The Bears (3-8) will look to snap a four-game losing streak when they visit the Jets (6-4) Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Here are four storylines to follow in the game:
(1) Who will be the Bears' starting quarterback?
Justin Fields is expected to be a game-time decision after being limited in practice all week with a left shoulder injury he sustained late in last Sunday's loss in Atlanta. On Friday, coach Matt Eberflus said that his preference is that Fields—who's listed as questionable on the injury report—will play "if he's 100 percent ready to play."
The second-year pro ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing with 834 yards and seven touchdowns on 122 carries and has thrown for 1,642 yards with 13 TDs, eight interceptions and an 86.2 passer rating. In the last five games, Fields has accounted for 15 touchdowns, rushing for 552 yards and six TDs on 68 carries and throwing for 773 yards with nine TDs, three interceptions and a 92.0 passer rating.
If Fields is unable to play, backup quarterback Trevor Siemian would make his first start of the season. The seven-year NFL veteran has appeared in just one game this year, completing his only pass for five yards late in a blowout loss to the Cowboys. Last season with the Saints, Siemian played in six games with four starts, passing for 1,154 yards with 11 TDs, three interceptions and an 88.4 passer rating.
"This is a guy that played a lot of ball last year," said offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, "had a lot of success throwing the ball around the yard a little bit. That game experience, you can't replace. That's a good crutch we get to lean on."
(2) How will the Bears defense fare against quarterback Mike White and a struggling Jets offense?
Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft, was benched this week in favor of White, a fourth-year pro who has yet to throw a pass this season but excelled at times last year. Last Sunday Wilson completed just 9 of 22 passes for 77 yards and a 50.4 passer rating in a 10-3 loss to the Patriots.
White was selected by the Cowboys in the fifth round of the 2018 draft out of Western Kentucky. He joined the Jets in 2019 but did not appear in a regular season game until last year when he played in four contests with three starts in place of the injured Wilson and completed 88 of 132 passes for 953 yards with five touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 75.1 passer rating.
In his first career start last Oct. 31, White connected on 37 of 45 passes for 405 yards with three TDs, two interceptions and a 107.9 passer rating in a 34-31 win over the Bengals, earning AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. On Sunday, White will try to jump-start a Jets offense that has not scored more than 20 points in any of its last four games, averaging 14.0 points per contest. Last week against New England the unit mustered only 103 total yards and six first downs.
Despite the Jets turning to a relatively inexperienced backup quarterback, the Bears defense is taking nothing for granted heading into Sunday's game.
"The NFL is a game of attrition," said defensive coordinator Alan Williams. "I know that coach [Robert] Saleh and the offense over there with the Jets would say, 'hey, next man up.' And that's why guys get reps. That's why you don't just have one quarterbacks … and guys are professionals.
"If you have ever heard of Wally Pipp (former Yankees first baseman who famously was replaced by Lou Gehrig), when you go next-man-up, sometimes don't sleep on the guy that may have been in waiting. So we will attack it. We will prepare just like he has been the starter all along. We'll go back and do our due diligence with past performances, past games and make sure that we have our guys prepared."
(3) How will the Bears offense contend with a talented Jets defense?
Regardless of who starts at quarterback, the Bears will be challenged by a stingy Jets defense that ranks eighth in the NFL in total yards (310.5 per game) and ninth in points allowed (18.6). New York has permitted 17 or fewer points in five of its last six games, yielding an average of 14.2 points per contest over that span.
The Jets defense did not give up a touchdown in last Sunday's 10-3 loss to the Patriots, who scored the winning points on Marcus Jones' 84-yard punt return TD with just :05 remaining.
The unit is led by tackle Quinnen Williams (8.0 sacks), end Carl Lawson (5.0 sacks), linebacker C.J. Mosley (97 tackles) and rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner (two interceptions and 14 pass breakups).
"That front is unbelievable," Getsy said. "[They] put four d-linemen in and then they kind of rotate four other ones that come in that are just as good. This front seven is the real deal. It's why they're having so much success this year. Then you put on top of it they've got a young secondary that's doing a really nice job too. They pose a lot of challenge for us that we're excited to go up against."
In five games since their mini-bye, the Bears have averaged 29.6 points and 365.0 yards after averaging 15.5 points and 293.5 yards in their first six contests.
(4) If given the opportunity, will the Bears do a better job of finishing?
Since beating the Texans 23-20 on Cairo Santos' 30-yard field goal as time expired, the Bears have dropped six straight one-score games. They've lost their last three contests after failing to score the tying or go-ahead points on their final possession.
"It's just execution," tight end Cole Kmet said after last Sunday's 27-24 loss to the Falcons. "That's all this game is. [It] sounds simple, but it's really hard to do. [We've] just got to execute better and when it comes down to the end of the game like that you've just got to be perfect in everything you do."
Kmet is eager for the offense to have another shot at a late game-winning drive.
"We've got to just do it," he said. "We haven't done it here in the past couple weeks and I want that opportunity again. We still have a lot of ball left to play here until the end of the season. I think these opportunities are going to come up more than once with these last six games we've got left. But I want the opportunity to do it again, and I think it's necessary for our offense to grow."
The Bears held a walkthrough at Halas Hall Wednesday afternoon as they prepare for Sunday's matchup with New York Jets.