If the New York Giants are going to defeat the NFC North division-leading Chicago Bears, these are the key battles they have to win.
After losing a heartbreaker that ended their playoff hopes last week in Philadelphia, the New York Giants return home on Sunday to take on the Chicago Bears who sit atop of the NFC North division.
This will be the 51st meeting between these two storied franchises and the Bears lead the series 28-20-2.
These two teams are heading in opposite directions. The Bears are looking to capture their first division title since 2010, and the Giants are poised to once again have a top-five pick in the upcoming draft.
Head coach Pat Shurmur might be coaching for his job over the final five games of the season. As a result, it’s imperative, for his sake, that his team puts forth its best effort on Sunday.
Here are the keys to victory for the Giants.
1. Keep Khalil Mack off Eli Manning
In facing the Bears, the Giants will be going up against the best defense they’ve played all season, and the Bears have arguably the best pass rusher in the game in Khalil Mack.
In the nine games Mack has played this season, he has eight sacks and has forced five fumbles. He can be a disruptive force that can shut down an entire offense. The Giants will need their two tackles Nate Solder and Chad Wheeler to play their best games of the season on Sunday to keep Mack off of Eli Manning. If Mack dominates the two tackles, then the Giants will need to keep tight end Rhett Ellison in to help block.
If Mack and the rest of the Bears front seven are consistently pressuring Manning, it will be an ugly game for the Giants.
2. Make sure Saquon Barkley gets 20 carries
During the Giants two-game winning streak against the 49ers and Buccaneers, Saquon Barkley carried the ball 20 and 27 times. Last week against the Eagles, Barkley had nine carries for 94 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but only carried the ball four times for seven yards in the second half.
The Giants must make sure that Barkley has at least 20 carries on Sunday. It will give them a balanced offensive attack, eat up the clock, and wear down the Bears front seven. The Bears may have the second-best run defense in the league, but they have yet to face a back like Barkley.
3. Don’t turn the ball over
Protecting the ball is always crucial, but ball security will be emphasized even more against a Bears team that leads the NFL in interceptions with 20 and have forced 17 fumbles. Not only do the Bears force turnovers, but they turn them into points as they have scored five defensive touchdowns this season.
Manning and the rest of the Giants’ offense must protect the football at all cost against this opportunistic defense.
4. Be bold, but smart
If the Giants are going to pull off the upset on Sunday, they’ll need to take some calculated risk such as go for it on fourth if they’re just out of field goal range, challenge the Bears secondary deep against man to man coverage, or perhaps even have Odell Beckham Jr. return punts.
What the Giants can’t do is chase points when it’s not necessary such as the ill-advised two-point attempt against the Eagles or have Manning throw into triple coverage. A bold but tactical risk could pave the way for the upset for Big Blue.
5. Watch for Tarik Cohen catching passes out of the backfield
Running back Tarik Cohen is the Bears most versatile playmaker on offense. In addition to averaging 4.3 yards per carry, Cohen is second on the team in receptions with 47 for 503 yards, and four receiving touchdowns.
As of Wednesday morning, it’s uncertain if starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will play due to a shoulder injury. If Trubisky can’t play then Chase Daniel will start in his place, as he did last week, and last week Daniel connected with Cohen seven times including a 14-yard touchdown reception.
The Giants, especially their linebackers, have struggled to cover running backs coming out of the backfield. Alec Ogletree and the rest of the linebackers must step up on Sunday.
Despite the Bears having to possibly play this game with a backup quarterback, this is a bad matchup for the Giants. Their offensive is struggling and now they face a Bears team that has 34 sacks on the season. The Bears win because of their defense.