secondary + pass defense
A lot changed for the Bears when they decided to bring in gun-slinging offensive coordinator Mike Martz to run the offense and personally coach QB Jay Cutler. In the beginning of the season he was over-thinking things and the offense lacked balance as a result; looking to a lot of vertical routes and intricate, advanced screens / crossing routes.
Martz has now scaled things back, and it's worked. Turnover machine Jay Cutler has thrown eight touchdowns to only three interceptions in the last four games.
The Bears will challenge the Jets because they like to spread the field, stretch opposing defenses, and utilizing Jay Cutler's strong arm to thread the ball through the seam the secondary gives him.
The Jets secondary, outside of Revis Island, has struggled of late. Even CB Antonio Cromartie who is coming off two sub-par road outings (most of it was in covering WRs Mike Wallace and Deion Branch). Kyle Wilson is invisible at nickel back and the Jets have inserted Drew Coleman into the spot, who is a great blitzer but sometimes suspect in pass coverage. Lastly, they are still trying to make up for the loss of FS Jim Leonhard who called the plays on defense, which is why they've struggled in defending against tight ends and secondary wide receivers this year.
The most important thing the Jets must do in coverage, is not allow the speedy Bears' receivers to accumulate yards after catch.
Last week, OC Brian Schottenheimer mustered a 180-degree turnaround, drastically improving the playcalling on offense. He did a great job simplying the decision-making for Sanchez with some simple, short outroutes and slants, mixed in with a couple of vertical passes to Edwards.
In the weeks prior to the Pittsburgh game, Schotty was over-thinking things but was also predictable at times as well (ie.. run L.T. inside tackles EVERY first down).
The Jets will need more of the same playcalling as last week to consistently move the football and make QB Mark Sanchez's job easier with an ailing shoulder playing in a tough environment on the road.
Who Run It? (No 3. Vs. No. 4 rush defense)
Both teams have been stellar against the run this season... Bears rank No. 3 Vs. the rush and Jets weigh in at No. 4.
To Win This Game, Jets Offense Must...
Move the chains consistently, picking up yardage in small chunks; without turning the football over.
The Bears play a cover-2 base defense which is built on "bend but don't break." They give you the short yardage underneath, but generally play with two safeties over the top to defend against the big play. Then, they look for you to make a mistake to halt your drive; whether it be via a turnover, sack, or forced punt.
The Jets must take what the Bears will give them underneath if they are playing soft in coverage, combined with a decent running game to setup the occasional vertical play-action pass over the top.
To Win This Game, Jets Defense Must...
Get Pressure on QB Jay Cutler and force him into making bad decisions....then make him pay for it.
Cutler has been much better in limiting his turnovers, but he is still an inconsistent quarterback that likes to try to do too much at times and has no qualms about throwing into coverage..
I, (as well as John in this piece), think the Jets will be able to get pressure on Cutler and record a couple of sacks on Sunday. They will also, however, need to come up with a couple of interceptions, something they have struggled in this season as they have only intercepted seven passes all year. Jets rank dead-last in NFL in interception percentage, picking off a pass only 1.47% of time.
I do think Cutler will rack up 250 or so passing yards in the game, but if the Jets can defense come up with a couple of big plays to counter that, they will very much be in a position to win the game
The Bears already clinched the NFC North title, and the Jets must win to clinch their postseason berth as well. Motivation lies on Gang Green's side. Which is why, in a battle of field goals in the snow, and defenses that "bend but don't break," the Jets will sneak out a victory on the road.
Jets 18, Bears 15