On Sunday the New York Jets (10-4) take on the Chicago Bears (10-4) at Soldier Field (1 pm EST). The Jets are coming off of an inspiring victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the Bears clinched the NFC North division title and are now looking to lock up a first round bye in the playoffs. Lets take a look at some of the keys to the game.
Protect Sanchez- It appears that quarterback Mark Sanchez will be starting on Sunday despite an injury to his right shoulder. The Jets must find ways to contain Chicago’s pass rush which is led by All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers ( 8 sacks). Look for Gang Green to use some max protect packages to help out Wayne Hunter as he once again fills in for the injured Damien Woody.
Repeat Performance- Last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers the Jets started out with the short passing game to open up the run and some plays down the field. The Bears defense is very similar to that of the Steelers, therefore the game plan should have the same approach. Gang Green should continue to use the intermediate passing game in order to establish Shonn Greene and the Jets ground game. Chicago has had some struggles defending the pass, so Sanchez and company should be able to make some big plays.
Rattle Cutler- The key to disrupting the Chicago offense is to get pressure and hits on quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler has a propensity to make terrible decisions when facing repeated pressure in the pocket, therefore the Jets must be aggressive with their pass rush. The Bears offensive line has yielded the most sacks in the NFL (48) so guys like Jason Taylor and Calvin Pace could have huge days. Maybe even Vernon Gholston could get his first sack?
Follow Forte- Running back Matt Forte is as dangerous receiving the ball as he is carrying it. The Jets must keep an eye on Forte at all times, especially on check down plays out of the backfield.
Cover Olsen- It is no secret that the Jets defense has had some issues covering the tight ends, and with Greg Olsen the Bears have a player that can do some damage. Gang Green must contain Olsen as Cutler could look to him often if the Jets corners can slow down Johnny Knox and Devin Hester.
Remove Hester from the game- Chicago’s Devin Hester could possibly be one of the best kick returners of all time. How do the Jets handle Hester? The answer is simple: Kick the ball out of bounds. This is not about being a prideful special teams unit, this is all about being a smart one. Do not give Hester any opportunities to beat you in the return game.
This game has huge playoff implications as the Jets can clinch a spot in the postseason with a victory, while the Bears are still in the hunt for a first round bye. I expect this game to be similar to last week: a low scoring ,defensive battle where field position is at a premium.
I think the Jets will make their fair share of big plays, but in the end I think they come up short. Nick Folk short. Bears 17-13 (I know many of you will not agree with this prediction, but in the back of your minds you just know it will be a “win and you are in” situation next week at the Meadowlands)