Teams’ intensity: The Bears want a postseason bye. The New York Jets, meanwhile, are fighting for a playoff berth. So it’s worth keeping a close eye on which team plays more desperately. Despite clinching the NFC North title last week, Chicago claims it still possesses plenty of “fight” because of its desire to clinch a bye. The Jets can clinch a playoff berth with a Week 17 home date against Buffalo, but their plan is to put everything into Sunday’s game so coach Rex Ryan can rest the team’s starters in the season finale.
Bears offensive line: The Jets typically confuse offensive lines with exotic overload blitzes, which should be a concern for the Bears because of their penchant for busting assignments in protection (especially rookie right tackle J'Marcus Webb). Look for the Jets to come on blitzes on passing downs out of dime personnel (six defensive backs). Because the protection won’t hold up on most occasions, quarterback Jay Cutler needs to make fast, accurate reads and deliver the ball judiciously. Throwing the ball away isn’t a bad thing.
Devin Hester: After breaking the NFL record for return touchdowns on punts and kickoffs last week, Hester is definitely in the zone. The Jets plan to take Hester out of it by kicking the ball away from him. Jets punter Steve Weatherford said Ryan has ordered him to punt the ball out of bounds. But because of the potential weather conditions, there’s a chance Hester may be able to field a punt or two (Weatherford said it won’t be because they did it on purpose). If he does, look for that typical Hester electricity.
Jets running game: The Bears rank third in the NFL in run defense, while the Jets’ rushing attack is tied for second in attempts (454) and sixth in yardage (1,974). Besides that, the Jets basically said during the week that they don’t fear Chicago’s rush defense, led by defensive end Julius Peppers and linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Why should they? Facing the league’s top-ranked rush defense (Pittsburgh) last week, the Jets stuck to the run and gained 106 yards on 27 attempts.
Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes: Two of the top playmakers for the Jets, Sanchez and Holmes are expected to be limited somewhat Sunday because of injury. Sanchez expects to play through torn cartilage in his throwing shoulder. Holmes, meanwhile, missed practice Wednesday, was limited Thursday and was full go for Friday’s workout. But Holmes has been limited because of turf toe. So with expected snowy conditions, and the notoriously bad turf at Soldier Field compounding matters, the Jets’ big-play ability may be severely limited by the injuries to Sanchez and Holmes.