Hub Arkush: Prime opportunity for Chicago Bears to kick Jets while they’re down
Even healthy, the New York Jets shouldn’t be able to beat the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, and they won’t be near full strength Sunday.
Isaiah Crowell, the Jets’ leading rusher with a high-octane slash line of 81-459-5 on the ground, is likely to go in spite of dealing with a sore foot all week, but Bilal Powell — with only one less carry than Crowell for 343 yards and a 4.3 average — was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.
New York’s top two receivers, Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa, both missed practice all week with ankle issues. Enunwa is out Sunday and Anderson is doubtful.
Center Spencer Long is questionable with a knee injury, along with OT Kelvin Beachum, starting CB Morris Claiborne and starting safety Marcus Maye, who has missed time with a thumb injury. No. 1 CB Trumaine Johnson is doubtful.
The list actually goes on quite a bit longer, but I suspect you get the point, and the guys I’ve just named are almost all among the Jets’ top 10 players.
Worry if you must about Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson, whose statuses are identical to last week — limited in practice Friday after not participating in the first two days, and questionable for Sunday — and Eric Kush will be out with a bad neck, giving James Daniels his first start.
Bottom line, though, is even if the Bears were the sharks, this still wouldn’t be a fair fight for the Jets.
You get the West Side Story reference, or am I just too old?
When healthy, New York’s defense isn’t awful, ranking 19th in total defense, 14th vs. the run, 21st vs. the pass, 17th in points allowed and sixth in interception percentage.
But they will be far from healthy in the secondary, and they are just 25th in the NFL in sack percentage, so a fourth straight 300-yard passing day for Mitch Trubisky is on the table.
Second-year SS Jamal Adams, drafted just four picks behind Trubisky last year at No. 6 overall, could draw Trey Burton duty. But the Jets just don’t appear to have great matchup options for Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Tarik Cohen, and if there was a chance to exploit an opponent’s matchup nightmare with Kevin White, this would be it.
Avery Williamson and Darron Lee are the primary run-stuffers, and five-technique Leonard Williams is a Pro Bowl-level talent who will certainly test the rookie, Daniels, and Charles Leno, who is coming off a rough ride against the Patriots last Sunday.
Look for the Bears to run a bit more this week as they continue to search for their ground game, but only after they throw early to exploit the Jets’ soft spots.
Behind center, top pick Sam Darnold has a 56.1 completion percentage, 207 passing yards per game game and 10-10 TD-to-interception ratio, making Sunday an excellent spot for a Bears ‘D’ that’s been M.I.A the past two weeks to get healthy, with or without Mack.
Beachum is iffy with a bad back, a tough injury for a tackle to play through, and guards James Carpenter and Brian Winters and ORT Brandon Shell are far from the toughest test that Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Roy Robertson-Harris and Nichols have faced this year.
New York’s healthiest offensive threats, third and fourth receivers Jermaine Kearse and Chris Herndon aren’t bad for backups but should be manageable for Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara, and it looks like the Bears will have third corner Marcus Cooper back, too.
After the mess the Bears made on special teams last Sunday, the Jets’ biggest threat could very well be return specialist Andre Roberts, who leads the NFL in punt returns with an 18.8-yard average and is also top 10 returning kickoffs.
The Jets also rate an edge in the kicking game with Jason Myers 17-of-18 on field goals including 5-of-5 in the 40s and 2-for-2 outside 50, while Cody Parkey is 10-of-12 overall and hard to trust outside 47 or 48 yards.
At the end of the day, the matchups scream this is a game the Bears should win if they play the way we think they’re capable of.