By Paul Dottino
» More Columns
EAST RUTHERFORD – Go ahead, think back to only two weeks ago. All of the logical football arrows pointed in one direction going into Indianapolis – and the Colts fulfilled their prophecy by beating the Giants. Well, the arrows appear to be pointing in the Giants’ direction against the Chicago Bears this weekend.
Think about it. The Giants (1-2) obviously should be the more desperate team than the Bears (3-0). The Bears are coming off a Monday night victory over the archrival Packers and will be on the road. The Bears have won all three of their games by making far fewer mistakes than their opponents (Detroit, Dallas, Green Bay). The Giants are adding to the energy of Sunday Night Football by unveiling their Ring of Honor, which should tap into the current players’ sense of pride. And, most important, the Bears haven’t shown much of a running game – which means they’re luck is going to run out sooner rather than later.
Here are your three key matchups to watch:
1. Giants P Matt Dodge vs. Bears PR Devin Hester. Can there be any instructions more simplistic than “Kick the ball out of bounds” or “Do not let him touch the ball”? Yet there have been far too many times when a coach and/or punter has stood in front of the post-game podium explaining exactly how those instructions were not followed. Yes, we know that Dodge has a very strong leg that could send the ball far over Hester’s head or as high as the moon. But Hester cannot touch the ball, period – not when you consider that Dodge also has shown a propensity for booting line drives and ugly floaters and his coverage unit has yet to show it can cover.
Hester, whose blazing speed and dexterity make him the NFL’s most dangerous returner, provides the Bears with their only edge in this game because they don’t have one on offense or defense. Dodge has the opportunity to take him out of the equation.
2. Giants DBs vs. Bears TE Greg Olsen. How do you defend a tight end who has beaten every type of coverage imaginable during the first three weeks? Teams have used zones, brackets and even asked a corner to cover him man-to-man. Nothing has been effective, with seven of his 10 catches accounting for first downs. He has become the Bears’ go-to player on offense, which is quite a change for offensive coordinator Mike Martz, whose past schemes usually ignored the position.
The Giants are apt to disguise a variety of methods against Olsen, who likely will be spending different parts of his day matched up against any one or more of the following: LB Michael Boley, CB Aaron Ross, S Deon Grant, S Antrel Rolle and S Kenny Phillips. We can’t be more specific because we’d expect defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to be at his creative best against Martz, his former boss in St. Louis (2003-04).
3. Giants LT David Diehl and RT Kareem McKenzie vs. Bears DE Julius Peppers. Peppers, who will flop sides, is one of those rare pass rushers who has the speed to beat you off the edge – which has been a problem for both of the Giants’ tackles – and unleashes enough power to take you on head-to-head. Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride admits that you always have to know where Peppers is lined up and it’s usually a good idea to provide some help to the guy blocking him.
Peppers has registered a sack in four of his five career games against the Giants, all coming while he was with the Carolina Panthers. Often, the best way to control Peppers’ pass rush is to run directly at him – a heavy dose of Brandon Jacobs (who needs many more touches) might be the best way to go.
PREDICTION: Giants 28, Bears 17
PREDICTION RECORD: 2-1
AGAINST THE SPREAD: 0-3