Young quarterbacks will take center stage when the Giants and Bears face off in Soldier Field
Week 2 of the 2020 NFL season features an interesting NFC matchup as the Chicago Bears host the New York Giants in their home opener. The Bears (1-0) overcame a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Detroit Lions last week, while the Giants (0-1) fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers at home in the first game of the "Monday Night Football" doubleheader. Despite last week's comeback victory in the Motor City, many feel that the Bears got lucky and that they aren't real contenders. The Giants, on the other hand, are still in the process of rebuilding.
The Bears are out to prove that last week's win was no fluke, while the Giants are looking for their first win of the season. Don't sleep on this game as it will be very competitive.
New York Giants at Chicago
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Bears -5
Three Things to Watch
1. Quarterback matchup
The Bears' Mitchell Trubisky and the Giants' Daniel Jones put up solid numbers in their respective openers last week. Trubisky completed 20-of-36 passes in Detroit for 242 yards, three touchdowns, averaged 6.7 yards per attempt, and finished with a passer rating of 104.2. All three of those touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter, during which Trubisky completed 8-of-10 passes for 89 yards. Those final two touchdown throws happened within the final three minutes of the game. Trubisky will need a repeat performance, or better, if he wants to continue to silence his critics.
As for Jones, he did everything that he could to keep the Giants competitive against the Steelers. He went 26-of-41 for 279 yards, two touchdowns, and averaged 6.8 yards per attempt. But he also threw two interceptions and was sacked three times. Jones led the team in rushing with 22 yards, which is indicative of the struggles New York had against Pittsburgh's stout defense. Jones in his just second season in the NFL and is still getting comfortable in the Giants' new offense under first-year head coach Joe Judge and coordinator Jason Garrett. Jones' athleticism helps him keep plays alive and should be something that the coaching staff will try and take advantage of moving forward.
2. Defenses need to improve
Both teams had issues on this side of the ball in Week 1. The Bears, who were a top-10 defense last year, surprisingly struggled against a Lions team that they normally have success against. The Bears gave up 23 points and 426 yards to Detroit. Former Viking (and Cardinal, Saint, Washington Football Team) running back Adrian Peterson led the way on the ground with 93 yards on 14 carries, and Chicago's defense recorded just one sack, one takeaway (interception), and three tackles for a loss.
The sack came from Akiem Hicks, who missed practice on Thursday due to illness. Khalil Mack (4 tackles) played through a knee injury, while Robert Quinn was held out of the game due to an ankle issue. Both Mack and Quinn have put in limited practice sessions this week, so it's possible the Bears will have their top two pass rushers on the field together for the first time. The bright spots on defense were the performances of Kyle Fuller, Danny Trevethan, Roquan Smith, and rookie Jaylon Johnson. The quartet combined for 24 tackles with Fuller picking off Matthew Stafford with less than three minutes to go to set up the game-winning touchdown.
The Bears have another tough task ahead of them on Sunday, not only needing to put pressure on Jones and keep him in the pocket, but also limit the damage down by Saquon Barkley and Darius Slayton. Barkley couldn't get anything going on the ground against the Steelers on Monday night (six yards on 15 carries) but he was a factor in the passing game (6 rec., 60 yds.). Slayton was New York's most dangerous playmaker in the opener, finishing with six catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
On defense, the Giants did a good job early against Pittsburgh but couldn't maintain that level of success through the course of the game. Linebacker Blake Martinez did his part, registering 12 tackles, but in the end, Ben Roethlisberger found his rhythm, throwing for 229 yards and three touchdowns, and Benny Snell took over for an injured James Conner and ran for 113 yards on 19 carries. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson were Roethlisberger's favorite targeting, each catching six passes with two of Schuster's grabs going for scores.
The good news for New York is that Trubisky is not the same caliber of quarterback as Roethlisberger, by any means. And if the Giants can make Trubisky play as he did during the first three quarters in Detroit, and limit the running game (Bears had 149 rushing yards vs. Lions), they'll give themselves a shot to win. Defense could ultimately decide the winner of this game.
3. Teams have seen a lot of each other lately
The Bears lead the all-time series with the Giants 34-24-2 (including playoffs), and this will be the eighth meeting since 2004. The teams have split those most recent meetings and this will be the third straight season they have played each other. Chicago was victorious last season, winning 24-19 in Week 12 at Soldier Field. In that game, neither offense was particularly sharp (combined 5-for-27 on third down), but the Bears made the most of their scoring opportunities despite losing the turnover battle (Tribusky threw two INTs, Jones lost a fumble). Overall, Chicago has won three of its last four home games (including that win over the Giants) while New York went 2-6 on the road last season.
This will be a neck-and-neck game for the most part. But the Bears will use their recent home-field success to their advantage, and I expect them to show improvement on both sides of the ball. The Bears pull out a close win in the end.
Prediction: Bears 23, Giants 17
— 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)