8:15 PM EST, ESPN – Line: Bears -4.5, Over/Under: 41.5
Historic franchises battle in the nation’s capital, as the Washington Redskins look to open their 2019 account against the Chicago Bears, from FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. 2018 was indeed a pleasant surprise for the Bears (1-1, 3rd in NFC North), whose 12-4 finish ended a seven-year drought without the Playoffs or a Division Title, thanks in large part to a dominant Defense and a young emerging Offense that flourished under new Head Coach, Matt Nagy. However, Chicago has since gone from the hunter to the hunted in the NFC North, up against much greater expectations coupled with a far more difficult schedule than the one they had faced a year ago. And it’s with that said, that Nagy’s charges have been slow to get moving in his season in charge, particularly on the offensive side of the football, where his young Quarterback, Mitch Trubisky (58.3%, 348 YDS, 4.26 NY/A, 0 TD, 1 INT, 22.1 QBR) hasn’t quite developed at the rate he did in the previous term. Following a rough rookie campaign, Trubisky, whom the club traded up to select No. 2 Overall back in 2017, improved exponentially in his first year in Nagy’s system, completing 66.6% of his Passes (up from 59.4%) for 3,233 Yards (up from 2,193 YDS), on 6.72 Net Yards per Attempt (up from 5.53 NY/A), with Twenty-Four Touchdowns in comparison to Twelve Interceptions (up from 7 apiece), all the while posting a QBR of 70.8 (up from 31.6), which represented the biggest leap in the league. It’s often been said that Quarterbacks tend to show the most improvement in their third seasons, and if that’s the case then 2019 must be branded as nothing short of disappointing for Trubisky, who has floundered on a career-low 58.3% passing for an average of 174.0 Yards per Game on 4.26 Net Yards per Attempt, with Zero Touchdowns and an Interception, logging a pitiful QBR of 22.1. Furthermore, the Offense as a whole has been arguably the league’s worst, averaging just 9.5 Points (30th Overall) on 273.5 Total Yards per Game (30th Overall) through two weeks, struggling on Third Down, where they’ve converted on a mere 23.1% of their Attempts (28th Overall). Following a lackluster showing in the Season opener, a 3-10 egg laid at home against the revitalized Green Bay Packers, the Bears took their show on the road to rocky mountains, where even with a few more days of preparation needed a late miracle to avoid getting off to an 0-2 start. Up against their former Defensive Coordinator, Vic Fangio, who last season led Chicago’s Defense to the top of the league in a plethora of categories, Nagy & Co. would go on to held a slim advantage in the slugfest, leading 6-3 late in the Third Quarter, before Rookie Tailback, David Montgomery (24 CAR, 80 YDS, 3.3 Y/C, 1 TD) leapt into the End Zone to take a 13-3 lead. However, in the final stanza, the hosts would take a 14-13 lead with just thirty-seven seconds left to play in the affair, setting up one final desperate drive for the visitors. This is where the Bears benefitted greatly from the officiating, with a huge penalty allowing them to move into striking distance for Place Kicker, Eddy Pineiro. On their first play of the drive, Trubisky drew a questionable Roughing the Passer penalty on a Five-Yard Completion to Trey Burton (2 REC, 5 YDS, 2.5 Y/R, 0 TD), moving the visiting side from their own 25-Yard Line to nearly midfield. Then, after facing Fourth Down following three straight Incompletions, the young Signal-Caller made the throw of his season finding Allen Robinson (11 REC, 143 YDS, 14.0 Y/R, 0 TD) deep down the idle of the field for Twenty-Five Yards, setting up Pineiro, who had recently been signed in an attempt to finally end the team’s persistent kicking woes. Credit to the 24-Year Old, who took advantage of the high altitude in Denver, nailing a 53-Yard walk-off Field Goal to end the affair, 16-14. Given how their playoff run ended, Chicago was due for a break in the kicking game, but it can’t be overlooked how their passing attack has continued to stall. Granted, the Packers and Broncos appear to have two of the better Defenses in the league, but needless to say, this is NOT what the club has expected to get out of their Franchise Quarterback at this stage of his career. Fortunately, the Defense has proven to still be among the NFL’s best, even without Fangio coordinating their efforts, with his successor, Chuck Pagano, picking up where his predecessor left off; Chicago has allowed just 12.0 Points per Game (3rd Overall) on 292.5 Total Yards (4th Overall), including 224.0 Yards against the Pass (12th Overall) on 5.1 Net Yards per Attempt (4th Overall), 68.5 Yards versus the Run (6th Overall) on 3.0 Yards per Carry (6th Overall), permitting a 19.2% success rate on Third Down (3rd Overall), while amassing Seven Sacks (T-7th Overall). However, it remains to be seen if they’ll be able to collect Turnovers in the manner that they did in 2018, when they led the league with thirty-six. There is no question that the Offense benefitted tremendously from this, though in this campaign they’ve managed just one through two games.
