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Chicago vs. New England Prediction: Surging Patriots Host Struggling Bears on MNF

Bill Belichick can make more history if Patriots extend their winning streak against Bears team that has lost three in a row.

Week 7 of the 2022 NFL season will conclude with a rematch (in name only) of Super Bowl XX on "Monday Night Football" as the New England Patriots host the Chicago Bears.

Related: Expert Picks for Every Week 7 NFL Game

The Bears (2-4) opened Week 6 with a frustrating loss to Washington on "Thursday Night Football." It was a game that again exposed the Bears' flaws on both sides of the ball. As for the Patriots (3-3), last week's win over the Cleveland Browns was their second in a row to get them back to .500.

Monday Night Football: Chicago (2-4) at New England (3-3)

Kickoff: Monday, Oct. 24 at 8:15 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Patriots -8
Tickets: As low as $90 on SITickets.com

Three Things to Watch

1. Bears' offense still searching for answers
The statistics speak for themselves, but all you had to do was watch last Thursday's 12-7 home loss to Washington to see how poorly things are going for Chicago on offense. Yes, the Bears outgained the Commanders by a wide margin (391-214) and continue to run the ball effectively (237 yards on 37 carries), but so much of the production was "empty" yards as the team went 0-for-3 in the red zone, turned the ball over twice, and managed just one touchdown. 

After the game, head coach Matt Eberflus promised that the team would make wholesale changes from top to bottom, and everything, from scheme to personnel on both sides of the ball, was on the table. While the defense certainly has its own issues, namely when it comes to stopping the run, it's no stretch to say that these comments were directed primarily toward the offense.

While Chicago owns the No. 2-ranked rushing offense in the NFL (170.7 ypg), the passing attack is at the opposite end of the spectrum, placing last at 122.8 yards per game. In today's NFL, throwing the ball is critical to success, which is why the Bears rank 28th in total offense (293.5 ypg) and 31st overall in scoring (15.5 ppg). 

It's not fair to place all of the blame on quarterback Justin Fields, but he certainly hasn't made the big leap forward in his second year as the starter that many were expecting entering this season. With Fields, the story has been pretty much the same: shows flashes of talent and potential but can't seem to put it all together through the course of a game. He's still searching for week-to-week consistency.

Last week, he finished with a game-high 88 rushing yards but threw for only 190 while completing 14 of 27 passes (54.5 percent). He had a touchdown but also threw a costly pick in the red zone (off a pass that was thrown directly into a defensive lineman's helmet) and was sacked five times. The offensive line issues are well documented (23 sacks allowed, tied for the most in the league), but some of this also falls on Fields, who has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long. It also seems as if he's torn between staying in the pocket or trying to use his legs to make something happen.

For the season, Fields has a 55 percent completion rate and he's averaging 144.8 passing yards per game. He's been effective as a runner (5.2 ypc), but that's negated by the sacks (23, tied for the most in the league) and more turnovers (five INTs, one fumble) than touchdowns (four passing, one rushing). Those numbers simply won't cut it. Again, it's not all Fields' fault, which is where offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and the supporting cast come in. Getsy needs to build a game plan around what Fields does best and stop trying to make him something he's not. Fields appears most comfortable when he's either rolling to his left or his right and tries to find an open receiver or makes the decision to see what he can pick up with his legs. The longer he has to wait back in the pocket and go through his progressions is when things seem to break down, and pass protection is certainly not his offensive line's strength right now.

While it's not as exciting as throwing the ball all over and taking shots downfield, right now it seems like the best decision is for Chicago to lean on its running game. Again, the Bears are second in the league in rushing offense and New England is a middle-of-the-pack defense against it (119.0 ypg, 16th). That's not saying Fields won't have to make plays with his arm because Bill Belichick-coached teams are just too good to not make adjustments, but Fields can't be expected to beat the Patriots all by himself.

And Fields shouldn't have to, not when he can hand the ball off to either Khalil Herbert or David Montgomery, who have combined for 648 rushing yards and four touchdowns. The duo was responsible for 162 of the team's 237 rushing yards last week, including a 63-yard gain by Herbert.

