Location: Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Kick-off: 1:00 EST
Betting Line: CHI -1
Wait, Chicago is Favored?
There’s something you don’t see very often. Most Vegas betting lines are leaning towards Chicago, although just by a point or two. This may be an even game on a neutral site, with the books giving the slight edge to the home team. Still, it’s hard to imagine that a 2-9 team with more players on the Injured Reserve list than any other team is expected to win.
Both teams are coming off desperate, yet disappointing finishes. Last week, a showcase of newcomers in navy and orange nearly stole a game from the Tennessee Titans.
Matt Barkley dominated a fourth quarter comeback effort in which Chicago dropped two great passes in the endzone. WR Marquess Wilson, WR Deonte Thompson, and TE Daniel Brown all caught their first touchdown receptions of the year as the receivers tried to fill the void left by Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery will be serving the second of a four-game suspension this Sunday.
Colin Kaepernick came up short on a comeback effort as well, losing 24-31 in Miami. With :02 on the clock and the ball on the 6, Kaepernick scrambled towards the right pylon but met defensive tackle Ndamukung Suh at the 2-yard-line. The infamous quarterback was forced out of the pocket on multiple occasions that day but used his legs well to pick up key first downs and avoid getting hit in the pocket. That skill will be useful to him this week, as he faces what would be a top defensive front in the NFL, if not for some missing pieces.
Another Mobile Quarterback
Chicago’s DBs are still getting healthy, but they’ve had some good moments to go with the bad. They haven’t been able to get into the passing lanes very often, allowing a 65.8% completion percentage (26th in the league). However, they do not allow receivers to break away after the catch, allowing the third least amount of yards after the catch according to sportingcharts.com. So, when they stay close to receivers, athletic QBs can be tempted to opt out of throwing a dangerous ball and scramble out of the pocket.
Marcus Mariota did this last week, rushing for two first downs and 47 yards on 3 attempts. A matchup to watch will be the youth at the linebacker position for Chicago. Chip Kelly’s offense relies on the mobility of his QB and getting defenses off balance with play action and read options. With LBs Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan watching from the sideline, rookie Nick Kwiatkoski and 3rd year pro Christian Jones must stay disciplined and be prepared to chase a scrambling Kaepernick.
By The Numbers
Chicago is the only team in the league that hasn’t reached 24 points in a game, leaving them 31st in the league in scoring (16.2 PPG). Their best opportunity for the rest of the year to overcome that arrives in the form of San Francisco’s 32nd ranked rushing defense.
After last week, it’s hard to tell how effective the Bears passing game will be. Matt Barkley missed some throws, but had a good day overall. His receivers let him down, dropping countless passes all over the field. Jordan Howard has been solid, though, rushing for over 75 yards in four straight games. He should find the space he needs to return to his form from earlier in the season when he entered the conversation for rookie of the year. San Francisco has had a great year rushing the ball as well (4th in the league) behind their feature back Carlos Hyde. Chicago’s average rushing defense is not improving as the season goes on, losing 3 starting linebackers and 3 defensive linemen to injury.