Reporting Jeff Joniak
Offense: Block the Blitz
This is the 8th straight start for the Bears offensive line. And it may be their most difficult challenge of the season. Rex Ryan’s defense brings the heat on every down. He brings pass rushers from all angles on every snap. Thirteen different Jets have sacks in 2010, so they spread the wealth. While this group is vastly improved at protecting Jay Cutler, the Jets will challenge their technique and their decision making. Fundamentals rule, and a quick passing game and insistence on a balanced attack can help defeat the Jets. New York’s defense is highly ranked in every category.
Defense: Harass Sanchez
No defense in the last seven games has more sacks than the Bears. With 21, by 10 different players, the Bears are coming together at the right time with their pass rush. Ideally, this defense excels with front four pressure without the need of a blitz. Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije each have 8 sacks this season, and getting to double digits would mark the first time under Lovie Smith with the Bears that he would have two defensive ends with that production. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is dangerous, but susceptible to mistakes. His completion percentage has dropped to 54%. Something for the Bears to take advantage of.
Special Teams: Stop Smith
Dave Toub’s special teams unit has risen to second in the NFL, but their biggest area of improvement still needs to come in kickoff coverage. The Bears are giving up 24.1 yards and a long of 60. They’re task is tough this week in Brad Smith. His kick return touchdown to open last week’s game in Pittsburgh got the Jets rolling to victory. Smith has two this season and leads the league in average. Being sure tacklers will be of major importance this week.
Intangibles: Don’t relax
Just because the Bears are NFC north champions, doesn’t mean they can relax. There is much to secure in the playoff picture. Each win really creates a situation where the Bears move deeper into the playoffs. Getting that first round bye is the carrot right now. Two wins clinch it… one might get it coupled with losses by the Eagles and Giants. Finishing the season strong becomes the next hurdle for the Bears and maybe the most important hurdle.