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Week 3 Preview: Bears vs. Cardinals

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The Bears are back on the road this week against what appears to be an inferior opponent.

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

While things have been bad for the Bears’ offense, some teams have it worse. And while Chicago has seen some very bad offensive football over the years, the 2018 Cardinals is taking it to a new level.

They have scored just six points, total, in their first two games of the season. The Cardinals have the fewest passing yards in the league, while the Bears aren’t a ton better, coming in 29th.

So Sunday’s game doesn’t appear to be a high scoring affair but there’s plenty of intrigue, especially on the Bears side.

Could this be the game where the offense breaks through? How much more stifling can the defense be, especially after containing two of the league’s best quarterbacks?

Arizona Cardinals

SB Nation site: Revenge of the Birds

Game day/time/TV: Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT, FOX

Record: 0-2

Last week: 34-0 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Cardinals ended with five first downs, a QB that passed for less than 100 yards and converted just three of 12 third downs.

They had 137 total offensive yards, while they allowed 432 yards to the Rams.

They held Todd Gurley in check in the running game (just 42 yards and just 90 total allowed) but he still managed three scores on the ground.

Bears all-time record against: 58-28-6

Historical match ups: Being two charter franchises, that shared the same city for a number of years, this series goes back a ways. In fact, after the divisional opponents, the Cardinals are the next team with the most games against the Bears.

The most iconic game though has to be the so-called Miracle in the Desert game, a.k.a. the ‘Crown their ass’ game. The Super Bowl bound Bears came back from a 20-0 deficit to win 24-23 with two defensive scores and a Devin Hester return TD.

Offense: The Cardinals almost have none.

They rank 32nd in offensive yards, 32nd in pass yards and 31st in rushing yards.

The Cardinals are averaging just three points per game following a six point performance in week one and a shutout last week.

Quarterback Sam Bradford is taking ‘checkdown’ to a whole new level. He has 243 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions on 61 pass attempts.

He’s averaging four yards per attempt, 6.6 yards per completion, 2.5 Adjusted Yards Gained per Attempt and 2.16 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt.

His receivers are the future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald (10 rec./104 yds./0 TD), Ricky Seals-Jones (7/36/0) and Christian Kirk (5/31/0).

They also have the versatile pass catching running backs in David Johnson (6/33/0) and Chase Edmonds (9/39/0).

Johnson has gotten off to a disappointing start as a runner as well, with just 85 rushing yards and the team’s only touchdown of the season. He is averaging just 3.9 yards per attempt. Edmonds is doing well with limited touches, as he has 29 yards on five attempts (5.8 YPC).

Defense: Their defense, while having some big names, hasn’t fared a ton better than their offense. Maybe it’s the new schemes and coaches, maybe it’s the lack of help one unit is getting from the other.

The Cardinals come in with the 30th ranked defense in yards allowed and they rank 25th in points allowed. Their pass defense is 27th and their rush defense is 28th.

While the unit has Patrick Peterson (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 pass defensed), Chandler Jones (1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 2 tackles, 1 pass defensed) and Haason Reddick (3 tackles), they have been unable to slow down opponents.

Injury report: The Cardinals are a lot more banged up than the Bears are, luckily for us.

Their Wednesday injury report listed 11 players:

Limited: QB Sam Bradford (non-injury related), S Ruby Ford (ankle), OL Mike Iupati (chest), DL Robert Nkemdiche (foot) and OL Andre Smith (elbow)

Did not participate: WR Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring), LB Dennis Gardeck (ankle), DL Olsen Pierre (Toe)

Full participation: OL Korey Cunningham (thumb), DE Markus Golden (knee), TE Jermaine Gersham (Achilles)

See the Bears injury report here (spoiler alert: it’s tiny)

Key match ups: This is going to be about Mitchell Trubisky reading and identifying his reads and targets against a suspect Cardinals secondary. Trubisky has to watch out for Patrick Peterson, who is one of the best in the game.

Charles Leno Jr. is going to square off against Chandler Jones, who has gotten off to a slow start this season, but he remains one of the best in the game. This is a bigger test for Leno, who has quietly been very good, and will have a chance to really solidify himself as one of the better left tackles with a good game.

For the Bears’ defense, it’s all about stopping David Johnson. So long as the Arizona offense can’t establish the run, then it will be a long day for them, because Bradford seems unable, or unwilling, to take downfield shots. Larry Fitzgerald remains one of the best receivers in the game, so it would be nice to see Kyle Fuller have a nice solid game against him after having some struggles in the first two games.

What to watch for: Can the Bears offense put together an entire game and get touchdowns consistently?

The offense has had its lumps during the first two weeks and everyone is waiting for Trubisky to get it all together. This week appears, on paper, to be that game.

The Cardinals haven’t been able to move the ball or stop their first two opponents. If Trubisky and the offense really struggle again this week, then the alarm bells and panic buttons will be sounding all week around Chicago.

However, this could be a big game for Jordan Howard. The Cardinals are 28th against the run (though they are not much better against the pass, 27th) so the o-line should be able get some push.

On the other hand though, because of Mitch’s struggles, opponents are going to focus on slowing down Howard and make the QB beat them. It was Seattle’s gameplan and it worked in large part, until Matt Nagy utilized his wideouts in sweeps and outside runs to get rushing yards.

I expect another game with upwards of five players receiving rushing opportunities.

Key stats: The Bears are +1 in the turnover margin, while the Cardinals are -1

The Bears are converting 42.9 percent of their redzone trips into touchdowns, which ranks 25th. The Cardinals rank 19th, converting 50 percent of their redzone trips, however they’ve had just two trips through two games.

The Cardinals defense is 31st in third downs, allowing 50 percent of opponents to gain a first, their offense ranks dead last in third down conversion at 20 percent.

This year, 39 times players have passed for more than Arizona QB Sam Bradford’s 243 yards passing in a single game. That is Bradford’s two game total.

Bradford has not thrown a touchdown since week one of last season.

Prediction: I think that this is a winnable game for the Bears, which scares me into thinking they will lose, so I think the Cards win 6-3. For my pick on the over/under check out my piece over on Sports Bet Collective by clicking here. (First pick is now free!)