Updated: October 10, 2013 7:49PM
When the BEARS HAVE THE BALL
Matt Forte is the Bears’ most versatile offensive player (375 yards rushing, 200 yards receiving) and the more he’s involved the better the offense is. Giants S Antrel Rolle, a team captain, is an accomplished player having a tough season — and his team is following his lead. But he’s still a playmaker. Safeties have four of the six INTs against Jay Cutler.
IN THE AIR
After Alshon Jeffery’s record-setting day (10-218, 1 TD) vs. the Saints, the Bears’ offense will look to open things up against defense that has allowed an average of 269 yards passing (22nd in the NFL) and 12 passing TDs (T-29th). Jay Cutler has a 93.0 passer rating (10 TDs, 6 INTs) though without gratuitous production in the last two games, that rating is a more Cutler-like 83.3 (7 TDs, 6 INTS). Opposing QBs have a 95.9 rating vs. the Giants defense, though it has faced some good ones — Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Alex Smith & Cam Newton among them. Giants have allowed only one 100-yard receiver.
ON THE GROUND
The Bears never got their ground game started last week, but they will try again against a defense that ranks 27th in the NFL against the run (126 ypg). Matt Forte (81-375, 4.6, 3 TDs) has averaged 4.4 ypc or more in his last four games. He had a season-low 12 carries for 55 yards against the Saints. The Giants’ low ranking vs. the run is a little misleading — QBs Michael Vick, Alex Smith and Cam Newton have combined for 161 yards on 21 carries (7.7 ypc). Outside of that, the Giants are allowing 3.3 ypc on the ground. They held LeSean McCoy to 46 yards and a TD on 20 carries last week.
When the GIANTS HAVE THE BALL
Giants QB Eli Manning is a classic hot-and-cold QB — his passer rating has been above 98 or below 65 in 13 of his last 14 games. Which Eli will the Bears get? Bears DE Julius Peppers has been more cold than hot, but the Giants’ offensive line has been shaky and could provide Peppers with an opportunity to dominate as he often does.
IN THE AIR
Veteran Eli Manning is having his worst season since his rookie year of 2005 — he leads the NFL with 12 interceptions and is 32nd in passer rating (65.8). But he still has dangerous receivers in Victor Cruz (31-473, 15.3, 4 TDs) and Hakeem Nicks (21-372, 17.7, O TDs) and can pop a 100-plus passer rating out of nowhere like nobody else in the NFL. Opposing QBs have a 95.1 passer rating against the Bears’ defense — highest among teams with winning records. The Bears’ defense did not have a takeaway for the first time in 11 games last week. Pro Bowl CB Charles Tillman (knee, groin) is questionable.
ON THE GROUND
The Giants have the worst running game in the NFL (57 ypg, 3.3 ypc) and lost their leading rusher, David Wilson (44-146, 3.3, 1 TD), to a neck injury. Brandon Jacobs, who scored 66 TDs for the Giants from 2005-11, is back after a year with the 49ers, but isn’t the same runner he was (22-48, 2.2, 1 TD). The Giants re-signed DaRel Scott (16-56, 3.5, 0 TDs), who had been cut last week. Despite injuries to DTs Henry Melton, Stephen Paea and Nate Collins, the Bears are 13th in the NFL in rush defense (98 ypg) and 10th in yards per attempt (3.3). WLB Lance Briggs leads the NFL with 51 tackles.
The Bears figure to come out strong against the 0-5 Giants, but you never know after last week’s disappointing start against the Saints — especially on a short week. “I’m excited as we get a chance to play at home again and respond to the way we played [against the Saints]. That’s the focus,’’ Bears coach Marc Trestman said. ‘‘We’ve got fans ready to see us at our best; we weren’t at our best. We need to do that. We have players and a team that believes that it can get it done so we get an opportunity to see our response to last week, but it’s only about the Giants and it’s got to be for 60 minutes.”
With the exception of the Vikings game — when Devin Hester averaged 49.8 yards on 5 kickoff returns — the Bears’ special teams have not been a difference-maker. ‘‘It hasn’t been a work issue. We just haven’t played as well as we needed to,’’ ST coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. Hester remains a threat to break one at any time and he’s going against a team that already has allowed two punt-return TDs. ‘‘We were close on a couple of returns [vs. the Saints],’’ DeCamillis said. ‘‘He’s hitting it hard.’’ The Giants lost KO returner David Wilson to injury. Reuben Randle (6.3 ypr, 14 long) is their main punt returner.
Time: 7:25 p.m. Thursday at Soldier Field • Line: Bears by 71⁄2 • Total: 47
TV: Ch. 50, NFL (Brad Nessler, Mike Mayock) • Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM