LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBSNewYork/AP) — On the surface, this would seem like an easy one for the Chicago Bears. They’re trying to get back to winning against a team that hasn’t won a game all season.
The problem is the New York Giants (0-5) are no strangers to victories no matter what their record says, so the Bears (3-2) aren’t exactly breathing easy heading into Thursday night’s game at Soldier Field.
They see a perennial contender, a quarterback in Eli Manning with two championship rings, and signs of danger even if there’s a big zero in the win column.
“When you look at their personnel, they’ve got playmakers all over the field,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “They’ve got a future Hall of Fame quarterback that’s got a couple of Super Bowls. … They have firepower.”
They also have one of the league’s worst defenses, a running game that ranks at the bottom and is injured, an offense that leads the league with 20 turnovers, and a quarterback with more interceptions (12) than anyone else.
They won’t have starting halfback David Wilson. The team’s first-round pick in 2012, he injured his neck against the Philadelphia Eagles last week and will miss this game.
The offensive line has struggled all season through injuries to center Kevin Baas and guard Chris Snee, and it’s added up to this: New York matching its worst start since the 1987 strike season.
“I think our guys have handled it well, and I think they know that we can fix it,” Manning said. “They know that we can play better than what we are. They know we’re capable of more and that we’ll do whatever it takes to get that first ‘W.’ I think that’s been good.”
The fact that everyone in the NFC East is below .500 has Manning believing the Giants are not quite out of it. Beating the Bears would be a good start, and it would add to the percolating angst in Chicago.
Losses to Detroit and New Orleans have raised the anxiety level after a 3-0 start. The Bears struggled to mount a pass rush from the start, and that was before defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins suffered season-ending knee injuries.
On offense, they’re still adjusting to Trestman’s system. And they probably could have done without Brandon Marshall going public with his frustration over a lack of catches against the Saints, particularly given Alshon Jeffery’s team record performance in that game.
Here are five things to watch when the Giants and Bears meet:
MISSING MARSHALL: It’ll be interesting to see how often Marshall is targeted in light of his comments. He had five passes thrown his way and caught four for 30 yards and a touchdown. The Saints were blanketing him, and that created opportunities for Jeffery, who set a franchise mark with 218 yards. So do the Giants double up on Marshall? If they do, does Cutler force some passes to him or look more to another receiver such as Jeffery? Another possibility is the Giants pay more attention to Jeffery, which could ease the pressure on Chicago’s Pro Bowl receiver.
GETTING IT BACK: The Bears didn’t force any turnovers against Drew Brees and the Saints. Chicago has 14 takeaways and 55 points off turnovers. The Giants gave it away four times for 17 points against Philadelphia, with Manning getting picked off on three straight possessions in the fourth quarter.
UNDER PRESSURE: Losing both Melton and Collins left the Bears short-handed up front and dealt some more blows to a group struggling to wreak havoc. The only teams with fewer sacks than Chicago (eight) are the Giants (five) and Steelers (four), but there might be some hope for the Bears going against a shaky line. Manning’s been sacked 15 times, tied for fourth in the league.
RUN WITH IT: The Giants haven’t rushed for a 100 yards as a team yet after averaging 116.4 per game a year ago. They released No. 1 running back Ahmad Bradshaw to clear the way for Wilson. Now, he’s out and Brandon Jacobs figures to make his first start since the end of the Giants’ 2011 season. He played little last year with San Francisco because of injuries and a run-in with coach Jim Harbaugh.
NO DEFENSE: The Giants have allowed at least 31 points in each loss, tying an NFL record set by the Chicago Cardinals in 1954, and it’s not hard to see why. They have no pass rush and can’t get off the field on third down. Opponents have converted 39 of 79 chances, the second-highest percentage in the league.
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