The Bears (3-4) face a tough task this week, when they travel to Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Patriots. Here is the breakdown of the Week 8 opponent:
What's New: A hip injury to pass rusher Chandler Jones means some changes are on the way for the New England defense. Jones leads the Patriots in sacks with 4.5 and he played most of the team's Week 7 victory over the New York Jets. However it was announced earlier in the week he would be sidelined because of the injury. In his place, New England will look to its other top pass rushers – fellow linebackers Rob Ninkovich and Dont'a Hightower – to get after opposing quarterbacks. The team also made a trade on Tuesday, acquiring former-Titans second-round picks Akeem Ayers; he may play a role as a pass rusher. The Patriots sack opponents on 7.86 of their pass attempts, which ranks 11th in the NFL.
What's old:** Not much has changed for the Patriots. Bill Belichick is still wearing hooded sweatshirts on the sideline and Tom Brady is once again torching defenses on the field. The three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback struggled early in the year, averaging 198 passing yards over the first four weeks. Since October began, Brady has been back to his usual self. In three games this month, he's averaged 305 yards through the air while completing more than 64 percent of his passes, throwing nine touchdowns and no interceptions. Not surprisingly, New England is 3-0 in those contests after going 2-2 in September. One of the keys for Brady has been the protection in front of him, as he's been sacked just four times in the past three weeks, compared to nine sacks taken in the Patriots' first four games.
Last time out: Shane Vereen was key for the Patriots in the team's 27-25 victory against the New York Jets on Oct. 16. The running back, which had a more expanded role with starter Stevan Ridley hurting his knee the week before, had 114 total yards and two touchdowns in the victory. New England's special teams also came up big, as defensive tackle Chris Jones blocked a 58-yard field goal in the final seconds to clinch the win. The win extended the Patriots' home win streak to 12 consecutive games, the longest in the league.
Series history: New England leads the all-time series against the Bears 8-4, with victories in the last three meetings. The last time the teams played was on December 12, 2010, at snowy Solider Field, with the Patriots winning 36-7 behind two touchdown passes from Brady, who is 3-0 in his career versus Chicago. The Bears hold a victory in the most memorable game between the two teams, a 46-10 win in Super Bowl XX on January 26, 1986.
Ex-factor: The only former-Patriot on Chicago's roster is defensive end Trevor Scott, who played for New England in 2012. There are no ex-Bears playing for the Patriots.
Injury report: Ridley and Jones are two of the bigger names on the New England injury list, and neither of them will play against the Bears. Those two are not m the only ones banged up. Safety Nate Ebner is battling a finger injury, while offensive linemen Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly are both dealing with concussions.
Did you know?: There will be a familial feel to the Bears-Patriots game, at least for two players. Chicago safety Brock Vereen will be facing off with his older brother Shane, a running back for New England. The siblings, who are three years apart, have never played against one another before.
The Vereens are the rare brother pairs to both make it to the NFL, but they are far from the only ones. In this game alone, there are five other players who have brothers in the league: Bears guard Kyle Long (brother Chris plays for the Rams), tight end Martellus Bennett (brother Michael plays for the Seahawks), cornerback Kyle Fuller (brother Corey plays for the Lions), along with Patriots linebacker Chandler Jones (brother Arthur plays for Colts) and safety Devin McCourty (whose twin brother Jason plays for the Titans.)