(Khalil Mack photo courtesy Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)
This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.
Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.
The Chicago Bears defense is a known quantity and has performed to expectations in the first two weeks. The Bears are still waiting for the offense to catch up heading into their Monday night showdown with the winless Washington Redskins.
The Bears held the Broncos in check for most of the game, only to have the offense fail to click against former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Denver cobbled together one touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and was successful on a two-point conversion to grab a 14-13 lead with 31 seconds to play.
Trubisky completed only two passes – but a roughing penalty tacked on 15 yards to a five-yard completion, and his best pass of the day was a 25-yarder on 4th-and-15 to Allen Robinson, who dropped to the turf and allowed Trubisky to spike the ball with one second left. That set the stage for Pineiro, who cracked a 53-yard field goal as time expired and instantly became the toast of Chicago as the Bears evened their record.
Washington (0-2) is continuing a brutal season-opening gauntlet against half of the NFC playoff field with this contest. The Redskins faded after a fast start in their Week 1 loss to Philadelphia, but the offense never got out of first gear in a 31-21 home loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday.
Jay Gruden has yet to solve his team’s running woes as Washington has totaled 75 rushing yards in the first two games. After being a surprise inactive in Week 1, veteran Adrian Peterson got the call over Derrius Guice but was held to 25 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Bears in Review
Much of the Bears’ Super Bowl hopes heading into the season were pinned on Trubisky making linear progress at a similar rate from his rookie season to his second one last season. That has yet to be the case through the first two games for Trubisky, who has had fits and starts and engineered just one touchdown drive in the first eight quarters.
Few things have clicked offensively, though coach Matt Nagy addressed some of those shortcomings in his Week 2 adjustments, getting third-round draft pick David Montgomery more involved in the ground game while attaining a better run-pass balance than Chicago did in its 10-3 loss to Green Bay. Montgomery had 18 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown as Nagy committed to the run with 29 carries versus 27 pass attempts.
The Bears defense was not dominant statistically as the Broncos totaled 372 yards, but they limited them to one touchdown in three red zone opportunities. They held Denver to 90 rushing yards and under three yards per carry, continuing a solid start in which Chicago’s run-stoppers have yielded 137 rushing yards in the first two games.
Redskins in Review
While not much was expected of the Redskins offensively, it has been the defense that has proven more problematic in the early going. Washington has been lit up for 582 yards and six touchdowns through the air, with opposing quarterbacks completing 78.3 percent (54 for 69) of their passes and recording 25 first downs.
The run defense was shredded for 213 rushing yards by the Cowboys, who have one of the best ground games in the league. They may get a reprieve in this game since Chicago has had only three rushes of more than 10 yards – the longest coming on a 46-yard run by Cordarrelle Patterson when he was lined up in the backfield.
Case Keenum, who is essentially a caretaker quarterback while first-round pick Dwayne Haskins continues to learn the offense, has done everything asked of him with 601 yards and five touchdowns without an interception in the first two games. A good portion of his 221 yards versus Dallas came with the outcome well in hand, but he does have a 111.3 passer rating and has spread the wealth – 11 different receivers have caught at least one pass.
Bears run offense vs Redskins run defense
Nagy stayed true to his word in terms of week-to-week adjustments, with his first order of business getting Montgomery more involved in the ground game. The former Iowa State running back has 62 yards on 18 carries, highlighted by this 18-yard burst here.
The other change from Week 1 was Nagy committing to the ground game to create better balance as the Bears rushed the ball 29 times for 153 yards. Some of those numbers flatter to deceive, though, as Cordarrelle Patterson had a 46-yard run and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel had a 14-yard jaunt of his own.
Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long knows there is plenty of room for improvement going forward.
“The offensive line and I know that it starts up front and there are a lot of things I can do better, a lot of blocks I’m not making, a lot of guys not accounted for,” he told the club’s official website. “I’ll be on guys at the beginning of the play, and then at the end of the play, they’re around the pile.”
The difference in talent in the running games between Philadelphia and Dallas was clearly evident in Washington’s ability to stop the Eagles and inability to contain Ezekiel Elliott. After getting five tackles for loss in Week 1, the Redskins had just two against the Cowboys while being gashed for seven runs of 10 or more yards.
Though the Redskins were short-handed without defensive tackle Jonathan Allen and cornerbacks Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau, Gruden was not willing to use the personnel shuffles as an excuse for his team’s shortcomings.
“The defensive line and linebackers,” Gruden told The Washington Post, “we can’t give up 200 yards rushing to anybody — anytime, anyplace, anywhere.”
