At 2-5 the Bears have seen their fair share of disappointment this season. The most obvious let down is that they should have won their past two games which would have them sitting at 4-3 and in a respectable spot to fight for a Wild Card position later in the year. However, you can’t be too disappointed in the results because the product on the field certainly doesn’t warrant a playoff spot. The Bears’ star-studded coaching staff is the reason this squad–arguably the least talented team in the NFL overall–is competing on a week-to-week basis. On Monday night the Bears will once again be playing a team with more talent. While they have been underwhelming so far this year at 2-6, the Chargers pose a threat to the Bears in multiple facets of the game.
Bears O vs. Chargers D
It’s no secret what the Bears’ formula for success has been on the offensive side of the ball. Keep it simple, get to ‘third and manageable’, and protect the football. While that style won’t draw ratings, it clearly gives the Bears the best opportunity to maintain possession and keep opposing offenses on the sidelines. Much of this will fall on the shoulders of Jeremy Langford. He’s shown the ability to run between the tackles, and the Charges are giving up around 125 yards/game on the ground this year. As long as he doesn’t try to do to much under the bright spotlight of a nationally televised matchup, Langford will perform admirably in the run game.
The more interesting, and possibly more important part of Langford’s game will be on third downs. These plays will not only be a key factor for the Bears’ success on Monday night but also for Langford’s progression as an NFL running back going forward. He had a disappointing drop last week that would’ve extended the drive for the Bears, so it will be interesting to note if he can get a couple of receptions under his belt early to shake off any jitters he might have as a receiver. His ability to catch passes was a plus on his scouting report coming out of college, so going forward drops shouldn’t be a problem. His ability to protect Jay Cutler will likely define how much he has progressed through the first half of his rookie season. If he can prove capable and Cutler trusts him to pick up the correct blocking assignments, the Bears offense should not have a problem moving down the field.
Bears D vs. Chargers O
If the Chargers’ record was reversed you might be talking about Philip Rivers as a potential MVP candidate. He’s completing 70% of his passes and has a 102 QB rating. After Monday night’s game he’ll also be the leader in passing yards and will possibly be in the top five in touchdown passes. However, he’ll now be without his most dangerous weapon in the passing game as Keenan Allen will be sidelined for the remainder of the year. Still, Rivers should be able to throw with success as the Bears’ secondary still hasn’t proven that they can maintain coverage when pressure on the QB isn’t there. Speaking of pressure, the Chargers have actually done a decent job protecting their star QB. Even though they have given up 19 sacks on the year, it could be much more considering how often Rivers is dropping back to pass these days.
Asking the Bears to get consistent pressure just isn’t in the cards anymore, so they must stay away from the big play. The Chargers have had 19 passing plays of 25 yards or more this season which ranks 11th in the NFL. The Bears will want to play a slow moving, ball possession type of game. In order to do that, they must make sure their coverage is sound on deep routes to limit the amount of explosive plays from the Chargers’ passing attack. They also can’t let rookie Melvin Gordon have success on the ground. With Keenan Allen out, the Chargers are going to look to Gordon to improve upon one of the NFL’s worst rushing attacks. As a team they haven’t even reached 700 yards of rushing through eight games, which ranks 31st in the league.
Expect both offenses to put together very long drives in this game as they both rank in the top five in terms of time of possession. The difference will once again be Vic Fangio’s ability to scheme and contain the opposing offense’s top weapons. It seems that Shea McClellin is basically 50/50 to play, but if he does go I expect him to be a big help in pass coverage in terms of getting the rest of the defense where they are supposed to be.
The Bears will have success in terms of their gameplans on both sides of the ball. However, I see this once again coming down to the fact that the Bears simply do not have enough talent to win consistently in this league. Jeremy Langford will have a nice day on the ground and will probably progress in pass protection as the game goes along, but he is simply not at the level of Matt Forte, who is vital to the Bears’ offensive attack. The Chargers will play the possession game and at least match what the Bears try to do, meaning their superior talent will eventually flesh out and win the game in a close, slow moving affair.
Chargers win, 31-27