THREE KEYS FOR THE BEARS
Don’t test Darrelle Revis unnecessarily: Cornerbacks typically follow the short-memory mantra, but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler apparently does, too. Cutler said he didn’t plan on avoiding throwing to the side of Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. But the quarterback shouldn’t test Revis unnecessarily (remember what happened when Cutler tested Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall?). Revis has proven to be arguably the top cover corner in the league. The Bears’ receivers aren’t talented enough to gain the necessary separation on Revis.
Limit mistakes up front: : Because of the tendency of the Bears’ offensive line to miss assignments in blitz protection, the matchup against the Jets isn’t ideal. The Jets thrive on bringing overload blitzes designed to confuse the protection, and there’s a good chance they’ll target left guard Chris Williams and rookie right tackle J'Marcus Webb, who have been the most mistake-prone components of Chicago’s offensive line. Veteran center Olin Kreutz and veteran right guard Roberto Garza will play key roles in communicating with Williams and Webb to cut down on their mistakes.
Break the Jets’ resolve to run: : Tied for second in the league in rushing attempts (454), the Jets plan to give the Bears a healthy dose of running backs Shon Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson. But it’s imperative the Bears break the Jets’ resolve to run. With an injury to the throwing shoulder of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, and receiver Santonio Holmes slowed by turf toe, the Bears have a chance to feast on turnovers if they can take away the running game and force the pass.
THREE KEYS FOR THE JETS
Kick away from Hester at all costs: : Because of Devin Hester, the Bears are one of very few teams in the NFL with a distinct game-changing advantage on special teams. So the Jets can’t allow the Bears to take advantage of it. Jets coach Rex Ryan said his team plans to avoid kicking to Hester, which is a smart move because the return man in playing with supreme confidence.
Take the lead early: : Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz has shown a tendency to call upon the passing game quickly when the team falls behind, which opens the door for sacks and Cutler turnovers. Two of the Bears’ losses this season have come when they’ve trailed after the first quarter. When the Bears trail at halftime, they’re 3-3, and when they trail after three quarters, they’re 3-4.
Limit the Bears’ run game: : Limiting the Bears to fewer than 74 yards on the ground this season seems to be one of the keys to beating them. Under Lovie Smith, the Bears are 8-20 when limited to 74 yards or fewer on the ground. Over the last two years, the Bears are 2-9 in that situation. Since Matt Forte contributes the bulk of the yardage, shutting him down is paramount. Forte rushed for 41 yards or fewer in every one of the Bears’ losses this season.
KEY MATCHUP TO WATCH: Peppers vs. Hunter:
A seven-year veteran, Hunter has spent time with three different NFL teams after being suspended twice by the league for violating its personal conduct policy, which has played a role in his lack of playing experience. Hunter will start in just his fourth career game, lining up across from Julius Peppers, who has been a dominating force this season as a pass rusher and against the run.
Peppers will line up all over the field, but pay close attention to his matchups with Hunter. Peppers has a decent opportunity against Hunter to make a couple of potential game-changing plays.
BY THE NUMBERS:
8: Interceptions thrown by Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in five outings against teams that run a 3-4 base defense (the Bills started the season as a 3-4 team, but played 4-3 against the Bears), like the New York Jets. With 13 interceptions on the season, Cutler has a 3-2 record this season against 3-4 defense teams.
10: Games this season in which the Bears scored 18 points or more. The Bears are 9-1 this season when they score 18 points or more and 52-10 in the last seven years under Lovie Smith.
46: Consecutive starts by Bears running back Matt Forte, which ranks as the most in the NFL among active running backs.
13: Road victories for the Jets over the last two years (counting the playoffs) under Rex Ryan, with just five losses.