When the Bears take on the Giants at Soldier Field on Sunday, keep an eye on these three matchups:
Bears LB Roquan Smith vs. Giants RB Saquon Barkley
Smith stopped short of saying that Sunday's effort against the Rams was his best of the season, but the team has to be pleased with how the second-year linebacker stepped up in the absence of Danny Trevathan. Smith recorded 11 tackles, an interception and a tackle for loss, but the biggest story might have been the fire and energy he showed throughout the game.
With the Rams' gameplan centered around running back Todd Gurley, the defense was able to clamp down on the rushing attack, particularly on third downs.
Smith will get a chance to show off again when the Giants come to town. Barkley is one of the league's top young running backs after rushing for 1,307 yards as a rookie last year, including 125 against the Bears.
"If he gets in the open field, he can take it the distance," said defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. "He's effective out of the backfield as a pass receiver well, so he's a three-down player. He's really good at everything that he does."
However, Barkley has been battling an ankle injury since Week 3, and his numbers have been down significantly in the last month. Last week, the New York Jets held Barkley to a single yard on 13 carries, eight of which went for no gain or a loss of yards.
Barkley is set to play against the Bears, and if Smith can keep a lid on him, the defense should benefit from facing a one-dimensional offense led by rookie quarterback Daniel Jones.
Bears OT Charles Leno Jr. vs. Giants LB Markus Golden
Golden has had something of a career renaissance in New York. The former Arizona Cardinal, who recorded 12.5 sacks in 2016, has battled injuries for the past few seasons. After signing with Giants in the offseason, Golden now leads the team in sacks with 6.5.
Last week against the Rams, the offensive line was able to give quarterback Mitchell Trubisky time to throw for much of the game. However, late in the second quarter, Trubisky took a hit near the sideline that resulted in the hip pointer that would limit him for the rest of the game. Coach Matt Nagy had to pull Trubisky late in the fourth quarter as a result of the injury.
If Trubisky plays, he may be playing through pain again, which makes Leno's ability to seal the left side of the pocket all the more critical. The Giants bring pressure from many different places--seven players have recorded multiple sacks this season. However, keeping Golden away from Trubisky will be a top priority.
Bears WR Allen Robinson II vs. Giants CB Janoris Jenkins
The Giants will want to put their top cornerback on Robinson. The team spent a first-round pick on DeAndre Baker last spring, but Baker has allowed completions on 70.4 percent of his targets. Jenkins, a former Pro-Bowler, has an edge in experience as an eight-year veteran and has only allowed completions on 54.2 percent of targets.
Robinson has been an important safety valve for Bears' quarterbacks all season. There have been times this season where nothing has moved the chains except the sixth-year receiver. However, the extra attention has led Robinson to have a few uncharacteristically games days in the past month against the Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Both Jenkins and Baker are on the smaller end, 5-10 and 5-11, respectively. Robinson should be able to leverage his size no matter who guards him. A big day from the receiver could open things up for the Bears offense.
The Bears moved inside for practice Thursday at Halas Hall as they prepare to return to Soldier Field and play the New York Giants.