The Bears will look to record their sixth straight win Sunday when they visit the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:
(1) After his impressive performance against the Lions, what will Chase Daniel* do for an encore?*
With quarterback Mitchell Trubisky listed as doubtful for Sunday's game, Daniel is expected to make his second straight start. The career backup helped lead the Bears to a 23-16 win over the Lions on Thanksgiving, completing 27 of 37 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns, no turnovers and a 106.8 passer rating. Daniel's performance capped a short week during which he did not take any full-speed practice reps.
A week later, Daniel will enter his second start with an entire game and a full week of practice under his belt. "You get into a rhythm," he said. "You played one game, you played 60-odd snaps, you get a couple days of practice and you just keep building that confidence. You keep growing with the scheme and you just feel way better about it."
Sunday's game will be Daniel's fourth start in nine NFL seasons. It will also be the first time he's ever started back-to-back games—or even two contests in the same year. His two previous starts came in the 2013 and 2014 season finales with the Chiefs when Bears coach Matt Nagy was Kansas City's quarterbacks coach.
(2) Will the Bears defense continue to generate takeaways and touchdowns?
The Bears have been dominant on defense most of the season. They enter Week 13 leading the NFL with 29 takeaways, 20 interceptions and 104 points off takeaways and are tied for tops in the league with a plus-14 turnover margin, 15 forced fumbles and five red-zone takeaways.
It's been a group effort—10 different players have an interception. But safety Eddie Jackson has shined the brightest among a sky full of stars, scoring three touchdowns in the Bears' last four games, earning NFC defensive player of the month honors for November, He returned a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown in a win over the Bills and returned interceptions 27 and 41 yards for scores to fuel back-to-back division victories over the Vikings and Lions, respectively.
While the Giants (3-8) have struggled this season, they've only committed 12 turnovers in 11 games, tied for the sixth fewest in the NFL. That includes just seven interceptions on 401 passes by quarterback Eli Manning, who has thrown for 3,093 yards and 14 touchdowns with a 96.2 passer rating that is the highest in his 15 seasons in New York.
(3) Will the Bears be able to contain two of the NFL's most dangerous playmakers in running back Saquon Barkley and receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
The No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft, Barkley has emerged as a star as a rookie. He ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing with 829 yards and eight touchdowns on 171 carries and is tied for 10th with 71 receptions for 581 yards and four TDs.
"When Barkley was at Penn State, [Bears safety and Penn State alum Adrian] Amos said right now Barkley's a top three back in the league," said cornerback Prince Amukamara. "He wasn't even in the league yet, and everyone's laughing at him. And then you see what he's doing now—of course he has to sustain it—but he's been playing lights out for them. He's just a big guy but can run fast, is elusive, can shake guys. Coach Vic[Fangio] echoed it to us that we're going to have to bring our hard hats and we're going to have to tackle."
Like Barkley, Beckham is also a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. The Giants receiver ranks eighth in the NFL with 74 catches for 1,017 yards and five TDs.
(4) Will the Bears suffer any sort of letdown after winning three division games in 12 days and then having last weekend off?
Nagy has done an excellent job of ensuring the Bears are focused solely on the task at hand—wearing blinders and ear muffs to block everything else out, he says—and isn't worried about a letdown against the Giants.
"No, I'm not," Nagy said, "just because I feel like if there was going to be an exhale, they had every reason in the book to have an exhale after a big Sunday night win against the Vikings and exhale and have every reason in the book to come out flat against Detroit and they didn't. That teaches me who they are and they're grown men that understand where we're at now and they take this game very seriously. They understand that they need to be professionals and right now we have put ourselves in this spot. It's my job to make sure that we stay in it."
Nagy also isn't concerned that the Bears will look past a last-place Giants team that has won two of its last three games and lost contests by margins of 5, 7, 2, 3, 7 and 3 points this season. "No team in the NFL should ever be taken lightly," Nagy said, "and this team, 3-8, I don't care about the record. They're in every single game. They got good players across the board. They've got good coaches, offense, defense, special teams."