Can the Bears (4-3), coming off their bye week, snap a two-game losing skid and keep pace with the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North? Can the Bills (0-7), off to their worst start since the mid-1980s, continue on the path to the No. 1 overall pick in the draft?
The Bears are healthy and rested but can’t look past Buffalo, which took its last two opponents, division-leading Baltimore and Kansas City, to overtime before losing. The game will be played in the sterile Rogers Center in Toronto, where the Bills give up home field advantage in the name of marketing.
Keys for the Bills
• They must stop the run. It’s a broken record each week, but the Bills are especially bad at it. Ranked 32nd, Buffalo has allowed 188.7 yards per game on the ground. This has severely restricted its chances of creating turnovers (they have one interception) because teams prefer running the ball instead of throwing it.
• The line must protect Ryan Fitzpatrick. Three linemen (Eric Wood, Demetrius Bell and Cordaro Howard) were nursing injuries this week, which can’t leave Fitzpatrick feeling too confident going up against the likes of Julius Peppers, a healthy Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Israel Idonije. Fitzpatrick, who already has a career-high 12 TD passes, has found a rhythm with his receivers in recent weeks, but Chicago’s defense is stingy.
Keys for the Bears
• Don’t turn the ball over. Chicago coughed up the ball six times in the second half of a frustrating 17-14 loss to Washington back on Oct. 24. Jay Cutler threw four interceptions — all to cornerback DeAngelo Hall who tied an NFL record. The good news for Cutler? Buffalo’s defensive backs don’t have a single interception yet. And Hall doesn’t play for the Bills.
• Devin Hester gets a big punt return. The dynamic Hester leads the NFL with a 16.7-yard return average with two touchdowns. Nothing would deflate a Buffalo team, whose psyche is already taking a beating, worse than a return for six points.
This is a clash of two teams with confidence issues. The Bills haven’t won a game. The Bears have lost three of four since a 3-0 start. Something has to give. Buffalo has shown signs of life lately. The Bills are due to get into the “W’’ column. Bills 24–21.