Three Things to watch, Prediction: Bears-Titans
|Saturday, November 7, 2020, 8:05 AM- -|
The Bears are at crossroads this week as they look to avoid a three-game skid. You have the Packers continuing to roll along, moving to 6-2 on the season. The Bears are sitting at 5-3 and are one game behind them in the standings, so falling further behind is not an option right now to win the NFC North.
Since the season started, it has been discussed that this chunk of five games would be their most demanding stretch of the season. So far, that has proven to be the case as the Bears have gone 2-2. Things won't get any easier this week as Chicago travels to Tennessee to take on a struggling but angry Titans team.
After starting the season 5-0, Tennessee has now dropped two straight themselves, and Head Coach Mike Vrabel hasn't been pleased. That led to the release of several veterans as Vrabel is proving a point to his team. Unlike the Saints and some of the other teams the Bears have seen recently, it all starts with the run game in Tennessee as the Titans will rely heavily on Derrick Henry.
With two teams coming in with two-game losing streaks, something must give as this game is just as crucial for each team. Tennessee needs to win to remain tied with Indianapolis, while the Bears need a win to keep pace with the Packers but stay in the NFC playoff picture. Here are three things to watch for in week 9.
Contain Derrick Henry and force Ryan Tannehill to beat you: As mentioned above, the Titans are a run-first football team who relies heavily on the run. That all starts and ends with one of the best, if not the best running back in the game Derrick Henry. Standing at 6-3 and weighing nearly 250 LBS. Henry is not your typical back.
Not only is he strong as an ox and tough to bring down, but his 4.5 breakaway speed also makes it nearly impossible to catch him in a footrace. Last season, Henry put the team on his back for almost two months, much like Adrian Peterson did during his 2021 MVP season. The Titans made it to the AFC title game before bowing out.
Leaders in rushing yards after contact:— PFF (@PFF) November 6, 2020
? Derrick Henry - 568
? Dalvin Cook - 435
? Todd Gurley II - 400
? Josh Jacobs - 398
? Kareem Hunt - 390 pic.twitter.com/ssEnpBgDiG
Henry hasn't performed as well this season as last, but he is still someone you need to focus on, especially now that he is getting involved in the passing game. I don't think it is realistic to think you can stop Henry, but the Bears need to contain him enough to make Tannehill throw more.
Tannehill may not be the best quarterback out there, but he is playing like a first-round pick since coming to Tennessee. Teams dare him to throw, and often Tannehill can beat you. Chicago has a great secondary, however, so look for them to make some plays.
Control the clock and force turnovers: The best way to contain Henry is to keep him off the field. To do that, Chicago needs to control the clock with lengthy drives. Even if all those drives don't result in touchdowns, the more time they take off the clock, the harder it will be for Tennessee to rely on Henry.
Running the ball takes time off the clock, and should the Bears control the flow of the game, the Titans will be forced to throw more. If that is the case, the Bears secondary needs to come up huge and force some turnovers. Chicago needs to keep Tennessee out of rhythm to prevent them from settling in. Should they do that, it could be an excellent day for Bears football.
This is a must-win game for both sides: With both sides currently reeling, this is a must-win for both sides, but more so for the Bears. Chicago is now looking up at the Packers, and if they are not careful will find themselves looking up in the playoff picture. With the loss of Mitch Trubisky for an undisclosed amount of time, that puts more pressure on Nick Foles.
Over the last month, the offense has not looked good, and you could argue that it was in better shape with Trubisky. Had he not gotten hurt last week, I believe he would have taken back his job from Foles. That no longer will happen, and this is Foles team, so keeping him healthy is a huge priority.
Foles has always been good when the pressure is on. Guess what? The pressure should be on him right now as he needs to lead his team to victory desperately this week. It will be a great matchup on Sunday, and the Bears need to pull out all the stops.
Prediction: These are always the games I hate to predict, given the contrast of styles. You have one team that lives and dies on the running game, going against a team that relies heavily on defense. Plus, it pegs two struggling teams against each other in a must-win situation. If Matt Nagy wants to hold onto his job beyond this season, now would be a great time to pick up the win.
I want to go with the Bears, but my gut tells me to go with Henry and the Titans. He is the ultimate X-Factor and will continue to be that type of player. Even if the Chicago defense can contain him, Tannehill is good enough to win this game with his arm. Look for another tightly contested contest, but the Titans hold on 24-20.