When the Bears take on the Giants on Sunday, keep an eye out for these key matchups:
Bears WR Taylor Gabriel vs. Giants S Curtis Riley
Gabriel accounted for one quarter of the Bears' receptions on Thanksgiving against the Lions, tallying his third game this year with seven catches. Gabriel, whose speed makes him a threat to go downfield on any play, was used more in short-yardage situations as the Bears adjusted their game plan with quarterback Chase Daniel under center. Daniel was outstanding given the circumstances, but unlike Mitchell Trubisky, who is comfortable taking off from the pocket, Daniel prefers to pick up yards through the air with his arm. As a result, Gabriel and the rest of the Bears' receivers ensured Daniel always had some options downfield. Gabriel averaged just seven yards per catch, his fewest since Week 3, but his ability to always give Daniel an option was crucial.
With Trubisky's status still unknown, Gabriel could factor in a similar role against the Giants. Gabriel will square off against Riley and a New York defense that has given up more than 274 yards per game over their past three contests. Riley has 55 tackles this year and is one of four Giants players with two picks on the season. His third quarter interception against the Buccaneers in Week 11 helped the Giants clinch just their third win of the season. Despite their overall struggles this year, Riley and the secondary have limited opponents to just 1.4 passing touchdowns per game, tied for second fewest in the league. Regardless of who is at quarterback Sunday, Gabriel's ability to give him options and spread out New York's defense will help dish the Giants their ninth loss of the season.
Bears DT Akiem Hicks vs. Giants RB Saquon Barkley
The Bears defense has dominated in the trenches this year. Chicago is second in the league in rush yards allowed per game, giving up just 80.8 per contest. Hicks has stepped up this year, putting up Pro Bowl-worthy numbers as a member of the Bears dominant run defense. Hicks has recorded three forced fumbles, four sacks, nine tackles-for-loss and 11 QB hits. He's on pace for the most tackles in his career since 2013.
The Bears have held their opponents to fewer than 70 rush yards per contest over the past three games, but Hicks and the rest of the defense will face one of the league's most exciting rookies in Barkley. Barkley — who tore up college playing fields during his three years at Penn State and garnered Heisman Trophy speculation in his final season — has lived up to the hype as the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Barkley's 829 rushing yards this season rank fourth in the league and his eight rushing touchdowns rank fifth. What makes Barkley particularly dangerous is his ability to work as a receiver out of the backfield. Much like the Bears' Tarik Cohen, Barkley is a dual threat who on top of his rushing duties has tallied 581 receiving yards, second most among backs. Barkley is averaging more than 14 combined rushing and receiving touches per game, but if Hicks and the Bears can make him one dimensional on Sunday, Chicago could steal one on the road in New York.
Bears RT Bobby Massie vs Giants DE B.J. Hill
Massie has been a constant presence for the Bears up front, helping Chicago limit opponents to just 2.1 sacks per game. He was critical on Thanksgiving, Daniel time in the pocket to find receivers downfield. Massie has started all 11 games and is on pace for his first full season since 2014.
Opposite him and the rest of the Bears offensive line will be Giants defensive tackle B.J. Hill. The rookie out of North Carolina State has proven to be a reliable force on a Giants defense that's struggled to put much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Hill has two sacks this season, but the Giants as a team have just 14 total, second fewest in the league. Hill has also tallied 35 tackles this year and four tackles for loss in what's been a productive first season. It's still unclear who will be behind center for the Bears, but if Massie can keep Hill away, and the Giants continue their soft pass rush, the Bears receivers will have plenty of time to get downfield and make plays.