After dropping a very winnable game on the road to the Indianapolis Colts, the Bears come home to host another AFC South team in the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars last played the Colts as well, in London, two weeks ago, as they are coming off their bye week.
Once again, the game will be a battle of one-win teams that appear to have no where to go and little going for them.
The Jaguars have been rebuilding for what seems like the better part of a decade, but head coach Gus Bradley is surely running out of time as the team’s offense has some playmakers and the defense some big money free agents but the same results on Sundays.
SBN Blog: Big Cat Country
Record: 1-3 (Last in AFC South)
Last week: Bye, before that was a 30-27 win over the Colts.
Bears all-time record against: 4-2
Historical match ups: Since the Jags have existed only since 1995 there is virtually no history here. Although it is worth noting that the only two times the Bears have lost to Jacksonville were in 1998 (Bears finished 4-12) and 2004 (finished 5-11) so if they lose, historically that means really, really bad things for Chicago.
Last meeting: 41-3 Bears win in Week 5 of the 2012 season. Armando Allen scored a 46-yard TD. Remember Armando Allen? Me either.
Key injuries: T Luke Joeckel recently went on IR with a torn ACL. Tashaun Gipson has been banged up with a knee injury.
Offense: The Jaguars actually have a formidable offense led by young gun QB Blake Bortles. Bortles has seven touchdowns on the season but also has six interceptions. While Bortles can throw some nice balls and lead some good scoring drives, he also makes a lot of mistakes and has a reputation for getting a lot of points in garbage time.
The wide outs that Bortles has at his disposal are pretty good. Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson are the leading duo with 464 yards and 4 TDs combined. Also in the mix are tight ends Julius Thomas (11/148/1) and Marcedes Lewis (8/97/1) and WR Marqies Lee (16/169/0).
Overall the Jags rank 26th in offensive yards with 320.8 yards per game and 19th in points per game. They have the 19th ranked passing attack while ranking 30th in rushing yards (75.2 yards per game and 3.5 YPC). T.J. Yeldon leads the team with 155 yards but averages just 3.2 yards per attempt.
That means for the third consecutive week the Bears face a pass-happy opponent with a vulnerable ground game. Bortles has been sacked 12 times.
Defense: The Jaguars enter the contest ranked seventh in yards allowed per game but they have also played one fewer game than most of the league. They allow the seventh fewest passing yards per game and the 17th fewest rush yards.
These don’t seem like such bad rankings but they have still surrendered 27.8 points per game (8th most).
Nine Jaguars have recored at least half a sack, led by third round rookie Yannick Ngakoue with three. Second year pro Dante Fowler Jr. has two, Malik Jackson one and Paul Posluszny 1.5.
The Jacksonville secondary has just three picks but has allowed eight touchdown passes and opposing QBs boast a 92.7 rating. Their picks have been registered by Ngakoue, Posluszny and Gipson.
Key match ups: While this defense is a little better than the last two Bears opponents, it’s all about setting the tone early and establishing the run. The team’s pass/run balance has remained out of whack and the team just can’t win without a strong rushing attack.
It’s going to be about the interior of the Bears’ offensive line keeping Jackson and Posluszny back. Those are two of the key defenders for Jacksonville so on run downs make sure Jackson is doubled and if it’s a play with a pulling guard or center, make sure Polsluszny is blocked downfield.
The Jags can be thrown on, although they’ve seen the fourth fewest pass attempts, opponents have eight passing TDs. They have surrendered four 40+ pass yard plays and 10 20+ yard plays so there will be downfield chances should Hoyer be willing to test it.
On defense it will once again be about the Bears trying to generate a pass rush. Three sacks per game allowed is a good number for the Bears to see, they will have chances, especially with one of their starting tackles going down for the season.
What to watch for: Can the Bears build on their five-sack effort from Indianapolis? It will be up to Willie Young again to lead the charge with Akiem Hicks hopefully not far behind. If Leonard Floyd or Eddie Goldman return, perhaps they can get in on the action too.
Brian Hoyer needs to keep playing his lights out self and continue his turnover-free streak. The Bears must avoid the mistakes they made against the Colts as far as penalties go.
Hoyer has been spreading the wealth and hopefully he is willing to go downfield a little more to Alshon Jeffery but getting Zach Miller, Cam Meredith and Eddie Royal involved early and often should be good as well.
Key stats: Jordan Howard leads the league with 5.8 yards per rushing attempt.
Since 2014, the Jaguars have won one road game (Week 10 last season at Baltimore).
The Jaguars recorded half of their total sack number (six of 12) against the Colts. The Bears recorded nearly the same (five of 11).