Washington Commanders vs. Chicago Bears TNF Breakdown

Justin Fields

Thursday night’s game this week will feature two teams desperate for a win, as the Washington Commanders (1-4) visit the Chicago Bears (2-3) at historic Soldier Field.

Both teams are coming off heartbreaking losses in Week 5. The Commanders fell to the Titans, 21-17, almost pulling off the upset, and the Bears fought back from 18 points down to take a fourth-quarter lead, only to see Kirk Cousins and the Vikings prevail in the end, 29-22.

Commanders Offense vs. Bears Defense

Washington comes into the game currently ranked 19th in total yards per game and averaging 18 points a contest, which is on the lower end of the NFL (23rd). The Commanders face a Bears defense similarly situated in the bottom half of the league, ranking 22nd overall and giving up 170 yards per game on the ground (31st).

Look for the Commanders to run the ball early and see if the Bears have addressed this area. Washington is averaging just 89 yards a game on the ground and has relied mostly on the arm talent of Carson Wentz and a receiving corps that includes Pro Bowler Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and Jahan Dotson. Dotson has missed time with a hamstring injury and is not likely to play, opening the door for second-year receiver Dyami Brown to get some meaningful playing time. Brown took advantage of his opportunity against the Titans to the tune of three catches for 111 yards and two TDs.

All in all, the much-maligned Wentz has played pretty well over the first five weeks, completing 63% of his passes and throwing 10 touchdowns. On the other hand, he has thrown six interceptions (including an INT on the final play of last week’s game), lost one fumble on the season, and has been sacked 20 times. In order to turn this thing around, Washington will have to throw the ball, but they’ll need to stay away from the wide side of the field and deep passes, and instead attack DBs Kindle Vildor and Jaylon Jones, the latter who is filling in for the injured Jaylon Johnson. If Johnson is out again, look for Wentz and his guys McLaurin, Samuel and Brown to have great success against this group — they just have to always know where safety Eddie Jackson is. Don’t try him; he is a ballhawk.

We will likely see a lot of Tampa 2 from coach Matt Eberflus and this Chicago defense to take away the deep stuff, so the Commanders can’t be choosy and turn down a profit if the checkdown is there. And not to state the obvious, but Wentz and the Commanders offense will have to do a great job of ball security as the Bears defense ranks in the top 10 when it comes to takeaways.

Bears Offense vs. Commanders Defense

Coming into this contest, the Bears offense ranks in the bottom five of most major statistical categories. The one thing they do really well is run the football. Running backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert are getting the lion’s share of the carries, while Justin Fields will get his yards on the ground with designed QB runs, zone reads and scramble plays.

The Washington defense is anchored by a strong and deep front and employs active, off-ball linebackers like Cole Holcomb, who had double-digit tackles last week against Tennessee.

Look for coordinator Jack Del Rio and this unit to play with eight men in the box, limit the ground game, and force Fields and the offensive line into third-and-long situations when the Commanders will be able to cut loose their army of Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Efe Obada, and James Smith-Williams to get after the second-year QB. This unit has 14 sacks on the season, seventh-best in the NFL.

The Commanders can get home only rushing four, but they will have to be disciplined with their rush lanes as Fields is always a threat to extend plays with his scrambling ability.

The Bears are last when it comes to passing yards per game, and most of that falls on an offensive line that has struggled to protect Fields, who has been sacked 18 times. Unfortunately, this receiving unit for the Bears has had limited production to this point: Darnell Mooney and Equanimeous St. Brown have combined for only 16 total receptions and one TD.

Washington’s defense is excellent on third downs, allowing its opponent to convert only 30% of the time, which is good for fifth in the NFL. So if Chicago expects to have any success on this side of the ball, it will have to be efficient on early downs, stay in third downs that are manageable, and make at least five explosive plays. If the Bears have to rely on double-digit drives to move the ball down the field, then this could be a very long night for the offense.

With both teams desperate for a win and playing in prime time, expect these two storied franchises to come out and compete hard to give their fans something to cheer for on Thursday night.

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