The Chicago Bears will look to snap a three-game losing streak on Monday Night Football, although they’ll have to get past one of the hottest teams in the NFL to do it.
Despite losing their top two quarterbacks, the New England Patriots have won two in a row and have the best point differential in the NFL over the last three weeks. The Pats will host the Bears in a prime-time showdown.
The Bears will have a few extra days of rest after playing on Thursday night last week, while the Patriots could be in the midst of a full-blown quarterback controversy.
Chicago Bears vs. New England Patriots
Monday, 24 October 2022 – 08:15 PM EDT at Gillette Stadium
Spread: Patriots -7.5 (-110)
Over/Under: 39.5 (-110)
The Bears have put up fewer than 20 points in four games this season, including managing a mere seven on Thursday night against Washington. Chicago is the only team in the NFC to score fewer than 100 points on the season, and they have the third-fewest points in the NFL.
Quarterback Justin Fields has struggled, although it’s not entirely his fault. The offensive line has been a disaster, and the wide receiver corps hasn’t done much to help Fields out.
Woes in the Offensive Line
Alex Leatherwood began practicing the day before the Washington game, starting a three-week window for Chicago to activate him from the reserve/illness list. There’s a good chance he’ll make his season debut on Sunday, likely starting at right guard, which should help tighten up the line play. It will allow Lucas Patrick to move to the center, upgrading two positions.
The Bears will also likely be making a change on special teams. Return man Velus Jones Jr. has fumbled away two punts in the last three games, both in the fourth quarter. He also made some questionable decisions on which punts to catch and which to let bounce past him, costing the team field position. Coach Matt Eberflus said the team was “going to have to look at that” position.
On defense, the Bears entered last week’s game dead last in the NFL in run defense. An improved outing against the Commanders moved them into second-to-last. They could face a long day against a Patriots team whose ground game is ninth in the league.
Who’s the QB?
Mac Jones made the Pro Bowl as a rookie quarterback for New England last year, but he suffered a high ankle sprain in Week Four. Backup Brian Hoyer got hurt the following week, opening the job to Bailey Zappe, a rookie fourth-round draft pick. The unheralded passer out of Western Kentucky mounted a comeback against Green Bay that just feels short and has won back-to-back games since.
Zappe has completed 72.9% of his passes and has as many touchdown passes in two-plus games as Fields has in six as a starter this season.
Jones is getting close to a return, leading to the age-old NFL debate on whether a starter can lose his job due to injury. Bill Belichick refused to confirm that Jones would return to the QB1 spot when he was back, dropping a “we’ll see” when asked.
The Brady Effect
Belichick, of course, violated the “can’t lose your job to injury” rule two decades ago when he kept then unheralded Tom Brady in the starting job after Drew Bledsoe returned from injury.
In addition to the distraction of a quarterback controversy, the Patriots suffered several key injuries in Sunday’s win over Cleveland. Veteran special teamer Cody Davis suffered a knee injury that left teammates saying they were “gutted”. Receiver Kendrick Bourne and defensive tackle Christian Barmore both also went down to injury and will be monitored this week in practice.
It doesn’t take the league long to figure things out, and teams now have three weeks of tape on Zappe. Look for the rookie to take a step back eventually. If it happens on Monday night, Belichick will have to decide whether to bring Jones back in mid-game, which would allow the controversy to fully erupt into flames.
The Bears may not get the win in prime time, but they should stay close enough to cover the steep spread.
NFL Pick: Bears +8 (-110) at BetMGM