The Bears (5-10) will look to win back-to-back games when they host the Giants (4-11) Sunday at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to follow in the game:
(1) Will outside linebacker Robert Quinn break the Bears' sack record?
After being limited to 2.0 sacks in his first year with the Bears in 2020, Quinn has had an incredible bounce-back season. The 11-year NFL veteran will enter Sunday's game with 17.0 sacks, just a half sack behind Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent's single-season franchise record of 17.5 set in 1984.
Quinn is also a half sack behind league-leader T.J. Watt of the Steelers and a half sack from becoming the sixth active NFL player with 100.0 career sacks. Quinn has already been named to his third Pro Bowl and was selected the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November. With another productive performance Sunday, he could add even more accolades to his already impressive resumé.
"I played with him before, so I know exactly the season he's having now," said linebacker Alec Ogletree, who has reunited with Quinn this season after playing with him with the Rams from 2013-17. "I've seen him do it multiple times. It's not anything new to me. I want him to go out there and continue to be that person and be even more dominant than he's been."
On Sunday, Quinn will face a Giants offense that ranks 12th in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play. With starting quarterback Daniel Jones out for the season due to a neck injury, Giants coach Joe Judge said Wednesday that he expects both Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm to play against the Bears.
(2) How will Andy Dalton fare in place of the injured Justin Fields at quarterback?
Dalton will make his fifth start of the season and first since Dec. 5 against the Cardinals. The 10-year veteran told reporters Friday that he broke his left non-throwing hand in the first quarter versus Arizona, a game he finished. He has also since dealt with a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list and a groin injury that kept him from playing in last Sunday's contest in Seattle.
In his first season with the Bears, Dalton has appeared in six games with four starts, completing 64.1 percent of his passes for 1,017 yards with six touchdowns, six interceptions and a 79.9 passer rating.
Dalton started the first two games of the season before sustaining a knee injury in a Week 2 win over Cincinnati. His next extended action came Nov. 21 against the Ravens after Fields exited with a knee injury. Dalton started the next two contests, including a Thanksgiving win over the Lions in which he passed for 317 yards, the most by a Bears quarterback this season.
(3) Will the Bears defense build on how it closed last Sunday's win in Seattle?
All three quarterbacks who've started for the Bears this season have capped long drives with touchdown passes to turn a deficit into a lead in the final 2:00 of a game. Fields and Dalton did it in back-to-back contests versus the Steelers and Ravens in November. But in both cases, the defense failed to hold the lead and the Bears lost.
Last weekend was different. After Nick Foles threw a 15-yard TD pass to Jimmy Graham and a two-point conversion pass to Damiere Byrd to put the Bears ahead 25-24 with 1:01 remaining, the defense preserved the lead. "It was awesome," said defensive coordinator Sean Desai. "That's been a big point of emphasis, to make sure we play great in the fourth quarter, and we did that."
The Bears defense enters Week 17 ranked 24th in the NFL in points allowed and ninth in yards, 25th against the run and fourth versus the pass. The Giants offense is tied for 30th in scoring and ranks 30th in yards, 27th rushing and 21st passing. New York has scored 10 or fewer points in four of its last six games, averaging 11.5 points over that span, and has committed eight turnovers in its last three contests.
The Bears have struggled generating takeaways, producing just five in their last 10 games after compiling seven in their first five contests.
(4) Will a Bears offense led by young playmakers show more signs of life?
The 25 points the Bears scored last Sunday in Seattle were their most in a game this season without the benefit of a touchdown on defense or special teams. Running back David Montgomery, receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet—all part of a core of young players who are key to the team's future—put on a clinic in producing yards after contact.
Montgomery won Good Morning Football’s weekly “Angry Runs” award for trucking a defensive back on an 11-yard gain. But Mooney was just as deserving of the honor after breaking multiple tackles on a 30-yard reception on the first play of the Bears' game-winning drive. Kmet also showed run-after-catch ability by breaking a tackle on a 16-yard catch to pick up a first down.
Although the Bears are not heading to the playoffs this season, their last two games aren't meaningless for their young players. "These games mean a lot," Kmet said. "For me, specifically, I'm a young player in the league and this is two more games, eight more quarters that I get to play and see more stuff and build on some things and try some things in these last couple of games.
"Everyone's playing for a job here. Guys are not just going to settle down here at the end. Guys are playing for jobs, future jobs. What you put on tape matters. That's big and that's why you're always going to see players fight until the end because this means a lot to us and guys want to keep playing, and the way to do that is putting good film out there."