Coming off of an embarrassing performance against the Miami Dolphins, the Chicago Bears’ defense will have an even tougher on Sunday against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Last week, the Patriots put up 43 points against the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s not saying much considering the Chiefs’ defense is one of the worst units in the entire NFL. Still, having the greatest QB of All-Time and Josh McDaniels as an offensive coordinator make the Patriots a scary matchup on paper.
The Patriots’ offense looks a lot different than it did in week one.
Brady was throwing passes to Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson for the first four weeks of the season. Things have changed in a big, big way with Julian Edelman coming back from suspension and the addition of Josh Gordon.
Now it seems like Brady has an infinite amount of weapons, especially with the emergence of rookie RB Sony Michel in recent weeks. James White is also one the best RBs in the NFL when it comes to catching passes out of the backfield.
Oh yeah, they also have maybe the best TE of All-Time in Rob Gronkowski. Talk about being stacked.
The Patriots have a bunch of versatile WRs that can do a little bit of everything. Take Edelman for example. He can play on the inside or outside and be effective doing both. Against the Chiefs, he was all over the place.
On the play below we see him lined up in the slot. The result is an easy touchdown. The Bears’ CBs will have their hands full on Sunday.
Don’t think for a second I wasn’t going to include my favorite statistic (DVOA) in this article. Football Outsiders does a great job of explaining DVOA here:
DVOA is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down: Five yards on third-and-4 are worth more than five yards on first-and-10 and much more than five yards on third-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback. Because DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative.
The Patriots’ offense ranks seventh in DVOA. Their passing offense is eighth in the NFL in DVOA, while their rush offense is eighth as well. For the first time in a while, the Patriots are balanced on offense, which is a scary thing.
Play action has been used a ton by the Patriots this season because of their balanced offense. It’s giving teams a lot of problems. Josh McDaniels is so good at disguising formations as well. The Bears will see a ton of different looks on Sunday.
Vegas has given the Patriots an implied team total of 26.3 points for Sunday’s game against the Bears. On the flip side, the Bears’ offense has an implied team total of 23.3 points. One could infer that the Patriots are favored as the road team, making the Bears home underdogs for the first time all year.
Matchup the Patriots can exploit: Tom Brady’s Knowledge
At this point in his career, Tom Brady has seen everything in the game of football. That makes him almost impossible to stop on most days. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will have to prepare his defense for just about every scenario.
The thing that makes playing Brady so frustrating is even when you think you have him beat, you don’t. Take the play below for example. The Chiefs are bringing pressure, but Brady reads it and then audibles into a different play, which goes for a positive gain.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Brady is the Patriots’ most important player against the Bears. He’s the most important player for the Patriots’ anytime there is a football game. Can he be stopped? Yes, but easier said than done.
To beat Brady, defenses have to make him uncomfortable. In other words, pressure him. That may be an issue for the Bears on Sunday if Khalil Mack can’t suit up. His status for Sunday is still up in the air.
Matchup the Bears can exploit: Akiem Hicks Against the Run Game
Over the last few weeks, the Patriots have been able to run the football. That could change on Sunday going up against the Bears interior defensive line.
The Bears have been solid against the run this season. Akiem Hicks deserves a lot of credit for this. According to Pro Football Focus, Hicks is one of the best run defenders in the NFL with a 93.7 rating. No one is talking about it either.
If the Patriots want to run the ball on Sunday, they will have to go through Akiem Hicks first. Good luck. Hicks should also have some extra motivation going up against his former team. It looks like the Patriots made a mistake letting him go.
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