As bad as the offense looked against Denver, that's about how good the first unit looked against the Washington Redskins on Saturday night. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall kicked the offense off with a big play, but Cutler didn't exactly lead Marshall on the throw, so the Bears still have something to work on, so they're playing another two games before they count. (I jest; there's more to work on, of course.)
Last Year: Finished the regular season 9-7 to finish first in the NFC East; went on to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time in five years.
This Year: 1-1, with the loss coming against the Jaguars 32-31 and the win against the Jets last Saturday, 26-3.
When Last We Met: If I need to remind you... I'll just hold on to whatever threat I was going to unload. Hmm, three consecutive preseason games where the last time we played something of significance happened that got us all going. Coincidence? Probably.
Offense: Man, that Eli Manning has sure come into his own lately, hasn't he? The Giants' offensive line might barely be a shade above the Bears' own offensive line, but that hasn't stood in the way of Manning the Younger growing into one of the game's currently elite players. He's making his reads a lot more quickly and seems to be hitting more guys in stride - unless the ball is half a block away because one of either Manning or the receiver turned the wrong way and read the play wrong. There's a lot of reads that have to go right, but when they do, it's a very effective offense.
Personnel-wise, Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs are out and Reuben Randle, David Wilson and Martellus Bennett are in. Randle and Wilson are the team's second and first round picks, respectively, and Bennett is a free agent who had a few bones thrown his way in Dallas, but when you're playing behind Jason Witten, well, that happens to be "a few." He hasn't caught a touchdown since 2008. The offense itself builds a lot off the run, though with the departure of Jacobs they lack a power threat. Between play-action and scheming around the offensive line, the offense finds a way to work.
Defense: Raise your hand if you had to click on the link above to be reminded that Jay Cutler was knocked out by this batch of hooligans in 2010 by taking nine sacks in the first half. Now feel shame.
But seriously though, the line rush they get is good. Like, really good. They can come in a traditional down-four set with two ends and two tackles, and they can rotate one or two additional ends in at tackle and kill with speed. They can add a defensive back blitz or two, and they can play a little coverage. Add in we should see what Prince Amukamura can offer in his second year (now unhindered) and this could be a unit that gets after the quarterback but can live without it to a degree (at least an improvement over its low-20s ranks in yards and points). 48 sacks is impressive, all but 5.5 of them from linemen, but without play at the back end a team can still get carved for 28 passing touchdowns (25th in NFL). They need back-7 improvement in the worst possible way.
For the Bears to Succeed: The Bears should get some good measure on both line units in this one - of course the offensive line against the Giants' pass-rush, but also their own unit. Manning may be hard to bring down, but the addition of Shea McClellin may make getting to and sacking Manning a little easier. Of course, when he breaks the pocket, the back seven have to stay vigilant and not let guys get open, not the easiest task. Winning defensively will take the defensive line doing its job without much help or blitzes with short route protection and help over the top. And on offense, quicker reads and getting the ball out should help out against the fierce pass rush and keep the unit on its heels.
For the Giants to Succeed: Well, getting that one play where the offensive line gets overwhelmed, like it happens seemingly every game at least once, probably would not be a good idea for the Bears. The line has enough speed to make things uncomfortable for Cutler. The bigger targets on the Bears should help them more in this matchup, though. Containing the running game and forcing third and long will allow them to go after Cutler with abandon. This cannot be allowed.