The oddsmakers favor the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday against the Chicago Bears, and that paints these undefeated Bears as the underdogs.
Home underdogs against a team that is 2-1. #smh
To be fair, neither team has faced a murder’s row of competition, as the combined record of the six teams the Bears and Colts have matched up with is 2-17, so do we really know what either of these teams are right now?
Let’s check in on some of the keys for a Chicago win from the staffers at WCG.
Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter
Offense: balance, balance, balance. Stay balanced. I know Matt Nagy’s QB DNA is fired up to trot Nick Foles onto the field and attempt to sling the ball across the yard. By all means, let Foles do his thing and launch the deep ball. Just don’t forget to throw in a healthy dose of the run game. Otherwise, Indy’s front seven will just pin their ears back, and blitz the crap out of Foles.
Defense: make Philip Rivers regret any chance at throwing deep. Chicago’s defense has been solid in covering the short passing game, and keeping T.Y. Hilton in front of the secondary is a must. Defending against the run game will be a challenge, the Colts’ offensive line is one of the better road grading units in the league. Any chance you have at making a play, secure the ball carrier, and rally to the ballcarriers. Force the Colts to be patient, and eventually, Rivers will lose his patience.
Special teams: make the damn kicks count. This could easily turn into a defensive sloberknocker, every scoring opportunity has to be completed without any misses.
Led by human bulldozer, Quenton Nelson, the Colts have one of football’s best offensive lines. The Bears should have no issues getting pass pressure on Phillip Rivers, but have to be wary stopping the run for balance considering their struggles without Eddie Goldman.
It’s a trench flaw they better shore up or risk being mauled by a terrific front.
If they can, they will cruise. If not, I advise not holding your breath.
Offense: Take what the Colts defense gives you. The Colts are ranked 1st in run defense, 4th in pass defense, and 7th in takeaways. If you start forcing things, you’re playing into their hands. As much as I’ve loved the Bears rushing approach for the first few weeks, this will be a game to get Foles comfortable in shotgun with quick reads and short passes.
Defense: You’ll hear about the Colts 3rd down woes all day every day leading up to this one, but let’s take a different approach. The Colts have 3 giveaways on the season, all 3 being interceptions thrown by Philip Rivers. Old man Rivers is also credited with one fumble against the Vikings, although the offense recovered it. The Bears are likely to get a takeaway in this game, and they need to take it back for 6. That could be the difference in the game (see: 2018 Bears).
Offense: As always, limit turnovers. The Colts defense is very, very good so this won’t be a high scoring game for Chicago. Don’t give them short fields to work with, and keep the offense on the field as much as possible.
Defense: T.Y. Hilton on crossing patterns will be the biggest problem, and slowing him down somehow will be the key to the game. Rivers has been turning the ball over, a lot, so pressure on him is also key.
The Bears’ run defense has been lamentably leaky after losing the loveable lumbering logjam Eddie Goldman. And with linebackers more suited to coverage than run-stuffing, they’ll have to scheme up a plan to stop the Colts galloping ground game or they’ll have a polar bears chance in global warming of remaining undefeated!
Offense: With Nick Foles at the helm, the playbook should open up nicely for Matt Nagy and the Bears offense. That said, this Colts D is easily the best they’ve faced this year, so they are going to need to concentrate on establishing the run, keeping Foles protected, and on high percentage throws until something opens up down field. We saw Foles lead a comeback against a weak secondary last week. Now we need to see him take what a tough defense gives him for an entire game. I’d like to see a good amount of playaction, and slants worked into the gameplan to move the ball downfield.
Defense: Philip Rivers has been getting the ball out quicker than any other QB this season. That said, he’s still Phillip Rivers, so picks are going to happen. Get in his face as much as you can (the Bears have been among the best in the league at getting pressure on the QB), and let the secondary jump every route they can. This game is likely to be won on turnovers.
Special Teams: At this point, I think they need to stop even considering field goals over 40 yards. The conversion rate with Santos is about the same as as you’d have on a 4th conversion of reasonable length. I’d also like to see them find someone other than Anthony Miller to return punts. He’s one of your top 3 receivers, so no need to risk injury for a guy who’s good at returns, but not Tarik Cohen good.
Offense: Win through the air. As we saw against Atlanta, once you launch the ball deep a few times you open up space for shotgun running (which gained 9 and 10 yards on admittedly 2 attempts), so this is a game where I’d love to see the Bears establish their true offensive identity. I know Nagy wants to throw, so go ahead and do it — just do it well.
Defense: Stay patient against the run. There’s no denying that the Colts have a significant advantage against the Bears when running the ball, but much like Matt Nagy I don’t trust Frank Reich to stick with the run... even if it’s working! I think Pagano and Reich will be ‘playing chicken’ on Sunday as (Reich will want to put the ball in the air while Pagano may be forced to commit defenders against the ground game), so as long as Pagano stays patient and keeps playing those Colts’ underneath passes the Bears’ pass defense should win the day.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.
The Colts are third in the NFL in pressure percentage according to Pro Football Reference, and they’re generating that kind of heat on opposing QBs without blitzing, as they’ve blitzed the second least amount in the league. Nick Foles will need to get his pass protection set and then carve up the Colts secondary à la Gardner Minshew in week one.
If Foles can hit enough short passes and stress the Colts horizontally, he’ll then be able to test them vertically with Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Ted Ginn Jr.
On defense, the Bears need to get after Philip Rivers, who has only been sacked three times in three games. Rivers is getting the ball out really fast in their offense this year, so hands up from the Bears d-lineman if they don’t get home. Expect Roy Robertson-Harris (6’5”) and Brent Urban (6’7”) to swat down a few balls.
What are your keys to the game this week?