Bears hope to stay undefeated against the league's best defense
The Chicago Bears are one of just seven undefeated teams in the NFL entering Week 4. But this Sunday, they'll face their toughest test of the 2020 season thus far when they host the Indianapolis Colts at Soldier Field.
The Bears (3-0) pulled off another difficult comeback on the road last week. They overcame a 16-point deficit to defeat the Falcons in Atlanta and kept them winless in the process. The Bears are the first team in NFL history to win two games in the same season after trailing by 16 or more points entering the fourth quarter (they overcame a 17-point deficit in Detroit).
As for the Colts (2-1), they're riding a two-game winning streak after losing their season opener in Jacksonville. They have since dominated the Vikings and Jets at home by a combined score of 64-18. The Bears keep finding dramatic ways to win, while the Colts have turned things around with an efficient offense and a dominant defense. Chicago will be in another dog fight to keep its perfect season intact, while Indy is more than capable of knocking them from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Indianapolis at Chicago
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 4 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Colts -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. The Nick Foles show
Most Bears fans had wanted Foles to be the starting quarterback out of training camp. There was quite a bit of disappointment when that wasn't the case, but last week the fanbase finally got its wish. Head coach Matt Nagy pulled Mitchell Trubisky midway through the third quarter in Atlanta; his inconsistent play finally got the best of him. The erratic throws, hesitation, questionable decision making, and indecisiveness eventually forced the team's hand.
Foles finally made his Bears debut, and the difference in the offense was immediately noticeable. Foles completed 16-of-29 passes for 188 yards and three fourth-quarter touchdowns. Those touchdowns came after his first two TD passes were overturned on review. Foles also averaged 6.5 yards per attempt, avoided taking a single sack, and finished with a 95.2 passer rating. It took just 24 hours for Nagy to announce Foles as the starter for this week's game.
Foles displayed a quick release on his throws, better accuracy, and better decision making than Trubisky did. He also showed his excellence in areas that Trubisky has struggled to grasp such as recognizing coverages, reading defenses, knowing when to call audibles, being able to make both short and intermediate throws through tight windows, and executing quick hitch passes right off the line of scrimmage. With Foles under center, the Bears offense operated faster and with more efficiency. The challenge for Foles now will be to stay healthy, as his injury history has been well documented. He'll be facing a defense that's already posted nine sacks and 18 quarterback hits.
2. Philip Rivers still has it
At 38, Rivers may not have the arm strength he once did, but his production is as good as ever. Many thought that his move to Indianapolis was a sign that his career was coming to an end, but, if anything, the Colts present a slightly more balanced offense that can help him continue to be productive as he gets older. Rivers leads the league in completion rate (78.3 percent) and ranks in the top half of the league in passer rating (99.9), passing yards (794), completed passes (72), yards per game (264.7), and yards per attempt (8.6). He's also thrown three touchdown passes.
Rivers is supported by a reliable rushing attack that's produced 358 yards and three touchdowns, with rookie Jonathan Taylor accounting for 182 yards and two of those scores. He also lines up behind an elite offensive line that's only given up two sacks. Rivers can still play at a very high level.
3. Differences on defense
Getting to the quarterback is something that the Bears have had difficulty with this season. They have just seven sacks so far and only got two against Matt Ryan last Sunday. All-Pro Khalil Mack continues to play through a knee injury, and, as a result, he's recorded just 12 tackles, 1.5 sacks, with 1.5 TFLs. The Bears gave fellow edge rusher Robert Quinn $70 million to wreak havoc opposite of Mack, but his numbers have been less than stellar as well (1 tackle, 1 sack, 1 TFL).
The bright spots for Chuck Pagano's defense have been defensive end Akeim Hicks (leads team with both 3.5 sacks and 4.5 TFLs), inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevethan (combined for 34 tackles), and the starting secondary of Eddie Jackson, Tashaun Gipson Sr., Kyle Fuller, and rookie Jaylon Johnson (62 combined tackles, 10 pass deflections, 2 interceptions).
This Bears defense has given up 62 total points, with 30 of those points coming in the second half. They rank eighth in scoring defense (20.7 ppg), 14th in total defense (364.0 ypg), and 18th in both pass defense (245.0 ypg), and rush defense (119.0 ypg). However, they have just four takeaways on their resume. Sunday could be a day to turn things around if they can get pressure on Rivers; he is tied for seventh-worst in the league with three interceptions. But Rivers can make you pay if you don't, and that will be the challenge for the Bears.
The Colts, on the other hand, have played the best defense in the league through three weeks. They lead the NFL in total defense (225.3 ypg), scoring defense (15.0 ppg), and pass defense (132.0 ypg). Indy also ranks fourth in rushing defense (93.3 ypg), they have six takeaways under their belts, and they've held each of their last two opponents under 12 points. The Bears may have gotten a boost by switching to Foles, but they're still establishing themselves offensively, and the Colts will look to exploit that.
The Colts have won three of their last five meetings with the Bears, with two of those wins coming at Soldier Field (2004, 2007). The last meeting was back in 2016, which was a 29-23 win for Indy (more on that below). The Colts are outscoring the Bears 133-120 in those games, and they're 6-3 in their last nine games against NFC opponents. The last time that the Bears were paired against the AFC South was back in 2016. The Bears lost all four of those games by a combined score of 96-74.
The Bears, in fact, haven't defeated an AFC South team since taking down Tennessee in Week 9 of the 2012 season. The Bears have gone 0-5 against the division since then, and they're 3-5 in their last eight games against the AFC overall. But the Bears have become an improved team since then. Nick Foles gives them a much-improved look on offense, and they'll keep this game close. But in the end, the Colts defense gets the edge in a very tight game.
Prediction: Colts 26, Bears 24
— 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.
(Top photo courtesy of chicagobears.com)