The 2018 NFL season has been a showcase of the quarterbacks of the future, and the New York Jets vs. Chicago Bears matchup on Sunday is another example of that. This year's third overall pick, Sam Darnold, leads his Jets (3-4) into Soldier Field to take on the Bears (3-3), who are led by last year’s second overall pick, Mitchell Trubisky. Both teams come into this game with chips on their shoulders and something to prove. This is the second of four straight games in which the Bears take on the AFC East.
The Bears enter this game losers of two straight. They were upset by Miami on the road two weeks ago and made too many mistakes in losing to New England at home last Sunday. Chicago also is dealing with some injuries to key players. Despite the losses, the Bears continue to put points on the scoreboard with Trubisky in particular filling up the stat sheet. But it's the defense that was so solid leading into the Week 5 bye that has taken some hits lately.
The Jets on the other hand have gone 2-1 in their last three games. They’ve scored 93 points during this stretch and Darnold has proven to be worth the investment thus far. Their run game took a huge hit when it was revealed that running back Bilal Powell, who is second on the team with 343 rushing yards, will miss the rest of the season due to a bulging disc in his neck that will require surgery.
Can the Bears come out of hibernation at home? Or will the young J-E-T-S take another step forward?
New York at Chicago
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Bears -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Sam Darnold is the real deal so far
Tom Brady he’s not, but the former USC standout has operated this offense with efficiency. In those last three games in which the Jets have scored 93 points Darnold has completed 51-of-94 passes for 684 yards and six touchdowns. The four interceptions during that stretch are problematic, but he’ll eventually clean those mistakes up as he gains more experience. But he is completing 56 percent of his passes on the year and has a passer rating of 74.3. The Bears will need to get their pass rush back against the Jets if they want a chance to break this losing streak.
2. Kahlil Mack’s ankle is still an issue
Mack was limited in practice again this week as he continues to fight the effects of the ankle injury he sustained against the Dolphins. The Bears mostly used Mack in pass coverage against New England and as a result he only recorded one tackle, which went a long way in allowing Tom Brady to throw for 277 yards and three touchdowns. While Darnold has been productive this season, he’s also been sacked 16 times. The Bears need to take more chances to pressure Darnold if they want to get their fourth win of 2018.
3. The numbers keep piling up for Mitchell Trubisky
He threw for 333 yards against the Pats last week which gave him three consecutive 300-yard passing games on the season. He’s only the third quarterback in franchise history to do that (Josh McCown and Brian Hoyer are the others). He has some mistakes to clean up from last week, and some mechanical issues to improve upon, but every week Trubisky continues to fill up the box scores. He’ll need to have another big game this week to put the Bears back into the win column.
While Sam Darnold has been solid this season, this will be the first time that he’s faced a top-five defense (Bears are ranked fifth in total defense). Even with Khalil Mack at less than 100 percent, the Bears are still a formidable foe on that side of the ball. The Bears have had some issues on offense as Mitchell Trubisky has been sacked five times in the last three games, wide receiver Allen Robinson has been hampered by a groin injury and the running game is inconsistent. Outside of Trey Burton (24 catches, 325 yards, 4 TDs) the Bears also haven’t had much production out of the tight end position.
Sam Darnold and the Jets will keep the Bears' defense honest, but Chicago will do just enough at home to pull out a close one in the end.
Prediction: Bears 23, Jets 21
— 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.