After watching the drubbing the Patriots gave the Jets on Monday Night Football, I must say I'm a little tempted to portray the role of Adrian Balboa in Rocky IV in this preview. She stood at the top of the stairs after Rocky agreed to fight Drago and screamed at him, "You can't win!". Unfortunately, the Bears are mandated by the NFL to play every game on their schedule. In boxing, you can simply talk trash in the media while continuing to dodge your opponent (see Mayweather, Floyd Jr.). Our beloved team does not have that option. This game will take on Sunday afternoon in front of a national audience. The last time the Bears faced a hot team at home in front of a national audience was two weeks ago against Philadelphia. That turned out pretty well. I'm not so sure that will happen again. I'm not going to say the Bears can't win, but they are going to have to pull off a Rocky type upset.
The Patriots have the best offense in the NFL. They are averaging over 31 points per game this season, and they are averaging 40 points per game over their last four games. Tom Brady is playing some of his best football, which is impressive considering his long-track record of success. He's thrown 27 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions, he's completing 66.8% of his passes, and his rating is 109.5. He's only been sacked 18 times. If all of that wasn't enough to scare the Ditka mustache right off your face then consider the fact that they also run the ball pretty well (111.5 yds/game). Green-Ellis is averaging 4.3 yards per carry and Danny Woodhead is averaging 5.4 per carry. Can you say offensive line? It takes some real talent up front to pull of those stats, and the Patriots have it.
The scariest part of Patriots offense is that they don't rely on the big play. They are more than happy to check down, move the chains, and control the clock. Their receivers and backs are small and quick allowing them to take short completions and turn them into long gains. This is not a good match up for the Bears. The cover-two is designed to take away the big play, and force short throws and sure tackling. Even if the Bears are able to shut down their running game, I'm still worried Brady will complete 80% of his passes on Sunday. If he does, the Bears can't win.
Given all of this, is there any hope for the Bears? Yes. The Patriots defense has struggled (22.4 pts/game). They can be run on (114.1 yds/game) and, especially, thrown on (276.8 yds/game). They are a very young defense, but they are coached by a true defensive genius in Belichick. I'm sure he'll dial up some exotic blitzes to confuse the Bears enigmatic offensive line. Martz will need to be at his very best to counter some of the things the Patriots will do. If I had to guess, though, I'd say the Patriots won't blitz much. They'll show pressure and bring it from weird places when they do blitz, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that they'll play mostly coverage. Belichick always goes against the grain. The Bears will need to run the ball often and convert third downs at the same rate they've been able to since the bye week. The best defense against the Patriots offense is to keep them off the field.
For the Bears to win, they will need to dominate the time of possession, field position, and the turnover ratio. They'll need to harass Brady the same way they got after Vick, and someone in the secondary is going to have to make a huge play. And, Cutler will have to have another one of those "Wow, I'm glad we traded for him!" games. It's up to the offense to have a monster game because it is unlikely the Bears defense can keep the Patriots under 27 points.
I've picked against the Bears twice (Cowboys & Vikings), and I was wrong both times. That said, I can't just pick the Bears every week because I'm a huge homer. I hope I'm wrong again, but I just don't see the Bears winning this game. If they do, I'll be the first one on the Super Bowl bandwagon and I'll gladly eat crow!
Patriots 31, Bears 20