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Key Matchups

Week 8 Key Matchups


When the Bears host the Jets on Sunday, keep an eye out for the following matchups:

Bears LB Roquan Smith vs. Jets QB Sam Darnold
Bears rookie linebacker Roquan Smith will have a chance to introduce a fellow rookie to the Bears' dynamic defense this Sunday. Jets first-year quarterback Sam Darnold was the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Smith's name was called shortly after when the Bears took him with the eighth overall selection. The two don't just share the same draft class, they also shared similar post-draft experiences as the last two drafted rookies to sign with their teams. Darnold held out until July 30 due to contract negotiations, and Smith didn't sign with the Bears until August 14. Despite shortened time with their teams prior to the season, both rookies have shown why teams spent early picks on them.

Darnold, who won the starting spot during the preseason, has thrown 10 touchdowns, but he's been doomed by interceptions, also throwing 10 picks in just seven games, the most in the NFL. The Bears defense is tied for first in the league with 11 picks, and if Smith and the rest of the Bears pass rushers can get to Darnold off the edge, Chicago could add a few more to its pick tally.

Smith recorded his second sack of the season last week against the Patriots and could add to it facing a Jets offensive line that's struggled to protect their quarterback. Darnold was sacked three times last week and fumbled twice. He's been sacked 16 times this year. If Smith gets the upper hand in the battle between the rookies, the Bears will like their chances to snap their two-game losing streak.

Bears LB Danny Trevathan vs. Jets RT Brandon Shell
Linebacker Danny Trevathan has stood out on a Bears defense that has been brought back to reality in their last two contests. After dominating opponents in the first four games of the year, Chicago's defense has looked less superhero and more civilian in the past two outings. That's to be expected after some of the ridiculous numbers the unit put up in the first quarter of the season.

Trevathan, though, has continued to make a major impact over the last eight quarters. He tallied eight tackles and a quarterback hit against the Dolphins in Week 6 and recorded a game-high 10 tackles against the Patriots last week. He'll be facing an offensive line that features right tackle Brandon Shell, a third-year player that has started 22 games in his young career.

Shell and the rest of the line will be tasked with trying to create gaps for running back Isaiah Crowell. The Jets have been heavy reliant on their backs this year, running the ball more than 45 percent of the time on offense. Over the last three games the Jets rank fourth in the league in rushing attempts per game, averaging nearly 33 a game during that span. Trevathan is on pace for his third 100-tackle season, and if he can maneuver Shell on Sunday and limit the backs' production, it could be the key to flipping the script in Week 8.

Bears WR Taylor Gabriel vs. Jets CB Morris Claiborne
The Bears scored two receiving touchdowns on Sunday but neither came at the hands of a Bears receiver. Tight end Trey Burton and running back Tarik Cohen got the scores against the Patriots, showcasing the offense's multiple options in the passing game.

For Chicago to get its first win in a month, they'll have to get the receivers more involved catching passes. Receivers made up just eight of the team's 26 catches last week. Receiver Taylor Gabriel has play-making ability to have a big game Sunday. He'll match up against Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne and a Jets defense that has given up an average of 2.7 touchdowns per game over their last three contests, tied for the third worst mark during that span.

Gabriel has shown the ability to beat defenders down field and pick up big yards. His 54-yard reception against the Dolphins is tied for the longest Bears reception this year, and the first-year Bear has racked up 100-plus receiving yards twice this season. Claiborne is a touch matchup. The 5-11, 192-pound corner has two picks this year and nine passes defended, tied for third most in the league. If Gabriel can use his speed to create space downfield, advantage Bears.

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