Meanwhile, as rough as their opponent tonight has had it through the first two weeks, there is no question that the Redskins (0-2, T-4th in NFC East) have had an even rougher go of it, as they’ve been hammered by two of their division rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. Though they weren’t necessarily expected to challenge either of their neighboring powerhouses this season, it’s a particularly debilitating blow to a franchise, when they’re humbled by their direct competition right out of the gate. In the Season Opener, Washington collapsed after racing out to a surprising 17-0 lead at Philadelphia, as the hosts outscored them 25-0 in the Second Half before a meaningless Touchdown in the game’s waning moments made the final score more respectable. Jay Gruden’s charges followed that meltdown with a 21-31 defeat at home to the hated Dallas Cowboys, who carved their beleaguered Defense up to the tune of 474 Total Yards of Offense, including a whopping 213 Yards via the Run on Thirty-Four Carries, while their Quarterback, Dak Prescott, had little trouble in completing an efficient 26-of-30 Passes for 269 Yards, Three Touchdowns and an Interception. Furthermore, the visitors totaled Twenty-Five First Downs, converted on 7-of-11 Third Downs, and possessed the football for 33:22 in an affair that revealed just how far back in the division that the ‘Skins really are. In falling behind 21-7 early in the Third Quarter, the hosts had to abandon the run altogether, ending the afternoon with a paltry Forty-Seven Yards on Seventeen Carries, leading to Case Keenum (69.1% 601 YDS, 6.96 NY/A, 5 TD, 0 INT, 68.7 QBR) carrying the attack, which he did on 26-of-37 Passing or 221 Yards, Two Touchdowns and Zero Interceptions. Nine different receivers caught a pass for Washington, led by Rookie Receiver, Terry McLaurin (10 REC, 187 YDS, 18.7 Y/R, 2 TD), who reached the End Zone for the second consecutive week. Though the Run Game was ineffective, Sunday’s defeat saw the return of the ageless Adrian Peterson (10 CAR, 25 YDS, 2.5 Y/C, 1 TD), who after being a healthy scratch for the first time in venerable career last weekend, stepped in for an injured Derrius Guice (10 CAR, 18 YDS, 1.8 Y/C, 0 TD), and racked up Twenty-Five Yards and a Touchdown on just Ten Carries. With that said, the biggest takeaway from what can only be described by the denizens of the nation’s capital as yet another forgettable meeting between rivals, was the amount of carnage that the home side absorbed to their roster, for this team comes into tonight’s affair with the Bears BANGED UP at several positions. First and foremost, the Defense will be without Defensive Tackle, Jonathan Allen, whose ailing knee has kept him out of practice throughout the week, while Cornerback Fabian Moreau has been limited due to a sprained ankle. Offensively, the oft-injured Jordan Reed has suffered yet another concussion, while the aforementioned Guice has landed on Injured Reserve for the second time in as many seasons following a torn meniscus. With injuries once again weighing heavily upon his troops, it should be interesting to see how Gruden manages in the coming weeks. It’s no secret in Washington that the Head Coach is on the hot seat, and few in his position could use a string of positive results more than he could. Fortunately, the schedule does lighten up a bit with trips to the winless Giants and Dolphins bookending a home date with the undefeated Patriots, though it’s unclear as to whether or not he’ll have a full deck to play with. With that said, what does it say about a team when the aforementioned Keenum, is it’s prime selling point? Now on his fourth team in as many years, the oft-traveled journeyman has performed much better than he did with the Broncos in 2018, completing 69.1% of his Passes for an average of 300.5 Yards per Game on 6.96 Net Yards per Attempt, all of which are career-highs at the moment. However, despite the veteran sharing the wealth to a number of targets, he was acquired to in large part to serve as a stopgap to Dwayne Haskins, whom the team selected Fifteenth Overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. If results continue to trend south, the urge to play Haskins will become greater with each passing week, particularly if Gruden’s position becomes even more precarious. Though it likely doesn’t matter who lines up under Center if a porous Defense that ranks Thirtieth in Points Allowed (31.5 P/G) and Total Yards Allowed (455.0 Y/G), Next-to-Last against the Run (168.0 Y/G), and Dead-Last on Third Down (64.3%), can’t stop the bleeding. And it’s with all that said that the Redskins will attempt to right the ship on what has been by far and away their unluckiest night of the week, for since 2010, Washington is 3-11 when playing on Monday Night Football, losing each of their last seven contests by an average margin of 13.4 Points per Game.