The Week 3 edition of "Monday Night Football" features two teams in need of momentum. The Washington Redskins (0-2) are in most need of a win as they host the Chicago Bears (1-1), who are looking to prove that last week's thrilling victory against the Denver Broncos was no accident. Both teams have their share of both issues and qualities, and they hope to become more complete teams on Monday night. They're also in the midst of some tough stretches.
After hosting the Bears, Washington hits the road for two of their next three games. They have a crucial NFC East matchup with the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium next week, then return home to face the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, followed by a trip to South Florida to take on the Miami Dolphins. New England is a handful for any team, while New York and Miami are hungry teams with nothing to lose at the moment.
The Bears also have a tough slate ahead of them. After departing our nation's capital the Bears will return home to host the Minnesota Vikings. Then, they make the long trek across the Atlantic Ocean to play the Oakland Raiders in London in Week 5. After a bye, Chicago will be back at Soldier Field to face New Orleans. The Bears are certainly familiar with the Vikings, who appear to have a rejuvenated running game to go with their stingy defense. The Raiders are a bit of a wild card but dealing with the travel and other logistics associated with the London games is not easy. And while the Saints aren't the same team without Drew Brees, they still have more than enough talent on both sides of the ball to give Chicago trouble.
But first things first for both teams and that's Monday night's game.
Chicago at Washington
Kickoff: Monday, Sept. 23 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Bears -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Offense will be the focus
This holds true but for different reasons. The Bears have scored just 19 points thus far, with 12 of those coming in the form of four field goals from kicker Eddy Pineiro. The Bears have 547 total yards of offense in their first two games (only one touchdown), but 348 of those have come courtesy of the arm of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears are barely averaging four yards per rushing attempt, while Trubisky is only averaging five yards per completion. The Bears ran the ball 29 times for 153 yards and a touchdown (with David Montgomery accounting for 18 carries, 62 yards, and said TD) against Denver last week, and head coach Matt Nagy should make the run the focus of the game plan, which should open up the passing game.
For Washington it's the exact opposite; their passing game is firing on all cylinders, while the rushing attack is almost non-existent. Case Keenum (not Dwayne Haskins yet) is completing 69 percent of his passes for 601 yards, five touchdowns, and is averaging 7.4 yards per attempt. The biggest beneficiaries of his accuracy have been wide receiver Terry McLaurin (10 catches, 187 yds., 2 TDs), running back Chris Thompson (12 rec., 116 yds.), and tight end Vernon Davis (7, 88, 1). Jay Gruden's team will take to the air early and often against the Bears.
The Redskins will definitely have to rely on their air attack as the ground game has struggled to get out of the gate. As a team, Washington only has 75 yards on 30 carries (with one score). Derrius Guice (10 carries, 18 yards) was the starter in Week 1 but suffered a knee injury against Philadelphia. He had surgery to repair a torn meniscus and was placed on injured reserve, so he's out for at least eight weeks. Adrian Peterson was inactive for the opener against the Eagles but reclaimed the starting job after the Guice injury. He managed just 25 yards on 10 carries last week against Dallas but did score a touchdown.
Washington needs to find balance with its offense while Chicago needs to get its own attack moving. We could witness a chess match between Gruden and Nagy.
2. Don't forget about the defense
Both teams need improvement on this side of the ball. The Bears have done a good job in limiting the damage on the scoreboard (24 points allowed) but they have given up 632 yards in the first two games. Chicago couldn't prevent Denver from running a successful two-minute drill last week when the Broncos took the lead with just 31 seconds left following a 12-play, 67-yard TD drive and the subsequent two-point conversion. Fortunately, there was still enough time for Trubisky to move the ball downfield far enough to set up Pineiro's game-winning, 53-yard field goal on the last play of the game.
Chuck Pagano's defense hopes to avoid a similar situation Monday night. Washington's defense also has had its struggles in the early going. The Redskins have surrendered 63 points and 918 yards, 336 of those on the ground. Both defenses, however, have combined to register nine sacks, 23 tackles for a loss, 17 pass deflections, and two takeaways. Given each team's offensive issues, the opportunity is there for one defense to emerge as the difference-maker.
The Bears last defeated Washington back in 2003. Since that game, the Redskins have won the past seven meetings, outscoring Chicago 173-130 in the process. The most recent matchup took place during Week 16 of the 2016 season. Washington won that game, which was played in Chicago on Christmas Eve, 41-21 behind three total touchdowns from Kirk Cousins, who is now a Viking. Overall the series (including playoff games) stands at 26-23-1 in favor of the Redskins. The Bears' last win at FedEx Field came back in 2001, a 20-15 victory en route to winning the NFC Central (now NFC North) title.
The Bears may be on a losing streak in this series but they've upgraded their talent significantly since that 2016 loss. Under Matt Nagy, the Bears are 6-3 in road games and have won their last three games away from Soldier Field. Washington, on the other hand, has lost its last five home games by a combined score of 156-72. This will be a close and hard-hitting game, but the Bears will do just enough to break their losing streak to the Redskins.
Prediction: Bears 14, Redskins 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's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.