Barring any sort of setback before game time, Monday will mark the return of Mac Jones under center for the New England Patriots. Not getting thrown into the fire completely, his first contest back will be against a struggling Chicago Bears unit, who are averaging under 14 points per game the last three weeks. That includes a dismal seven-point outing last Thursday evening against the Washington Commanders.
Although the new Bears regime of General Manager Ryan Poles, formerly with the Kansas City Chiefs, and Head Coach Matt Eberflus, formerly with the Indianapolis Colts, should have a shot to make a big-time splash this offseason, that doesn’t help them at this juncture. Especially entering a stretch where they play the Patriots, Cowboys, then Dolphins. With that in mind, how do the Monsters of the Midway stack up going into this Monday Night Showdown?
Date: Monday, October 24th
Start Time: 8:15 EST
Location: Foxborough, Massachusetts
Stadium: Gillette Stadium
TV Info: ESPN (Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on the call) and ESPN2 (ManningCast)
Uniform Info: Blue Jerseys, Blue Pants
Chicago could be classified as an average to slightly about average defense to this point. Some of that can be interpreted as inflated due to them being ranked as the third-best pass defense in the league without matching up against a ‘good’ offense, but the Bears don’t control their own schedule. To their credit as well, the Bears have a couple of young up-and-comers in the secondary you should keep an eye out for. Firstly, is rookie safety Jaquan Brisker out of Penn State by way of Lackawanna College. PFF has him down for a 43.5 passer rating allowed when targeted so far, on top of Brisker having a pair of sacks. On the outside, they have third-year corner Jaylon Johnson, whom PFF has graded as a top 15 corner in the league.
The centerpiece for the Bears' Defense, like many great ones in years prior, sits in the middle of the field. That of course is linebacker Roquan Smith, who formally requested a trade just months ago. Teams have called about acquiring him (I think a certain AFC East Team would be a good landing spot), but for now, he is still a Bear. Smith has freakish athleticism and can be a game-changer in both the pass and run game. He didn’t win the Butkus Award his last year at Georgia, nor did get second-team All-Pro honors the last two seasons by mistake.
Upfront, this isn’t last year’s Bears who got the quarterback with regularity. Only 11 times so far have they gotten to the QB, tied for seventh worst in the NFL. The aforementioned Brisker, along with Trevis Gipson and Justin Jones lead things this year with just two sacks each. Jones made headlines earlier this week by bringing up Deflategate unprompted in an all-around clownish interview from all involved parties. Claiming that “I’ve heard rumors it’s still going on”. The one thing you ABSOLUTELY want to do on a week-to-week basis in professional sports is to give your opponent bulletin board material when you do not have to. Especially when you are on a team struggling as it is.
Another notable trend with this Bears defense. They are 0-4 when allowing 100-plus rushing yards this year excluding the Week 1 Mud Bowl when facing the 49ers. Should be tough sledding against Rhamondre Stevenson and a likely returning Damien Harris.
The Bears’ offense has been riding the struggle bus all season long, and the lack of an offensive line has a lot to do with that. Justin Fields was getting annihilated by the Commanders in the pocket with regularity, bringing the number of times he’s been sacked in 2022 already up to 23. Some advanced metrics put some of those on Fields, but their pass block win rate numbers feel very misleading.
To the man under center, Fields for my money is good, he just had the ability to do what he did at Ohio State, large in part due to the old Bears regime building an objectively mediocre roster before both Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy got fired. I don’t think it’s fair to make a full judgment on Fields just yet due to what’s around him, but consider me a fan, especially since he can do things like this.
While Fields does have some solid playmakers to work with, it isn’t to the level of what Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovaiola, and other young signal callers have. Darnell Mooney isn’t exactly a household name at wide receiver, but the mantle of being the No. 1 fell to him when Allen Robinson shut it down before going to the Rams. Some may remember is insane one-handed grab a few weeks ago against the Vikings, which was one of the better ones ever for my money. At running back Fields is handing the rock off to David Montgomery, as well as Khalil Herbert, who leads the team in rushing with the former missing a game recently. Worth noting that Herbert is averaging over six yards per car on just one more carry than Montgomery for the year. That’s been good enough for the Bears to be the No. 2 rush offense in football, along with 282 yards from Fields on the ground.
New England Patriots
A possible blow to the Patriots this week could be the absence of Christian Barmore. After leaving against the Browns early with a knee issue, his media availability on Saturday was scratched in favor of Jack Jones which typically isn’t a good sign. However, he was seen in the locker room earlier in the week by several members of the beat, including Mike Reiss, and scuttled out after being discovered. No Barmore this week would hurt some, but the Patriots did wonders against the Browns' running attack and could conceivably be trying some of the same stuff on Monday. Speaking of Barmore, he may have had the quote of the year in a locker room survey via Chad Graff of the Athletic.
