Christmas Eve and Hanukkah share the calendar this year and as a gift the NFL has given fans a full slate of game action.
It will definitely be weird to watch the Bears kick off at noon central time on a Saturday but it happens once every few years.
This week the Bears welcome in Washington, a team that’s still in the Wild Card fight but that took a big loss on Monday night and now travel on a shortened week.
The visiting squad has lost three of their last four.
Can the Bears make it four of five?
SB Nation site: Hogs Haven
Record: 7-6-1, third in NFC East
Last week: 26-15 loss on MNF
Bears all-time record against: 20-21-1 regular season, 3-4 playoffs
Historical match ups: The Bears first met the then-Boston Braves in 1932 (a 7-7 tie). The Bears lost to Washington in the 1987 playoffs, the famous Doug Flutie game. The Bears fell to them again the following January with Jim McMahon at the helm.
Currently, the Bears have a six-game losing streak going against Washington going back to 2003. The last time the Bears won, Rex Grossman was making his second start for Chicago.
Last meeting: 24-21 loss in Week 15 last December. Jay Cutler threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns but Jordan Reed went rampant on the defense (nine catches on nine targets, 120 yards and a TD).
Key injuries: Jordan Reed did not practice Wednesday with a shoulder injury. Starting DE Chris Baker was limited by an ankle injury. Will Compton missed with a knee ailment. Ryan Kerrigan was limited with an elbow injury.
Offense: Washington has the 10th best scoring offense in the league (24.4 PPG) and third in the league in yards (406.6).
They are the second best passing offense in the league, hitting 303 yards per game through the air from quarterback Kirk Cousins (67.5 percent completion/4,360 yds./23 TDs/10 INTs) to receivers DeSean Jackson (49 rec./857 yds./4 TDs), Pierre Garcon (71/851/3), Jamison Crowder (64/828/7) and trusty TE Reed (61/646/5).
The team’s rushing attack is lagging slightly behind, coming in just 18th in the league with 103 yards per game. They are led by emerging RB Robert Kelley with 595 yards and six touchdowns. He is spelled by Matt Jones (460 yds/3 TDS) and Chris Thompson (331/2). Thompson is the third down back, noted by his 42 catches, 295 yards and one TD.
Cousins has been sacked the third-fewest times in the league, so it could be difficult for the Bears’ front seven to get home against him. Cousins has been brought down just 19 times all season.
Defense: Washington’s defense comes in ranking 29th overall in yards, allowing 375.4 yards per game and 24.5 points per game (24th).
The secondary is allowing 260 yards per game, which is 26th and the defense is giving up 115 rushing yards per game, which is 22nd.
They’ve allowed the third most rushing touchdowns (17) and the ninth most passing TDs (20).
Despite having cornerback Josh Norman, the Washington secondary has allowed 20 passing touchdowns to just eight interceptions (which are equally split among eight defenders). Opposing QBs have a 94.7 rating against Washington.
The defense has 36 sacks, which is just one fewer than the Bears’ 37. Washington ranks fourth while the Bears are third. They are led by Ryan Kerrigan’s 11 sacks, followed by Trent Murphy’s eight.
Key match ups: The secondary of Washington doesn’t impose much fear outside of Josh Norman. The secondary has allowed a lot of passing yards and touchdowns. Alshon Jeffery and how he plays against Norman will be a big match up.
Matt Barkley should have some throwing lanes but his offensive line has to allow him time to do so. How do the tackles hold up against Kerrigan and Murphy? That’s another key battle.
For the Bears defense, it’s going to be about what the secondary can do to slow down the Washington passing game. Cousins makes bad decisions occasionally but the Bears aren’t great at creating turnovers.
If the pass rush can step up against a pretty stout offensive line, it could help Chicago’s efforts.
There will be some running room for Jordan Howard as well, but will he get enough carries?
What to watch for: It’s a three win team, so unless you’re already burned out on “family time” then tune on in. If not, then just watch for loyalty I suppose. The Bears will be fighting, there’s little doubt about that and so they should stay in the game.
Can the Bears notch one more home win and close out their 2016 Soldier Field season on a high note?
A lot of it could depend on how the secondary plays, which, based on evidence from this season, doesn’t bode well for the Bears.
Key stats: The Bears defense has allowed 33 touchdowns, seven fewer than Washington.
The Bears are 30th in turnover differential (-11) while Washington is 21st (-2)
Kirk Cousins, in his fifth NFL season and only second as a full-time starter, would rank fourth all-time in Bears history in passing yards (11,556) and would move to third with just one 12 yard pass, third in passing TDs (70) and first in completion percentage (66, min. 300 attempts). He is widely considered not to be worth a big contract extension.
Do you like the Bears chances Saturday?