2. Patriots rounding into form
New England has won its last two games and done so in impressive fashion despite relying on a third-string rookie quarterback. In fact, the biggest storyline with the Patriots right now is whether or not Mac Jones should just be handed the starting job back after Bailey Zappe played so well. For now, indications are that Jones will get the nod after missing two games because of an ankle injury, but one thing about Belichick, he always keeps his cards close to his chest.

However, it's also a question worth raising considering New England is 2-0 with Zappe as the starter, beating Detroit and Cleveland by a combined score of 67-15. In those games, Zappe went 41-for-55 for 497 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Jones has completed 66 percent of his passes with two scores and five picks. No one with the team is going to call this a quarterback controversy, but if Jones does get the call and struggles, it will be interesting to see how much patience Belichick shows since Zappe has shown he's more than capable, albeit in a small sample size.

Of course, the team is more important than the quarterback when it comes to the Patriots, and whoever is under center will have plenty of support. Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris are leading the way on the ground, totaling 705 rushing yards with six touchdowns. Harris missed last week's game with a hamstring injury but has been able to practice in full, so he should be available for this game. And as has already been mentioned, Chicago's defense has had trouble stopping the run, giving up 163 yards per game. New England also has yielded just 11 sacks, so it may be hard for the Bears' pass rush, which has lagged in production (11 sacks, tied for 23rd), to have much of an impact.

As for the Patriots' defense, it's been in vintage form lately, very opportunistic and limiting the damage done on the scoreboard. They have 12 takeaways on the season and have forced at least two in five straight games. Plus, although Chicago has a dangerous ground game, the Pats did just hold the No. 1 rushing attack (Cleveland) to 70 yards on 18 carries. After that performance, New England is 12th in total defense (337.8 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (18.8 ppg). Keep in mind that the Bears have scored that many in only half of their games.

3. Lopsided coaching chess match
Eberflus is in his first year as a head coach, meaning he has a total of six games under his belt. On the other hand, Belichick is in his 28th season (23rd with New England) and has 293 career wins in the regular season alone. In fact, Belichick is currently tied with George Halas for second in career wins (including playoffs) with 324 total. It would be somewhat poetic for Belichick to break the tie with a win over the man known as "Papa Bear," the franchise's original owner and longtime head coach.

There are many reasons that Belichick is on the cusp of making more history and some of that simply comes down to his vast wealth of experience, whereas Eberflus is still figuring things out. Even though Getsy is the offensive coordinator, the buck stops with Eberflus and the play-calling has been called into question on more than one occasion throughout this season. There have been some curious calls around the goal line, including last week against Washington when Chicago went 5-for-13 on third down and just 1-for-4 on fourth down. Situation (such as distance to go) and execution certainly need to be taken into consideration, but Herbert also was stopped cold on 4th-and-goal from the 1 (and it was really closer than that) in the second quarter when the game was scoreless. Would it have made more sense to just kick the field goal? Hindsight is 20/20 but the Bears would end up losing by five points and there's something to be said about getting points, even if it's just three, whenever you can, especially with a struggling offense.

The point is that every little thing Eberflus does is going to be criticized even if it amounts to nothing more than the typical armchair quarterbacking talk radio fodder. But this also is a results-driven league and to this point, Eberflus' team is lacking in that department. If anything, Eberflus will get a front-row seat on Sunday, matching wits with the man many consider the G.O.A.T. in the profession. While a win by Chicago would certainly be something to celebrate, this also is a chance for Eberflus to prove that he's not in over his head and that the foundation he and rookie general manager Ryan Poles are laying down will pay off for this franchise, even if it's going to take some time.

Final Analysis

New England has all the momentum entering this one, with Chicago mired in a frustrating, three-game losing streak. Even though they are separated by just one game record-wise, the gap between these two teams seems much wider. That's not to say that the Bears can't win on Monday night, it just seems like it's a tall task given the offense's persistent struggles, how well the Patriots have been playing recently, and, of course, the guy who is in charge. There may be some form of a quarterback controversy brewing for New England, but it's not like Chicago doesn't have its own questions at the position to deal with.

Although he Bears are in dire need of a win, this is not a good matchup for an offense that's still finding its way. The defense should be able to keep it close but the same growing pains and frustrations will raise their ugly head at some point and result in another close-but-not-quite loss for Chicago.

Prediction: Patriots 21, Bears 14

— Written by Gabe Salgado, who 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.

*Price as of publication.