. Welcome to the NFL. Your first task? Taking on Mike Zimmer’s
on “Monday Night Football.” Good luck.
You don’t need to be a
fan to be grateful for the Bears’ decision to finally bench Glennon (the very tall, but very bad quarterback) for Trubisky (the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft). If you’re a fan of completions, first downs, downfield throws, athleticism, and more generally speaking, good football, you should be stoked. You don’t have to watch the Bears play the Vikings on Monday night without a quarterback.
On Week 5 of “Monday Night Football,” the 1-3 Bears will host the 2-2 Vikings at Soldier Field. It’s a matchup between two NFC North rivals, but only one of these teams is playing for this season. That team is Minnesota, which is very much alive in the division and conference. Meanwhile, for the Bears, this game is all about the future. Specifically, it’s all about Trubisky’s debut. The result doesn’t matter much to them. It’s about how Trubisky looks in his first NFL game. It’s about his development from promising prospect to NFL quarterback.
Trubisky might be the most intriguing aspect in this game, but I’m taking the favorite in this game and the team with something to play for in this season. The Vikings will spoil Trubisky’s debut with their top-notch defense, but the Bears will keep it close now that they have an actual quarterback under center.
The prediction: Vikings 24, Bears 21
My “MNF” prediction record: 3-1
How to watch, stream
- When: Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET
- Where: Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois
- TV: ESPN
- Streaming: WatchESPN
Trubisky changes the Bears’ offense
Trubisky hasn’t played a single real down in the NFL, but he’s already an upgrade over Glennon. That’s how bad Glennon was for the Bears. In four starts, Glennon completed 66.4 percent of his passes, averaged 6.0 yards per attempt, threw four touchdowns and five picks, and generated a 76.9 passer rating. He also fumbled five times.
There’s no way to know how Trubisky will fare in the NFL. He’s an unknown. But his skill set will change the offense.
For one, Trubisky isn’t a statue in the pocket like Glennon. He can move. In the preseason, the Bears constantly rolled him outside of the pocket to take advantage of his athleticism. In the process, they simplified his reads, turning him into a “see the open man, throw it” quarterback instead of one who’s required to diagnose, break down, and manipulate a defense.
Expect to see plays like this on Monday night:
And unlike Glennon, Trubisky has the arm to throw it deep. He won’t just dink and dunk the Vikings defense to death.
Trubisky is a rookie, but he makes the offense more creative and dangerous because of his natural abilities. That’s why the Bears had to go with him over Glennon. With that being said, expect mistakes. Raw talent alone can’t win in the NFL. And there will be growing pains as he adjusts to the NFL.
But the Vikings will make his life difficult
Trubisky is going up against a pretty stout defense. So far this year, the Vikings are allowing 19 points per game despite the fact that they’ve only registered three takeaways. And last year, this unit ranked sixth in points allowed and eighth in DVOA.
So, they’re good — one of the best defenses in football. And they’re going to give Trubisky some issues considering his best receiver is either
. The Bears’ receiving corps — down
— isn’t good. And the Vikings’ secondary is good.
Leading the way is
, who is allowing a 65.6 passer rating in coverage, according to PFF. Last year, Rhodes posted the league’s lowest passer rating in coverage (47.0). Instead of picking on Rhodes, Trubisky should look to target the perpetually inconsistent
(105.9 passer rating in coverage) or the 39-year-old
(110.5 passer rating in coverage).
It’ll be interesting to see if the Vikings try to generate pressure by bringing the heat. The Vikings’ blitz percentage is actually down this year — they’ve blitzed on 25.5 percent of their snaps this year compared to 31.3 percent last year, per PFF — but the Vikings could decide to make Trubisky feel the heat in his first NFL start. The regular season is obviously a different animal than the preseason, but Trubisky was brilliant against the blitz in the preseason, posting a 132.8 passer rating. When he wasn’t blitzed, his passer rating fell to 82.8, according to PFF. However, that doesn’t mean pressure won’t be important. Trubisky’s passer rating under pressure in the preseason was 51.3, according to PFF.
The good news for the Vikings is that they don’t need to use the blitz to generate pressure if defensive lineman
can keep doing what he’s been doing. The Bears’ offensive line is actually pretty good and those lineman will benefit from a mobile quarterback playing behind them, but this will be a tough matchup regardless.
The Bears’ running game vs. Vikings’ run defense
Of course, though, the key to the game will likely be the Bears’ running backs. When
run wild, the Bears are a dangerous football team. When they’re shut down, they’re not dangerous.
In the Bears’ lone win of the season — against the
— their running back duo combined for 268 yards. In a near-win over the
, they combined for 179 yards from scrimmage. In two blowout losses to the
Green Bay Packers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
, they totaled 186 yards. That was with Glennon under center. So now, that the Bears have a legit quarterback, the running backs likely won’t need to do as much heavy lifting, but the point remains: The Bears’ strength is the running game.
The Vikings need to stop the run first, force the Bears to become one-dimensional, and then get after the rookie quarterback. The Vikings are equipped to do exactly that. They’re ranked third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (71.3).
The Vikings’ passing game
Obviously, the status of
will be worth monitoring. Due to a knee injury, Bradford hasn’t played since Week 1, when he completed 84.4 percent of his passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns, no picks, and a 143.0 passer rating. That outing came after his debut season with the Vikings, when he set an NFL record with a completion percentage of 71.6, threw 20 touchdowns and five interceptions, and posted a 99.3 passer rating.
Bradford gets a ton of crap for his checkdown style of play, but he put up that stat line behind a bad offensive line, without a running game, and with his receivers banged up. He deserves credit.
Plus, he’s lightyears better than his backup,
, who lit up the Buccaneers in Week 3 for 369 yards and three touchdowns, but that’s because Keenum always destroys Tampa Bay. Sandwiched between that outing is a 65.9 passer rating performance and a 76.9 passer rating performance. Add in the fact that rookie running back
is out for the season and Bradford’s status is magnified even more. According to ESPN, Bradford is expected to play.
Even if Bradford misses Monday’s game, the Vikings receivers will have opportunities to exploit a Bears defense that is allowing 26 points per game. The Bears have yet to record an interception. Give me
(391 yards and four touchdowns) and
(358 yards) over the Bears secondary.
It’s worth noting, however, that the Bears defense has been stout against the run, allowing 85.5 rushing yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry. So whoever winds up playing QB for the Vikings will be forced to carry his weight.
Here’s why I think the game will at least be close: The Bears have been good at home and terrible on the road.
In two road games against the Buccaneers and Packers, the Bears have lost by a combined 43 points. In two home games, the Bears lost to the Falcons by six points — they were a dropped touchdown pass in the final seconds away from upsetting the defending NFC champs — and beat the Steelers in overtime.
The game will be played at Soldier Field.