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4 things to watch: Bears-Giants

Posted Nov 19, 2016

Senior writer Larry Mayer identifies four storylines to watch in Sunday's game between the Bears and Giants at MetLife Stadium.

The Bears will look to rebound from last weekend’s disappointing loss to the Buccaneers Sunday when they visit the New York Giants. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:

(1) Will the offense do a better job of protecting the ball than it did in Tampa?

The Bears gave themselves virtually no chance to beat the Buccaneers last weekend by committing four turnovers in the first half and five overall in an embarrassing 36-10 loss. They placed an extra emphasis on ball security during the week in practice in preparation for Sunday’s game against an improved Giants defense led by safety Landon Collins, the only NFL player who leads his team in tackles (74), sacks (3) and interceptions (4).

Jay Cutler looks to bounce back from a four-turnover game Sunday when the Bears visit the Giants.

Jay Cutler accounted for four turnovers against the Buccaneers, tossing two interceptions and losing two fumbles. The Bears quarterback didn’t throw multiple interceptions in a game last year until the season finale against the Lions. Given that they will be missing arguably their two best players on offense in receiver Alshon Jeffery—who begins a four-game suspension—and right guard Kyle Long—who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Tampa—it will be that much more important for the Bears to protect the ball Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

(2) How will the Bears fill the void created by Jeffery’s suspension?

Jeffery’s suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances leaves the Bears without their top impact player on offense. Receivers Eddie Royal, Cameron Meredith, Joshua Bellamy and Marquess Wilson plus tight end Zach Miller all will try to help pick up the slack. The Bears went 3-3 in the six games that Jeffery missed last season due to injuries and 3-7 in the games he played, so they have proven they can win without him.

“I think that group rallies well,” Cutler said this week. “When the news came down [about Jeffery's suspension], there was obviously some shock and feeling sorry for ourselves a little bit. But that room has got a fighter’s mentality. We’re obviously going to miss Al. But we’ve been in this situation before. We know how to use those pieces. We know what those guys do well.”

Meredith seems primed to step up. But he has only one reception in each of the last three games after catching nine passes for 130 yards and one touchdown against the Colts and 11 passes for 13 yards versus the Jaguars in back-to-back contests.

(3) Will the Bears be able to contain Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr.?

The Bears defense will face one of the NFL’s most dangerous players Sunday in Beckham, a highly-productive playmaker known for acrobatic catches and a flamboyant personality. In a win over the Bengals last Monday night he became the fastest receiver in league history to accumulate 3,500 yards, reaching that plateau in his 36th career game.

Beckham figures to see plenty of top Bears cornerback Tracy Porter, a veteran who has excelled against some of the NFL’s best receivers. Last Sunday Porter helped limit Buccaneers star wideout Mike Evans to four receptions for 66 yards.

“Tracy’s an extremely smart player,” said coach John Fox. “He has a good feel for coverage and passing games of opponents in the National Football League. He’s a very savvy guy. He’s been working through some things physically and that goes back to even last year, so he’s a pro. He knows how to manage that and I think he’s having a good season. It’ll be a great matchup this week. Every team’s got a guy and this team’s no different with Odell Beckham.”

(4) Will Bears first-round pick Leonard Floyd continue to excel?

The Giants were reportedly interested in drafting Floyd, but the Bears traded up ahead of them to select the Georgia outside linebacker with the ninth pick in the first round. Since missing two games with a calf injury, Floyd has been red hot, registering 4.5 sacks and scoring the Bears’ first defensive touchdown of the season in three contests. Floyd leads all NFL rookies with five sacks and will look to build on his recent success Sunday against the Giants.

Getting to veteran quarterback Eli Manning will be a challenge for Floyd and the Bears pass rush; the Giants have allowed only 13 sacks this season—the third fewest in the NFL—primarily because Manning gets rid of the ball so quickly. So if the pass rush doesn’t get home Sunday, Floyd and his teammates will at least have a chance to bat down some passes.