Bears pass offense vs Redskins pass defense
There’s no way to sugarcoat the fact Trubisky is struggling. He’s left yards out there in terms of decision-making and overthrows, and if it wasn’t for the strike he threw to Robinson to set up Pineiro’s game-winning field goal, the Bears would be 0-2.
Trubisky has not been accurate downfield, going a combined 6 for 25 for 137 yards on passes thrown 11 or more yards downfield. He was an effective mid-range passer last season, completing 46 of 85 passes for 856 yards on balls thrown 11-20 yards, and those are the passes Nagy has to dial up to get his quarterback back into rhythm since the swing passes to Cohen and Montgomery are always going to be available.
“We know that what we’ve done in the last two games — that’s not what we want to be at all,” Nagy told NBCSports Chicago. “But then there’s patience involved in that and there’s zero panic. So do we want to be better in Week 1 and Week 2? Yes. What are the reasons for that? That’s our job to figure out those solutions. That’s why we have 16 games, is to figure that out.”
The Redskins have been brutal in both aspects of defense, with the absences of Dunbar and Moreau contributing to opponents putting together a passer rating of 124.8 in the first two games — the fifth-highest mark.
Besides the lack of bodies, cornerback Josh Norman has gotten off to a terrible start. Opposing QBs are 9 for 14 with 189 yards and two touchdowns throwing at him, and he has been burned for a pair of long scoring plays in each defeat.
After Norman went public complaining that his comments on Prescott were misconstrued, the Washington D.C. media hit back, with former Redskins player Brian Mitchell saying Norman “can’t run with fast receivers.”
But the larger problem beyond Norman was the injuries forced defensive coordinator Greg Manusky into playing a simpler system, though Gruden has put him on the spot this week when he noted, “We have a very talented group on defense, and we’re not reaching them.”
Redskins run offense vs Bears run defense
The Redskins are on Plan B early for the second straight season with Peterson now the feature back while Derrius Guice recovers from a knee injury that will likely sideline him until midseason.
Peterson, who Gruden surprisingly had among the inactives in Week 1, was unable to find any sort of space against an above-average Dallas defense. He had one run of 10 yards while the other nine netted just 15.
This matchup does the 34-year-old no favors either as the Bears are giving up just 2.98 yards per carry and no rush longer than 14 yards. Gruden, however, also seems to have a low bar of expectations for Washington’s ground game in this contest and will take what he can get.
“I say we want to run the ball, but they’re a very difficult team to run the ball against,” Gruden said of Chicago’s defense on Wednesday, via the Sun-Times. “I might have to wait until next week.”
The Bears did well to contain Denver’s two-pronged rushing attack last week, limiting Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay to 90 yards on 24 combined carries. Washington’s ineffectiveness helps Chicago, but the Bears aggressiveness could make this further tough sledding for the Redskins because Peterson is not going to hit those cutback lanes quick enough to rip off large gains.
One of the more underpublicized players in the NFL, Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks has been a focal point of collapsing offensive lines and giving clear lanes for linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan to fill gaps and make tackles.
“We’ve had some struggles in the run game,” Redskins center Chase Roullier admitted. “It’s something that we are very aware of and that we are working very hard on every day. It’s something we’ve been watching film on to improve. Just spending some extra individual time to different techniques to continue to work on that.”
Redskins pass offense vs Bears pass defense
One interesting aspect of Keenum finding early success is that one of his top targets — Terry McLaurin — was drafted by the Redskins with an eye on giving first-round pick Haskins some continuity by drafting his Buckeyes teammate.
McLaurin, though, has shown to be a quick study since being selected in the third round. Keenum has thrown his way 16 times in the first two games, with McLaurin totaling 10 receptions for 187 yards and shown an ability to get open downfield, with his catch point 13.6 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
“It doesn’t get any easier, especially with the Bears coming in — they were a playoff team last year,” McLaurin said as he tries to avoid complacency. “But, I’m not afraid of the stage, I’m not afraid of the moment, so I’m really excited to go out there and try to help us win.”
This is the conundrum the Redskins face when it comes to trying to slow down Mack:
That said, the Bears could have their hands full trying to solve Washington’s passing game if the Redskins can give Keenum time. Chicago tightened up in terms of not allowing big chunk plays like it did losing to Green Bay in Week 1, but it was more of a bend but down’t break defense in the second half as Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco was able to move the ball consistently before taking advantage of a tired defense in the fourth quarter.
The Bears do not need to bring their safeties up to contain the Redskins running game, which means Chuck Pagano can opt to bring his blitzes from a variety of sources to help Mack and Leonard Floyd in the pass rush. That is on top of exploiting the absence of Redskins left tackle Trent Williams, who continues to be embroiled in a bitter holdout with the club.
