When the Bears take on the Patriots on Sunday, keep an eye out for the following matchups:
Bears DT Akiem Hicks* vs. Patriots QB Tom Brady
*It'll be a battle of former teammates on Sunday as Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks lines up opposite Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Hicks played most of the 2015 season with the Patriots before coming to Chicago the following season. The 41-year-old quarterback he'll face has showed no signs of slowing down in his 19th year in the league and is coming off a come-from-behind 43-40 win over the Chiefs in which he threw and rushed for a touchdown.
Brady's offensive line has also kept his jersey clean this year, allowing an average of just 1.3 sacks per game, the second fewest in the league. Hicks and the Bears defense will try to flip the script on the three-time NFL MVP who is 4-0 against Chicago. Hicks was held sackless last week in the Bears' loss to the Dolphins, so he'll be extra hungry to get to the quarterback this week. In his first month and a half this season, Hicks and the rest of the Bears defense have ranked near the top in every defensive category. Hicks has tallied three sacks and two forced fumbles this year, and the seven-year veteran is coming off a seven-tackle performance last week. I
n nearly two decades in the league, Brady has earned himself the respect of everyone league wide, but in less than half of that time, Hicks too has earned himself a league-wide reputation as one of the best defensive players. On Sunday, the one who outplays the other in this matchup will be key to his team taking home the win.
Bears LT Charles Leno Jr. vs. Patriots DE Trey Flowers
Bears left tackle Charles Leno Jr. has not missed an offensive snap this season. He's been a workhorse for an offense that ranks in the top half of the league in limiting sacks allowed. Leno and the Bears offensive line allowed just two sacks against the Dolphins, and Leno had a big block on the Bears' first drive of the second half to allow tight end Trey Burton to sneak in for a touchdown.
The Bears will need more of that on Sunday against defensive end Trey Flowers and the rest of the Patriots defense. The Patriots are tied for last in the league with just seven sacks on the year, and Flowers is on pace for the fewest sacks in his career. He has just two in five games played this year. However, despite the low sack number, the fourth-year defensive end tallied seven tackles on Sunday against Kansas City and still has the ability to get to quarterbacks off the edge.
If Leno can contain Flowers, it'll give the Bears an opportunity to take advantage on the ground against a New England defense that ranks in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards allowed, giving up more than 110 per game.
Bears CB Kyle Fuller* vs. Patriots WR Julian Edelman*
Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller is coming off a career day against the Dolphins. Fuller had two interceptions and tallied seven tackles. He took his second pick of the day 35 yards the other way and set up Chicago for a touchdown on its next offensive play. It was his first two-pick performance since his rookie season. The former Virginia Tech standout will have his hands full on Sunday against the Patriots. New England boasts a host of offensive weapons including veteran receiver Julian Edelman.
Edelman missed all of last year with an ACL injury and was suspended for the first four games of this season for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy. He made his debut in Week 5 and has appeared to return to old form in his first two weeks of play. He's tallied 11 catches in two games and caught his first touchdown pass since 2016 on Sunday night to help the Patriots edge the Chiefs. Despite being just 5-10, Edelman has made a career out of running crisp routes through opposing secondaries. If Fuller can lock down Edelman, it'll give the rest of the Bears defense an easier task in handling a sound Patriots offense.