London, England (CBS Chicago)- A quarter of the way into the season, the Bears find themselves in second place in the NFC North by virtue of a 3-1 record and the hated Packers holding the tiebreaker.
As fans likely expected, the defense has been monstrous while the offense has been, well, below average would be putting it charitably. Now, the team makes the trip across the pond to London to face a 2-2 Raiders team, in what is being billed as the ‘Khalil Mack Revenge Game.’ There is good reason for that too, as SportsLine senior analyst Larry Hartstein explains.
“This is a guy who has 17 sacks since he left Oakland, and the entire Raiders team only has 18. He has 10 forced fumbles since he left Oakland, and the Raiders only have eight,” said Hartstein. “He is going to have a monster game. Roquan Smith is back for the Bears to help that defense. They have only given up 11.3 points per game. I think they hold Oakland to 10 or less.”
Mack is likely to have a significant role in this game, but so is the defense as a whole. The Raiders offensive line ranks right around league average in pressure allowed, having given up eight sacks and an adjusted sack rate of 6.2% according to Football Outsiders. Chicago’s defense is far from average. The Bears rank third in overall defensive efficiency, third against the rush and sixth against the pass so far this season. They also rank third in sacks, piling up 17 this season, just one behind the Panthers and Patriots, who are tied for first.
While the defense has certainly held up its end of the bargain, the offense has struggled to find a rhythm, with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The unit is 26th in offensive efficiency, as measured by Outsiders, and has yet to find a consistent running game, despite a solid backfield of David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen. Trubisky is uncertain for this game, after injuring his shoulder in last week’s contest against the Minnesota Vikings, which means veteran journeyman Chase Daniel is likely to start.
Daniel was solid in relief of Trubisky completing 22 of his 30 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. He seemed much more at home in Nagy’s offense than Trubisky has at times this season, which has prompted some questions about the young QB. Nevertheless, against a Raiders defense that ranks 23rd in the league in efficiency and even worse against the pass (27th), the offense should be able to find some success. And, as Hartstein points out, there are two other trends pointing in the Bears favor this week.
“Well, you look at the London game and the favorites have done really well — 15-9 against the number, 9-4 against the spread — when laying more than three points. In this game, you have a case where the Bears are laying 5.5 against the Raiders,” said Hartstein. “Jon Gruden, since he came back, 0-5 against the spread coming off of a win.”
The Bears enter the game as 5.5 point favorites. While the London games have given us our share of surprises through the years, the trends say this won’t be one of them.
The Bears and Raiders kick off this year’s International Series of games at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with kickoff set for 12:05 p.m. Central Time.