As the Titans are surely studying up on their Week 11 opponent, the Chicago Bears, let us also take a look at the team and what we can expect to see this Sunday.
The Chicago Bears are currently tied for the third worst record in the league. They are also dead last in the surprisingly weak NFC North. However, this doesn’t mean that the Titans should look past the Bears and focus on planning bye week activities. The Bears are 2-2 at home this season, and Soldier Field is always a tough place to play.
QB: Matt Barkley
While Jay Cutler is the usual starter, there are multiple reports that claim his season is over due to a shoulder injury sustained in Sunday’s loss to the Giants. His backup, Brian Hoyer, broke his arm earlier this season and will also miss the remainder of the year. That leaves third-stringer Matt Barkley to take the reins as the starter. If he does indeed start on Sunday, it will be his first start of his career. In limited relief time, he has only thrown for 381 total yards, with 0 TDs and 6 INTs. Dick LeBeau loves to take advantage of inexperienced QBs, so expect him to try and confuse Barkley with a variety of packages with a heavy dose of blitzing.
Offense: 19th in Pass YPG, 20th in Rush YPG, 31st in PPG
If you are a Chicago Bears fan, there aren’t many bright spots to find here. Their biggest weapon, Alshon Jeffery, is in the midst of a four game suspension due to PED use. Fellow WR Kevin White, once considered a promising prospect, has barely been on the field during his first two seasons due to injuries, and will again be out on Sunday. And TE Zach Miller, who is ninth among TEs in receiving yardage, was also just lost for the season when he fractured his foot against the Giants.
The Bears are down three starting offensive linemen, and it showed against New York, who sacked Cutler four times. Expect the Titans’ aggressive pass rush to get after the QB in similar fashion. Perhaps the only glimmer of hope in this pit of despair is RB Jordan Howard. The first year player has rushed for 100+ yards twice this season and is second among rookies in rushing yards. If the Bears have any shot at winning, it will be because Howard does his best Melvin Gordon impression and gashes the Titans defense.
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Defense: 10th in Yards Allowed per Game, 19th in Points Allowed per Game
Injuries have decimated the Bears defense as well. OLB Leonard Floyd suffered a scary head/neck injury last week and is doubtful for this Sunday. LB Pernell McPhee had a fantastic 2015, but he has missed most of 2016 and hasn’t been the same player since his return. And LB Jerrell Freeman recently joined Jeffery on the suspended list, as it was just announced he was found guilty of PED use as well. To add to their front seven woes, the Bears defensive line is also missing two starters in Eddie Goldman and Mitch Unrein.
Perhaps the best aspect of the Bears defense is the secondary. Despite not having any big name players in that group, they held Eli Manning to 227 yards last week and only allowed Odell Beckham Jr. to accumulate 46 receiving yards. With the front seven missing a lot of starters, expect the Titans to try to force the run game early on.
Outlook for the Titans:
I honestly felt bad for the Bears while writing this. They may be missing more starters than any other team in the NFL. The Titans talented pass rush should overpower the patchwork offensive line, and DeMarco Murray will be able to run all over a depleted Bears front seven. The Titans secondary has struggled as of late, but I doubt that they are too worried about facing Matt Barkley. Perhaps this would be perfect time to give LeShaun Sims a run at starting corner?
The only red flags for the Titans I foresee are playing away and a possible lack of stamina. As previously mentioned, Soldier Field is a tough environment for visiting teams. And the Titans are now going on their 12th straight game without a bye, so fatigue must surely be setting in. However, as long as the Titans can stop Jordan Howard from having another big day, I think they should be able to dispatch of the Bears quite easily. There is no such thing as a “gimme” in the NFL, but this is probably the most favorable matchup the Titans will have this season.