3TFO: Bears @ Redskins, Week 7
This weekend the 4-2 Chicago Bears travel to DC to play the 1-4 Washington Redskins. The Bears are trying to stay at the top of a hyper-competitive NFC North with their much improved passing game keeping them afloat. For the Redskins, who find themselves only a game and a half out of first in the NFC East, the running game and pass rush have been solid, but they are struggling in most every other category.
Each team is fielding one of the league’s worst defenses so far this season. The Redskins’ player-by-player cumulative run grade of -22.7 ranks 29th, and their overall defense ranks 30th. They have, however, been able to generate some pass rush, just not enough to cover holes on the back end of the defense. The Bears’ cumulative defensive grade overall ranks 29th, and while they are still getting timely turnovers, when the turnovers don’t come the defense tends to really struggle.
This game is going to be ultimately decided by the play of these two under-performing defenses. Which quarterback will be able to expose these deficiencies? Which defense will be able to create big plays and turnovers? I take a look at a few related matchups below.
Jay Cutler vs. Redskins secondary
Jay Cutler looks as comfortable now as he ever has. Despite deficiencies with his offensive line, his performance has been solid. He’s been able to be a game manager while still taking timely shots down the field. His +8.1 grade is 10th overall and his PFF QB rating of 95.38 is fourth in the league. His overall Accuracy Percentage has also seen a 6% uptick from last year, and at 76%, it ranks seventh. Having the second- and 11th-ranked wide receivers has definitely given him a boost as Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery have combined for a +17.8 grade, 69 receptions, 921 yards and seven TDs.
The Redskins’ pass D could be in for a long day if they don’t see improvement — DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson, and Josh Wilson have combined for a -10.9 grade and none of the three cornerbacks rank higher than 73rd. They aren’t getting much help from the safeties either. Four players have seen time at safety for the Redskins — Baccari Rambo, Reed Doughty, Brandon Meriweather, and EJ Biggers and as a group they’ve allowed 27 out of 34 throws to be completed for a 79.4% completion percentage. They also have zero interceptions to go with five touchdowns allowed and quarterbacks have a 153.67 rating when targeting them. The best weapon the Redskins have to combat Jay Cutler leads in to my next matchup.
Bushrod and Mills vs. Orakpo and Kerrigan
The Bears’ rebuilt offensive line started well out of the gate, but as subsequent weeks have shown, they still have plenty of work to do. Their rookie right tackle Jordan Mills is struggling mightily. He has a -13.8 pass block grade this ranks him 73rd out of 74 possible tackles. The Bears also expected much more out of veteran Jermon Bushrod whose -3.8 pass block grade ranks him 56th. The 50 total pressures allowed by these two trails only Atlanta’s tackles for the most allowed this season.
The Redskins have their biggest advantage in the game in this matchup. Other than in Baltimore or Kansas City, it would be hard to find a better pair of edge rushers on one team. Brian Orakpo has 24 total pressures that factor into him carrying the eighth-highest pass rush grade for 3-4 OLB’s and his Pass Rush Productivity rating of 14 ranks him fourth. Ryan Kerrigan ranks 10th in both grading and PRP. Look for the Bears to test the shaky Redskins run defense early and often so they can keep these two off balance.
RGIII vs. Bears defense
If Robert Griffin is going to show that he is back anywhere close to 100%, this is the game. It’s a must-win at home for the Redskins and is a favorable overall matchup for him. His comeback from a torn ACL is well documented and his -6.9 passing grade (34th out of 38 QBs) shows that rust. His long ball has seen the biggest drop off and our Deep Passing signature stat tells the story. Last year he was 16 of 36 with seven TDs and an INT on throws targeted over 20 yards down the field. This year he is 4 of 20 with only one TD and a pair of INTs. He seems to have some of the speed burst back from last year, now he just needs to be able to step up in the pocket and make some plays down the field.
The Bears’ defense will give him areas to exploit both with his running and passing. On the D-line both Corey Wootton and Stephen Paea have positive run grades, but Shea Mclellin has been a complete liability as his -8.9 run grade is the worst among all 4-3 ends, while Julius Peppers has performed just around average. At the linebacker position, Lance Briggs has been solid against the run (his 24 stops ranks second), but both of the other starting linebackers have struggled. James Anderson is our second-highest graded outside linebacker in coverage but has the worst run grade. The Bears’ safeties are also struggling in coverage and against the run. Chris Conte and Major Wright have a combined -14.3 overall grade and have missed 13 tackles. At corner, Tim Jennings has been solid all year, but lingering injuries have slowed Charles Tillman when he has been on the field. The best case scenario for the Bears would be to see a prime and healthy Tillman and Peppers on the field on Sunday and to continue to force the turnover they are accustomed to.
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