It would not be surprising to see the Redskins throw often on first down — the Bears have allowed opposing QBs to go 25 for 34 with 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns throwing on first down, and the 114.0 passer rating is 11th worst.
Special Teams, Coaching, and Other Things
In what could best be described as an “only the Bears” moment, Pineiro is listed as questionable for this game with a knee injury suffered during the week while weight training. Pineiro has made all five of his kicks, including a pair of 50-plus yard field goals, and while he is expected to play Monday night, his range may be limited with this injury.
One area the Redskins have no worries is with their specalists as Dustin Hopkins has made all eight of his kicks, including a pair of field goals, and punter Tress Way continues to be one of the league’s best — he has a net average of 46.7 yards while putting five of his nine efforts inside the opposing 20-yard line.
Bears counterpart Pat O’Donnell has also been effective, with a net 45.5 average as opponents have totaled just 36 return yards running back five of his 13 punts.
There is a significant amount of pressure on both coaches for different reasons. For Nagy, it is equal parts about getting Trubisky on track and also resisting the urge to be too clever by one half with his play-calling. Nagy succeeded to a large degree last week in Denver, but it should be noted he was facing former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and had a very clear idea of what he could and could not do against those schemes.
Manusky could be coaching for his job here, and with Washington facing a top-five defense in Chicago, the offense needs to produce to give the defense a chance. Of course, the Redskins defense needs to get off the field — opponents have converted 18 of 28 on third down in the first two games — in order to help the offense.
But if the Redskins suffer big-play breakdowns for a third straight game, especially to a Bears offense that enters the nation’s capital out of rhythm, could result in an avalanche by Chicago that proves too much to overcome.
Picks and Prediction
Even with the Bears offense a work in progress, the Redskins defense just does not look to have enough to prevent a loss in this game. Chicago showed the semblance of a ground game versus Denver, and similar success can be found against a porous Washington front seven.
Much of this game will come down to how Nagy spoon-feeds Trubisky. The Bears have the speed on the edge with Montgomery and Cohen that a ball-control, short-passing game can thrive. Thus, if he loads up Trubisky with quick-hitters to receivers and swing passes to his backs, he removes the type of passes Trubisky has struggled throwing.
Chicago has already shown how good its defense is in holding the Broncos and Bears to two touchdowns and 26 points. The Bears may not be recording takeaways consistently, and they may not get too many in this contest, but they are getting the job done. Their ability to make the Redskins more one-dimensional than they already are will allow Mack to stalk Keenum all game and make a potential game-changing impact.
The under is the better play compared to the spread, but the Bears should cover in this contest.
The line has seen a late spike in the Bears’ favor to 5.5 points, which is the maximum spread to be comfortable taking Chicago in this case. The over/under has held firm at 41, leaving the under a still-solid play given the Bears’ defense and their lack of consistency on offense.
Three Player Prop Plays We Like:
Adrian Peterson UNDER 43.5 rushing yards (-114)
Tarik Cohen OVER 28.5 receiving yards (-114)
David Montgomery OVER 60.5 rushing yards (-114)
Gruden has already said he does not expect much from Washington’s running game, which implies the carries Peterson does get are more designed to keep Chicago’s defense honest and off Keenum as opposed to any specific play-calling. It would also mean an increase in Peterson’s carries from the 10 he had in Week 2 to near 15 to get to that total given Chicago’s stout run defense.
The Redskins are already short-handed at cornerback, with the expectation Jimmy Moreland will be the slot corner on Cohen. Opposing QBs have gone 4 for 6 for 28 yards throwing at Moreland, and Cohen should see plenty of passes lined up there and out of the backfield to help clear what is a favorable number.
Even with Allen returning to bolster the Redskins defensive line, Montgomery showed enough last week against Denver to believe the Bears can get him to the edge and turn upfield. As long as Nagy commits to the run, this should be another number that clears with the rookie running back.
With just 19 points through the first two games, expecting the Bears to break out offensively is a fool’s errand, but a scenario in which they narrowly cover the 3-point spread in the first half along the lines of a 10-6 count is completely plausible. This is also in a state of flux to a degree because Pineiro is questionable, and that may affect Nagy’s play-calling between the plus-35 and midfield.
The Bears are 9-4 against the number as road favorites between 3.5 and 10 points in their last 13 games and covered in four of their last five Monday night contests. Conversely, Washington is 7-20 ATS in its last 27 on Monday night and 1-4 in their last five as home dogs between 3.5-10 points. In keeping with Chicago’s first two games, there won’t be much in the way of aesthetics, but there should be enough for a victory.