Teams that were on the opposite sides of comebacks last week will put the finishing touches on Week 3 when the Chicago Bears take on the New York Jets on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Chicago trailed by 17 points in San Francisco last week before Jay Cutler rallied his troops to an improbable 28-20 win in the first-ever game at Levi’s Stadium. New York built an 18-point lead on Green Bay at Lambeau Field only to watch Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson bring the Packers all the way back and win 31-24.
The Bears have beaten the Jets the last three times these two teams have played, the most recent a 38-34 victory in Chicago in 2010.
Chicago Bears at New York Jets
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: New York -2.5
Three Things to Watch
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1. A Funny Thing Happened in the Second Quarter…
The second quarter last week proved to be the turning point for both Chicago and New York in their respective matchups. The Bears trailed San Francisco 17-0 with a little more than two minutes until halftime in front of a raucous, sold-out crowd in the 49ers’ first-ever game at Levi’s Stadium. The Jets raced out to a 21-3 lead on Green Bay less than five minutes into the second quarter in front of a stunned Packer fan base at Lambeau Field. After that, however, the momentum dramatically shifted, taking the direction of each game with it. In San Francisco, Jay Cutler and the Bears took full advantage of counterpart Colin Kaepernick’s four turnovers, as the visitors scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to shock the 49ers 28-20. In Green Bay, the Packers turned things around quickly, scoring 21 unanswered points before putting the Jets away thanks to an Aaron Rodgers-to-Jordy Nelson 80-yard touchdown. The comeback victory wasn’t secure, however, until a potential game-tying touchdown pass from Geno Smith to Jeremy Kerley was negated due to an inopportune timeout called from the Jets’ sideline. The chaos of that fateful series only added to the sting the Jets felt afterwards knowing they let a golden opportunity to get a huge road win slip away. The Bears meanwhile enter this game riding high with the confidence gained from coming back last week on the road against a playoff team, especially since it followed a lackluster performance in their season-opening overtime loss to the Bills at home. NFL players are taught to have short memories, but one can’t help but wonder if what transpired last week will carry over into tonight, whether that be in a negative or positive way.
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2. Monday Night is Geno’s Night?
Now in his second pro season, Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith is 9-9 in 18 career starts with an unimpressive 14:23 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The good news for Smith, and hopefully his team and Jets fans, is that the young signal-caller is 1-0 on Monday nights. Last season, Smith and the Jets traveled to Atlanta to face the Falcons in Week 5. Taking the “Monday Night Football” national stage for the first time, Smith put together by far the best game of his short career. Even though he finished with just 199 passing yards, Smith completed 80 percent of his passes (16 of 20) and tossed a career-best three touchdowns with no interceptions. To put this into perspective, consider that in his 17 other starts, Smith has thrown twice as many picks (23) as touchdowns (11). New York would beat Atlanta 30-28 on a 43-yard field goal by Nick Folk as time expired, and the win still stands as Smith’s high-water mark thus far. Case in point: over the next seven games after the win in Atlanta, Smith completed less than half of his passes and posted an ugly 1:11 TD:INT ratio, along with two rushing scores and two lost fumbles. Not surprisingly, the Jets went 2-5 during this stretch. With consistent play clearly being an issue for Smith, the question becomes can he rediscover the form he flashed on this same stage nearly a year ago and run his Monday night record to 2-0?
3. Chicago’s Offensive Forté
Last week was all about Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, as the Bears’ quarterback-wide receiver tandem produced three of the four touchdowns scored against the 49ers. Marshall isn’t the only weapon at Cutler’s disposal, however, as fellow wideout Alshon Jeffery (1,421 yards, 7 TDs in 2013) and tight end Martellus Bennett (2 TDs this season) are equally capable targets. That said, the primary engine to Chicago’s offense is running back Matt Forté. A 1,000-yard rusher who also is one of the NFL’s most dangerous receivers out of the backfield, Forté amassed 1,933 yards from scrimmage, caught 74 passes and scored 12 total touchdowns last season. The two-time Pro Bowler has gotten off to a slow start thus far, with just 205 total yards and no touchdowns after two games. San Francisco did a really good job of bottling Forté up last week (29 total yards on 17 carries) and that will be New York’s challenge tonight. To their credit, the Jets have been very good in both facets of the running game, leading the NFL in both rushing offense (179.0 ypg) and defense (52.5 ypg). Chicago has proven it can win without a significant contribution from its do-everything back, but when the Bears get Forté going early, it only makes this fast-paced, attacking offense that much more dangerous.
Chicago enters this one with plenty of momentum following last week’s comeback win in San Francisco. New York is still picking up the pieces of the golden opportunity it let slip by after coughing up a big lead at Green Bay and then getting in its own way late in the game. The Bears’ offense clicked late against the 49ers and that’s without any significant contribution from Matt Forté. The Jets have a good defense, have been running the ball extremely well, and are generally a tough out at home, but I think the Bears have too much size and too much firepower on offense for Rex Ryan’s team to contend with. Geno Smith and the Jets hang tough, but Jay Cutler connects on some big plays in the second half, as Chicago carries over its road success from one coast to the other.