Coming off a win, on a short week, traveling across the country, the Chicago Bears are playing in a “trap game” on Sunday afternoon. The Arizona Cardinals have started this year off about as bad as it gets.
They have scored a total of six points on offense through the first two games. Their defense has given up 58 points. These aren’t the Bruce Arians Cardinals – they are far from it. Still, the Bears cannot overlook the 0-2 Cardinals in the desert.
For the first time in what feels like forever, the Bears have a chance to go 2-1 and have a winning record for the first time since 2014, when they also started 2-1. Here are some things to keep an eye on Sunday.
1st Down: Jordan Howard needs more touches
It’s no secret that second-year QB Mitch Trubisky has been inconsistent so far in 2018. On Monday night against the Seahawks, Trubisky turned the ball over twice, which made the game much closer than it should have been.
I speak for many Bears fans when I say RB Jordan Howard should be getting the ball more, on the ground especially. He has just 29 carries on the year.
“I think probably a few more carries is probably the answer to that,” said Bears head coach Matt Nagy after being asked about Howard carrying the ball twice in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks.
Since the start of 2017, the Bears are sixth in rushing percentage when up by a field goal or more. Given the matchup, the Bears should be leading at some point in Sunday’s game.
In that same timespan, the Cardinals have allowed the fifth more rushing touchdowns in the league. Conclusion – give Howard the football early and often.
Sure, Khalil Mack has a favorable matchup every week, but Sunday’s just got even better.
The Cardinals will be without one of their starting tackles against the Bears. Andre Smith has officially been ruled out, meaning that backup John Wetzel will be the starter. Wetzel will have an impossible job – trying to block Mack.
Against the Seahawks’ mediocre offensive line, the Bears defensive line got after it. Sunday should be no different.
Leonard Floyd will actually be playing without a big club on his hand. Instead, he will wear some kind of brace that will allow him to move his fingers. That’s big news, especially because Floyd has been average so far in 2018.
On a side note, the Bears don’t blitz very often. They are generating enough pressure with just their defensive line alone. Shout out, Jon Gruden.
— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) September 21, 2018
3rd Down: Stopping David Johnson
One of the things that could prevent the Bears from winning on Sunday could be the inability to stop RB David Johnson.
So far in 2018, the Cardinals offensive coaching staff has failed to properly utilize DJ. Here is what I wrote about DJ’s usage when I previewed the Cardinals offense.
Johnson had just nine rushing attempts against the Redskins and 13 against the Rams. Game flow did contribute to both of those numbers. Common sense would tell us that Johnson would then have been used more in the passing game.
In 2016, Johnson was targeted a whopping 120 times in the passing game. He also caught 80 balls for 879 yards and four touchdowns. That’s the Bruce Arians effect. So far in 2018, Johnson has been targeted 11 times in the passing game. He has just six receptions for 33 yards.
Stop DJ, win the game.
4th Down: Final Thoughts/Predictions
Again, this seems like a trap game for the Bears.
It’s not easy to travel across the country after playing on Monday night football. Still, Sunday’s game is a must-win considering the matchup. The Bears should rely on Howard early and in the red zone, while also taking some deep shots wherever CB Patrick Peterson is not.
The Bears should this one easy if the gameplan is executed properly.
Bears 24 Cardinals 10
Picks Record: 2-0
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