Tom Brady and New England Patriots catching Chicago Bears at right time

Jay Asser 00:27 21/10/2018
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  • Two weeks ago, this match-up would have looked a lot different than it does right now.

    The Chicago Bears still have a good chance to upset the New England Patriots at home on Sunday, but the timing of the meeting isn’t working in the hosts’ favour.

    In Khalil Mack, Chicago have the exact kind of disruptive force that can make Tom Brady’s life difficult, but the star linebacker isn’t 100 per cent this week due to an ankle injury.

    Mack was limited in practice on Friday and is listed as questionable for the game, but he’s expected to play. How effective he can be is another question.

    He has five sacks and four forced fumbles this season, and had he come across the Patriots offence earlier in the season, it would have potentially resulted in fireworks.

    But New England’s attack has picked up steam over the past three weeks, in which they’ve scored 38, 38 and 43 points to once again look like themselves.

    Brady now has all his weapons at his disposal, with wide receivers Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon now practically fully integrated into the offence.

    However, it’s been the running game that has been the backbone and allowed the Patriots to move the ball as easily as they have.

    Over the past three games, New England are attempting the third-most rushes in the league with 33.7 and picking up the sixth-most yards with 148.3.

    Against Chicago though, the Patriots could be in for tougher sledding against a defence that is allowing the eighth-fewest yards per rush at 3.9 and the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game at 83.4.

    Mack may not make his usual impact as a pass rusher, but Akiem Hicks and the rest of the Bears’ front seven are still capable of turning New England’s attack one-dimensional.

    Where Chicago’s defence is vulnerable is on third down, particularly against the pass. No team in the league has allowed more yards per pass attempt on third down this season, with the Bears’ mark of 9.3 comfortably at the bottom, according to Pro Football Focus.

    On the other side of the ball, Mitchell Trubisky will have his work cut out against Bill Belichick’s scheme and preparation.

    Since 2001, quarterbacks in the first two years of their career are just 11-53 against Belichick. Kansas City Chiefs gunslinger Patrick Mahomes became the latest victim of the stat last week despite coming into the match-up with momentum.

    To slow down Chicago’s attack, the Patriots will have to focus on limiting Trubisky’s deep ball and containing Tarik Cohen, who has been one of the best receiving backs in the league this season.