Bears hope for a better showing on the road when they take on the struggling Bills
The Chicago Bears will finish up the AFC portion of their schedule when they make the trek to Orchard Park, New York, to face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Bears (4-3) are looking to split their four games against AFC East teams, having lost to Miami and New England but beating the New York Jets last week at home, 24-10. The Bills (2-6) have lost three in a row and are struggling on both sides of the ball. They are coming off of a 25-6 home loss to New England on Monday night that was a three-point game late in the third quarter.
Last week, Chicago's defense got the job done once again, holding the Jets to 207 total yards and limiting New York to just one red zone possession. Chicago enters this game ranked fifth in the NFL in total defense and shut down the Jets last week without Khalil Mack, who missed the game due to an ankle injury. On offense, the Bears ran for a season-high 179 yards and didn't turn the ball over.
For Buffalo, turnovers have been only part of the problem. Injuries have impacted the quarterback position to the point that Nathan Peterman, who has thrown four interceptions compared to just one touchdown this season, will get the start with Josh Allen (elbow) and Derek Anderson (concussion) both sidelined. As a team, the Bills are last in the league in scoring (10.9 ppg) and second to last in total offense (246.4 ypg). Not exactly the ideal time to be facing Chicago's stout defense, with or without Mack.
For the Bears, this is an opportunity to put forth a better showing away from Soldier Field. Chicago is 1-2 on the road thus far, with losses to Green Bay and Miami, albeit by a total of four points. The Bears' one road win came in Week 3 against Arizona when they beat the Cardinals (who are 2-6) by two points. Chicago also is 1-5 in its history against the Bills in Buffalo, although their lone win came in the teams' last meeting back in 2014.
Chicago at Buffalo
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Bears -10
Three Things to Watch
1. Nathan Peterman gets another chance with the Bills
With Josh Allen (elbow) still not cleared to play, and with Derek Anderson in concussion protocol, second-year signal caller Nathan Peterman will get his fourth career NFL start. In three games this year, however, things just haven’t gone the Pittsburgh alum’s way. He’s completed only 13-of-32 passes on the year for 108 yards, one touchdown, and four interceptions. He’s averaging only 3.38 yards per pass; his longest pass this season so far is 20 yards; and his passer rating currently stands at 20.8. Unless the Bills add another quarterback before Sunday, they’re hoping that Peterman can overcome his struggles this week.
2. No Khalil Mack, no problem
The Bears kept their sack leader (5.0) out of the lineup against the Jets last week in order to maximize his recovery from an ankle injury he suffered against Miami three weeks ago. The injury rendered him ineffective for the remainder of the Dolphins game as well as the Patriots game two weeks ago. Without him against the Jets, the Bears had only one sack and one quarterback hurry against Sam Darnold. But the defense did limit Darnold to just 153 passing yards on 14 completions, allowed only one pass over 20 yards and held the Jets to a field goal through the first three quarters.
Peterman has been sacked only three times this year, but in the three games in which he has played the Bills have only scored 3, 13 and 6 points, respectively. With the Bears leaning towards resting Mack again this week, they feel confident that the defense can still be strong without him.
3. The Bears' offensive line without Kyle Long
The only negative to come out of last week’s win was losing Kyle Long to a foot injury. Earlier this week it was revealed that Long could be out for at least 6-8 weeks if not longer. Eric Kush is still recovering from a stinger in his neck but he did practice this week. So there is a chance we could see James Daniels and Bryan Witzmann as the starting guards this Sunday. If that winds up being the case, both players will be under a heavy microscope.
Daniels, who played center in college, is still a rookie who’s learning how to play guard as a pro. And Witzmann is a journeyman playing for his sixth team and has played a full season only once (2017) in his career. With center Cody Whitehair and tackles Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr. anchoring the line, the Bears should get through this game. But how the o-line performs this week could play a significant role in whether or not the Bears win.
Even with the injury concerns, the Bears will break their losing streak on the Buffalo turf (lost their last three games at New Era Field). They still have plenty of talent on defense without Khalil Mack, Mitchell Trubisky gets better with every game, and I expect the Bears to run the ball just as frequently as they did against the Jets — if not more.
Prediction: Bears 20, Bills 10
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.