NFL Thursday Night Football Preview: Washington Commanders @ Chicago Bears
We start week 6 of the NFL season with the Washington Commanders traveling to Soldier Field where the Chicago Bears are a one-point favorite at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Both teams are coming off heartbreaking losses and will be looking to rebound with a win on Thursday night. The Commanders have been in the headlines for the wrong reasons due to head coach Ron Rivera’s controversial quote on his quarterback Carson Wentz. You would think that Rivera knew what he was getting when the Commanders acquired Wentz in the off-season but it is clear he did not understand how poorly Wentz had played in the past two seasons.
Does Wentz deserve the blame for how poorly Washington is playing? Of course, he does, that’s the unfair criticism of playing quarterback in the NFL, you get praised when things go good and blamed when they are not good no matter if you are at fault or not.
While Wentz does deserve some of the blame, he’s not the only person at fault here. Rivera is for sure at the top of that list along with Jack Del Rio and of course owner Daniel Snyder. There is a lot of turmoil going on in Washington which is never good for any team and definitely not good for a struggling 1-4 team traveling on a short week.
In Chicago, there should be a lot of optimism from fans, coaches, and front-office executives on how their team has been playing and fighting week in and week out. The Chicago Bears have lost one-possession games in each of the previous three weeks which shows their resilience and toughness to be in all of these games with a chance to win them.
A direct correlation to why the Bears have been able to compete within these games is the week-to-week growth of Justin Fields who is slated to have a new weapon at his disposal on Thursday night. Early in the season, it seemed as if head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy were in a way keeping Fields from being able to actually throw the ball.
Now was this them saying Fields is not capable of being successful through the air or was it more of them wanting to slow the game down, run the ball, and limit possessions for the opponents? That is yet to be answered but I would think it is a combination of both. The Chicago Bears rank 32nd in pass attempts per game (17.6), completions per game (9.8), and passing yards per game (116.6). This lackluster passing output is not going to get it done in today’s NFL landscape. If you are not capable of being able to be at least a threat of throwing the ball downfield, it is extremely hard to win.
Over the last few games, the coaching staff has increased the passing output from Fields, letting him throw it a little more than in previous weeks. Although they have lost both games, the offense has looked more fluid and less predictable.
During that two-week span, Fields has thrown the ball over 20 times per game and had his most efficient game of the season against division foe Minnesota Vikings where he completed 71 percent of his passes for 208 yards. The threat of the passing game allows David Montgomery to see fewer stacked boxes which leads to him having better success running the ball. This Commander defense is a step down from what they saw with the Vikings last week, so I expect another improved effort from this Chicago Bears offense.
Montgomery is coming off a horrible performance on the ground where he only averaged 1.7 yards per carry but do not forget this was his first game back from an ankle injury suffered against the Texans. Washington has been solid this year against the run, ranking 14th in rush defense, allowing under 115 yards per game. The Bears do rank top 5 in rush offense, so this matchup is the definition of good on good and I think will ultimately determine who comes out on top in this game.
The over/under for this game is set at 37.5 which implies that we are in for a slow-paced non-offensive game which I think favors the Bears and their rush attack. They will indeed rely heavily to their run game while Washington has not had any success in getting the run game going, ranking 28th in rushing offense. The strength of this Washington offense is the passing attack where they rank top 10 in pass yards per game, but the Chicago Bears have had success in defending the pass, ranking 9th in passing defense.
The Bears are favored for the 2nd time this season and went under their totals in three of the five games. Washington also went under in three of their 5 games, so the offense could be at a premium this Thursday. The trajectory of both teams is headed in different directions and on a short week, I think this sets up perfect for the Chicago Bears to get back in the win column. The offensive line played extremely well against a tough Vikings front and only allowed two sacks which is a step in the right direction after allowing 11 sacks combined in the previous two games.
A nice balance of run and pass from the Chicago Bears should keep the Washington defense guessing and the Bears defense should cause a few Wentz miscues to be able to set up short fields for their offense. Look for the Bears to play extremely confident and poised to cover this game on Thursday night as they move to .500 on the season.
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