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Chicago Bears vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Prediction and Preview

Chicago Bears vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Prediction and Preview

Chicago Bears vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Prediction and Preview

Who wouldn't like a trip to Florida in December? That's exactly what the Chicago Bears will be doing when they hit the road to play the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday. The Bears (7-7) were on the road last week, as they put on an offensive clinic in Minneapolis to defeat the Minnesota Vikings. And following Arizona's stunning loss to San Francisco on Saturday, a win by Chicago would create a tie for the final wild-card spot in the NFC with one week to go.

As for the Jaguars (1-13), they had no answer for Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens last week. They really haven't had an answer for the opposition since Week 2. Right now it's a battle between the Jags' and the New York Jets for the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. The Bears are looking for another win to improve their postseason odds, while the Jaguars are looking to play spoiler. This will be the first meeting between these teams since 2016.

Chicago at Jacksonville

Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 27 at 1 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Spread: Bears -7.5

Three Things to Watch

1. The Bears' resurgence

Their victory in Minnesota last Sunday was their second in a row. The Bears have now won consecutive games for the first time since Weeks 5 and 6. They've gone over the 30-point mark in each of those games, outscoring Houston and Minnesota by a combined margin of 69-34. This team has been getting much-needed efforts from both sides of the ball.

The biggest surprise has been the recent play of embattled quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. In the last two games, he's completed 39-of-54 passes for 469 yards, four touchdowns, and just one interception. He's displayed accuracy, awareness, better decision-making, he's making more use of his feet to avoid pressure, and he's taking better care of the ball. If Trubisky can finish the season strong, he'll make a case for earning a new contract somewhere.

Running back David Montgomery also has been putting his best foot forward recently. He has gone over 100 rushing yards in three of the last four games with six total touchdowns (five rushing, one receiving) during that stretch. He'll look to add to these numbers against a Jacksonville team that is ranked 30th in the NFL against the run (146.5 ypg). Montgomery is just 94 yards away from the first 1,000-yard season of his career. Credit must also go to this Bears offensive line, which has paved the way on the ground while also providing solid protection for Trubisky.

The defense also has made an impact as the unit has gotten its act together. In the last two games, the defense has racked up 10 sacks, nine tackles for a loss, 23 quarterback hits, six deflected passes, and three takeaways. They also held Minnesota and Houston to just seven fourth-quarter points combined, and they look more like the defense that many had expected to see this season.

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2. Hard times in Jacksonville

Jacksonville opened this season with a win over Indianapolis only to watch things spiral downward ever since. The Jaguars have lost 13 games in a row and have been outscored 403-248 in the process. Three different quarterbacks (Gardner Minshew, Mike Glennon, and Jake Luton) have started games this season, which is one of the reasons why the team is in a position to potentially draft Clemson's Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 pick in next year's draft. Injuries have been an issue for the position and even though Minshew has played relatively well (40-for-60, 404 yds., 3 TDs) since returning to the lineup two weeks ago, head coach Doug Marrone is starting Glennon on Sunday.

Glennon won't have James Robinson to rely on as the running back has been ruled out because of an ankle injury. One bright spot for the Jags, the undrafted rookie from Illinois State is third in the league in rushing (1,070 yards) and has been effective as a receiver out of the backfield. He leads the team with nine total touchdowns and is tied for the team lead with 49 receptions. DJ Chark Jr. has dealt with some injuries of his own and his production (49 rec., 644 yds., 4 TDs) has gone down. Keelan Cole Sr. (49, 593, 5), and second-round pick Laviska Shenault Jr. (47, 484, 2) round out the receiving corps. Overall, Jacksonville is 23rd in yards per game (332.6) but is averaging less than 20 points per game (19.6, 29th).

The defense hasn't fared much better. In addition to their struggles against the run, the Jaguars are dead last in total defense (418.2 ypg), own the fifth-worst pass defense (271.7 ypg), and are responsible for the third-worst scoring defense (30.2 ppg). Not surprisingly, linebackers Joe Schobert and Myles Jack both rank in the top 20 of the league in tackles (229 total) and have combined for 17 tackles for a loss, as the Jags' defense has been on the field a lot this season. With just two games left Jacksonville is guaranteed no worse than the No. 2 overall pick in next year's draft.

3. Bears still in the playoff hunt

A win by Chicago on Sunday would tie the Bears with Arizona for the final NFC wild-card spot. The two teams didn't play each other this season so another tiebreaker will come into play but what this means is Chicago could conceivably be facing a win-and-you're-in situation next week against Green Bay, who could potentially have the No. 1 seed wrapped up by then. The Cardinals will face the Rams in Los Angeles and depending on the outcome of their game against Seattle on Sunday, the Rams could be in a position to win the NFC West next week. These possible scenarios won't matter one bit if the Bears don't take care of business against the Jaguars.

Final Analysis

The Jaguars won the last meeting between these teams back in 2016, but the Bears are 4-3 all-time against them and they are 4-3 on the road this season. Chicago's victory over Houston two weeks ago snapped a six-game losing streak to AFC South teams. The Bears have a shot at finishing .500 against the division with a win on Sunday.

Chicago Bears logo

On the other side, Jacksonville is 0-3 against the NFC North thus far, but did push the Vikings to overtime three weeks ago. The Jags' win over Chicago back in '16 was their last win against the "Black and Blue" division, and they've gone 0-5 since then. Jacksonville hasn't defeated any NFC team since taking down the New York Giants in their season opener back in 2018 (0-12 since then). There's no reason to expect this trend to change not with the Bears very much alive in the playoff hunt while the Jaguars have more incentive to keep losing at this point.

Prediction: Bears 24, Jaguars 13

— 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 can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.

(Mitchell Trubisky photo courtesy of chicagobears.com)