Marcus Jones, who has been great in the return game to this point, saw his snap count nearly double from weeks five to six at corner, which was a very positive development. The rookie out of Texas even saw some scarce action against Amari Cooper, which is an even better development to this point. As for his interception that wasn’t called on the field, nor challenged by Bill Belichick, the hoodie said that the lack of a challenge was due to the Browns having to punt it anyway. Jack Jones, also seeing some time against Cooper last week, likely will see most of the snaps against Mooney. Not to mention the fact that Jonathan Jones is likely going to be back in the mix as well at corner.
The one area the Patriots' defense has to improve in however is containing mobile QBs, and they get another test with Fields. Lamar Jackson absolutely torched the Patriots when he took off in Week 3, and that can't happen here. Would expect to see Fields have a spy put on him more often than not. If there’s one offense that the Patriots could waste a defender as a spy on, the Bears are near the top as of now.
While Michael McCorkle Jones is expected to be under center this Monday, it isn’t 100 percent set in stone based on what’s been put out there. Should the Patriots continue to take it slow even with Jones looking better with the ankle this week, Bailey Zappe still gives New England a good chance to win. His 300-plus yard outing against the Browns on the road was superb and once again his lone turnover is hard to put directly on him. As nice as it would be to see him get a primetime start to end this “Zappe Fever” run, if Jones is good to go, he gives you the better chance to win, and that’s a fact. The big thing for Mac is to limit the bad throws he was making, specifically against Baltimore. If he can do that, this offense is going to be in a great spot moving forward.
Last weekend was also the coming out party for Tyquan Thornton, scoring career touchdowns No. 1 and 2. That outing could realistically spell the end for Nelson Agholor in New England for several reasons. Mainly being the turnovers, he’s created, on top of the fact that Thornton in theory can do everything Agholor can and then some. Wouldn’t expect a big haul for him, but I’d imagine Belichick deals him if he feels it's worth it.
Another wide receiver potentially on the way out is Kendrick Bourne. Teams have called on him, but New England hasn’t budged..yet. I personally wouldn’t deal him, but if a receiver-needy team is willing to go above and beyond to get him (Green Bay Packers?), it may be in the Patriots' best interest to make a deal. Could see a good return for him based on his incredibly team-friendly contract that has multiple years left on it. With that said, Bourne is likely going to miss this game, after coming down with a minor case of turf toe in Cleveland. Could be a lot of looks with Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker, and Thornton, with Agholor mixed in with that in mind.
Cam Newton forever on the subject. Onto the running backs, Damien Harris may only end up missing one game with his hamstring issue. Calling that the best-case scenario would be putting things lightly, having both him and Rhamondre Stevenson makes the Patriots one of the most formidable running attacks in football. Against a bad Bears run defense, keeping fresh legs on the field would be massive.
Points Spread: NE -7.5 (-106) | CHI +7.5 (-114)
Moneyline: NE (-390) | CLE (+310)
Over/Under: O 40.5 (-106) | U 40.5 (-114)
Patriots are laying points akin to what they did for a majority of the Brady era, at least for one week. To be fair that is warranted based on their success as of late. They are coming off back-to-back double-digit point wins and now face the second-worst points-per-game offense in the sport. The Bears have covered the spread twice all season (against San Francisco and Minnesota) and pushed against Houston. On the road, the Bears are 1-2 ATS and 0-3 outright six games into 2022. The under meanwhile has been the play for Chicago this year as well, with the Bears going over twice. Both of those were also the only two times the Bears have scored over 20 points as well by the way.
For the Patriots, they are 1-1 ATS and outright at Gillette Stadium, but 3-0 ATS in their last three. The Over meanwhile is at .500 in Patriot games, but also 3-1 since Week 3. With all of that in mind, I don’t like anything in this game, rather I LOVE everything in this game. Patriots outright, ATS, and Over given how New England has been playing offensively as of late. Also don’t think Chicago puts a zero on the board like Detroit did a couple of weeks back.
Even with the extra rest going into Monday, Chicago is facing another uphill battle early in the season. In fairness, every loss they’ve had outside of Green Bay has been by at most eight points. With that said, the Patriots are the best team they’ve drawn in 2022 save for the New York Giants (Shoutout to Patriots Legend Brian Daboll on the subject). This has blowout potential written all over it, but I think the Bears have the ability to make things interesting for a little bit. In the end, the Patriots should be looking at a > .500 record when it’s all said and done.
Final Score: New England Patriots 31, Chicago Bears 13
One last note, best wishes out to former Patriot JC Jackson, who went down with a horrible-looking non-contact injury against the Seahawks on Sunday afternoon.