On Monday night the New York Jets (1-1) take on the Chicago Bears (1-1) at MetLife Stadium (8:30 EST). The Jets will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance against the Packers, while the Bears enter the prime time match-up rejuvenated after a comeback win over the 49ers. Here are some of the keys to the game from a New York perspective.
Offensive line play- In order for the New York Jets to establish their running game the offensive line must improve their performance in the trenches. Brian Winters, in particular, must become a more consistent and reliable blocker and the entire line must eliminate foolish penalties. Keep in mind Chicago’s defense is giving up 160 rushing yards a game (27th in the NFL), so the Jets have an opportunity to take advantage.
Decker questionable- Wide receiver Eric Decker is listed as questionable for Monday night and will more than likely become a game time decision. If Decker does play it is hard to expect much out of him as a hamstring injury can become quite limiting. A very good argument can be made to keep Eric out until he is 100% healthy.
Picking up the slack- With a limited Eric Decker the Jets must utilize a variety of options to replace his productivity. Look for Gang Green to work running back Chris Johnson out of the backfield and feature tight ends Jace Amaro and Jeff Cumberland. Do not be surprised to see rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders get added to the mix as well.
Limit Forte- Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte is a dynamic offensive threat that can beat you as a ball carrier or as a receiver. The Jets defense must account for Forte at all times especially in the passing game where he can make big plays in space. Chicago enters the game ranked 30th in rushing so the New York defensive front should look to dominate the battles at the line of scrimmage.
Keep an eye on Bennett- While the Bears’ superstar wide receivers gain most of the notoriety tight end Martellus Bennett quietly puts up solid statistics. Bennett is a huge target that can stretch the defense and open up plays underneath. Gang Green’s linebackers and safeties must do an excellent job in pass coverage.
All hands on deck- The Jets secondary will be tested on Monday night as the Bears feature 3 quality wide receivers in Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Santonio Holmes. The New York secondary which will start Darrin Walls and Antonio Allen at cornerback must remain consistent in coverage and play very physical at the line. Keep an eye on nickel back Kyle Wilson as Chicago likes to work Marshall out of the slot at times. Note: Marshall and Jeffery are listed as questionable for the game but both are expected to play. Jets defensive back Dee Milliner is listed as doubtful.
The key for the New York Jets will be to establish their running game against a struggling Bears rush defense. If Gang Green can run the ball, they can control the clock and keep Cutler and company off of the field. The Jets must avoid stupid mistakes and obviously limit turnovers.
On defense the Jets are going to have their hands full with the Chicago passing attack, even with a limited Jeffery and Marshall. Santonio Holmes will be ultra motivated to get revenge on his former team while Forte and Bennett will cause match-up problems. If Gang Green does not get pressure on Cutler it will be a long night.
I can make a great case for the Jets winning on Monday night, but my instinct tells me that Bears coach Marc Trestman will come up with a great game plan to take advantage of the New York secondary. Bears 23-17.