Week 11 is here, and with it the start of the Bears’ battles against the AFC West. In an unprecedented happening (as far as my research could find) the Bears embark on a 4 game stretch against the AFC West. First up, the San Diego Chargers. Before I get into that though, I briefly want to talk about the game last week. The Bears offense didn’t play great, but they didn’t need to. The defense and special teams were absolutely fantastic. It was a great win against a Lions team with a big chip on their shoulder and unfortunately for them, a mouth writing checks their ass couldn’t cash. I get the feeling the Lions will still make it as the 6th seed in the playoffs, but they’re a 1 and done team if they do. Ok, enough about the Detroit Lions, let’s get on with week 11.
I will be totally honest, I’ve had a hard time trying to guess which way this game will go. The Chargers have a lot of big, strong talent at the skill positions on offense, a no-name, middle-of-the-pack defense, and are mediocre on special teams. The wild card for this team, of course, is Phil Rivers.
Rivers is a bit of an enigma. He has a goofy delivery, throws a fat lazy rainbow of a deep pass, and often seems like a brat with his whining behavior on the field. However, the last 3 seasons, Rivers has averaged over 4000 yards a season and an average of 30 TDs and 11 INTs. Is this year an aberration? His yards per game pace has actually increased, in fact, he’s on pace to throw 120 yards short of 5000 yards this year. Unfortunately for the Chargers, he’s also on pace to throw for an eye-popping 27 INTs and only 23 TDs. So what changed? What has caused these issues? Why has Rivers suddenly “lost it”?
It’s actually pretty simple, when you look at his offensive line play and the team’s mediocre defensive ability. This year, Rivers is on pace to take a Cutler-esque 45 sacks. Is he holding onto the ball too long? From what I’ve watched of the Chargers this year, no, not really. His line simply can’t block. To be fair, a lot of that failure has to do with injury. Dielman being placed on Injured Reserve now with the scary Concussion/seizure issue he’s had definitely didn’t help. Antonio Gates can’t stay healthy, which has been the knock on him for most of his extremely good career. Malcolm Floyd also can’t stay healthy, and in fact is not expected to be active this game. That means Rivers will be leaning on his two running backs, Tolbert and Matthews. If I were Norville
Reddenbacher Turner, I would lean heavily on these two running backs, using them in the screen game and short passing game, while leaving a TE or two in to block. Of course, Norv (just like his sad-sack brother) is in love with the long ball, and I doubt he’s reading this piece. (His loss)
The bigger issue for the Chargers is that they can’t stop the run and they can’t stop their opponents from scoring. This once stout defense is now 23rd in the league against the run. While they don’t give up a lot of yards in the passing game, (rank 6th) they damned sure do give up a lot of touch downs, rank 29th in TDs allowed. That is pretty awful. Now, is it their fault? Or is it Rivers’ fault for throwing so many interceptions? Which came first, the awful defense or the aberrant QB play? Frankly, I don’t care.
Here’s how the Bears beat the Chargers:
Step 1: Run the ball right through the soft Chargers D-line. Expect Forte to part the Chargers defense like a fat lady at a busy lunch buffet.
Step 2: Protect Jay Cutler. That is obvious, he needs his O-line to block well. This is also no-brainer, but Jay needs to make smart throws. It bears reminding folks, Eric Weddle is an interception magnet. He has 5 INTs and is tied for the league lead. He reminds me a lot of DJ Moore actually, in that he just always seems to be around the ball. Which is rather refreshing I guess, considering Weddle has a FAT wallet from that massive deal he signed in the off-season.
Step 3: Peanut gets a tall (yeah, bad pun, get over it) order this week since he’ll probably be guarding Vincent Jackson this weekend when the Bears are in man to man coverage. VJax is a prima donna receiver, of course, but is capable of throwing up ridiculous numbers like he did against the Packers in week 9 (7 for 141 and 3 TDs…Daaaaaamnnnnnn). I don’t know what it is about Peanut though, he apparently hates going against little guys and loves guarding big dudes. It’s weird. Anyway, sic ’em Peanut, tie him up.
Step 4: It’ll be hard to do, since Briggs and Url have lost just a slight step (What? It’s true and you know it!) but they’re gonna have to do their damnedest to defend Antonio Gates. Gates is a flat-out stud when he’s healthy, easily one of the best all-around TEs in the league. Since he’s not 100%, I do expect the Bears to have a slight advantage against him, but I think he’s going to gash the Bears LB corps for something along the lines of 8 catches for 100 yards and a TD.
Step 5: Peppers and the rest of the defensive line need to make Rivers feel extremely uncomfortable in the pocket. Rivers will dance like a Irishman doing a jig when his internal clock hits 3 seconds, so they need to make him make bad decisions. He’s shown he will.
Step 6: Let the GOAT loose. I am pretty sure San Diego is dumb enough to kick it to Hester. If they do, he’s gotta make ’em pay for it.
The Bears I believe will come away with a closer than it should be victory over the struggling Chargers, of that I’m pretty sure. However, it’s gonna be an ugly, sloppy game, with lots of turn overs and a lot of whacky plays, in my guesstimate.
Final score prediction: Your Chicago Bears 30, Chargers 20.