So last week, the season was over and the Bears shouldn't have shown up to play the Niners because the season was over and they shouldn't bother showing up. This week, they're going to the Super Bowl. How things change.
The Bears started Sunday night sputtering out of the gate, got points at the half, held the Niners to three points in the second half and in less than fifty game-seconds went from thirteen points down to taking the lead. That game brought them to 1-1, tied with everybody else in the division, and currently holding the tiebreaker lead in the division. (Yes, the Bears lead the NFC North.)
This week, the Bears get the New York Jets in their second game against the AFC East.
Last Year: 8-8, good for second in the AFC East; they didn't fall below .500 until week 12 last season, alternating wins and losses the entire time.
This Year: 1-1, again second place in the AFC East behind the Bills, and maybe should be 2-0 themselves, if not for the coordinator calling a timeout (and having it granted).
When Last We Met: Week 16 of the 2010 season, a game that turned into a shootout as the Bears won 38-34. Jay Cutler threw for 215 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another; those touchdowns went to Johnny Knox twice and Devin Hester once. Mark Sanchez threw for 269 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and the Jets rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns themselves.
Rankings (New 2014 Version!):
|Total Points||43 (18th)||45 (18th)|
|Total Yardage||714 (12th)||548 (3rd)|
|Rushing Yardage||358 (1st)||105 (1st)|
|Passing Yardage||356 (29th)||443 (17th)|
Offense: The Jets still run the ball really, really well, if their lead ranking in that respect is an indication. Or you could look at the Raiders and Packers' defenses and conclude maybe they just can't defend the run all that well. Hooray for small sample sizes of statistics.
They'll need to run well against what is currently the league's 27-ranked rushing defense. Geno Smith's biggest target, Eric Decker, is doubtful (per the injury report on PFR) with a hamstring injury. Their other targets don't exactly inspire fear, though they love second-round draft pick Jace Amaro behind starting tight end (and former Illini) Jeff Cumberland. Meanwhile, they've been rushing to the tune of 5.0 yards per attempt with the second-most rushing attempts in the league.
(Side note, what is it with the Bears facing these teams with strong rushing tendencies and strong defenses early in the season?)
Defense: Speaking of defense, start with a pretty decent front three anchored by Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, factor in some linebackers that can get after the passer in Jason Babin, Calvin Pace, David Harris, and Quinton Coples, a couple of high draft picks in Dee Milliner and Calvin Pryor, design a ton of exotic blitzes from all angles and all positions, and you get the New York Jets defense coached by Rex Ryan, which has divvied six sacks in two games among five players, allowed the third fewest overall yards so far, and held two teams to a combined 105 yards.
Sounds like a formula we're all familiar with, right? Make the other team one-dimensional by stopping the run, and hit the quarterback hard and often.
If the Bears do this: The Bears' run defense has been scarred up pretty good over the last two games, but at times, they've shown much more than the 27th-rated run defense they statistically have. A lot of the damage has been through quantity of attempts and a few big plays here and there. The Jets will have the quantity; it'll be a matter of limiting the quality runs. The Bears will need to take advantage when they have opportunities against the pass, and a strong game from the defensive linemen and linebackers, both units of which have looked much improved from week one to week two.
Geno Smith isn't the most accurate passer, but the Jets have done a good job of getting him favorable throws.
If the Jets do this: The Bears haven't run the ball well at all this year, and going up against a top rushing defense (granted, against the Packers' run game and the Raiders) leads this to being a game the Bears try to win through the air. If the blitzes get to Jay Cutler, the Bears' offense could grind to a halt in a hurry.
Both the Raiders and the Packers tried to combat the blitz by using the short portions of the field; per PFR, the two combined for nine deep pass attempts. The Bears have the weapons, when healthy, to make those deep throws; it'll be a question of how many opportunities they have against the blitz and pressure.
Closing Thought: The Jets have been guilty of committing more penalties than their opponents - 7 for 82 yards against Green Bay, 11 for 105 against the Raiders.