Coming off two straight victories, the New England Patriots are set to host the struggling Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. The Week 7 clash may not be the most anticipated game of the year, but it’s an important one for the Patriots. New England currently sits at 3-3 and if they hope to keep pace with the rest of the AFC playoff hopefuls Monday night’s game against the Bears is one they can’t let slip away.
Without further ado, let’s take a deeper dive into the game Monday night.
Things to watch for
Is Mac Jones back? If so, what’s the Patriots’ offensive philosophy?
It’s no secret that with Bailey Zappe at the helm the Patriots’ offensive philosophy was drastically different from how they started the year with Mac Jones. If Jones does indeed return on Monday night, it will be very interesting to see how New England runs the offense.
I’d love to see the Patriots utilize more play-action with Jones at quarterback. New England has excelled in the play-action game and 10.8% with Jones at quarterback is just too low. The other thing I’ll be watching is the average depth of target (ADOT) if Jones is back starting. His 10.4 ADOT to start the year shows just how aggressive they were in the passing game. Ultimately, the high ADOT led to higher turnover rates. In a perfect world, Matt Patricia and the offense would find a way to blend the aggressive big-play nature of the Jones offense with more play-action and fewer turnovers. Can they do that? We shall see.
Can the Bears block Matthew Judon?
The Bears’ offensive tackles are very young and both have had their ups and downs. Braxton Jones is a rookie and Larry Borom is a second-year player. On the Patriots’ side of the ball is Matthew Judon. Judon is off to a blazing start in 2022. Pro Football Focus has him credited with 26 total pressures through three games. Judon poses a serious threat to the Bears’ young offensive tackles. It’s worth mentioning that Deatrich Wise will also be a force to be reckoned with on Monday night. He’s second on the team with 20 total pressures and he’s playing the best football of his career.
On paper, the Patriots defensive line should outmatch the Bears up front. It will be interesting to see if that’s how it plays out.
Can New England continue to find creative ways to get Tyquan Thornton the ball? How does the WR rotation shake out?
Only two games into his career and Tyquan Thornton is already making big-time plays. Thornton scored two touchdowns last week against the Browns. One came on a pass reception in the red zone where Thornton created a good amount of separation at the line of scrimmage. The other was a jet sweep where Thornton was able to showcase some of his elite speed. The Patriots have themselves a new toy, and his speed, in particular, unlocks things they haven’t previously had on offense. New England must keep finding creative ways to get him the ball.
Additionally, it will be intriguing to see how the snap count shakes out at wideout. Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor are both currently on the injury report, but if both play it would create some interesting decisions for the Patriots coaching staff. How does the emergence of Thornton impact Agholor’s playing time? Sooner or later we will find out.
The Patriots’ defense gives the Bears’ offense nightmares
The Bears rank 30th in Offensive DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) and I expect that ranking to hold true on Monday Night. The Patriots’ defense has played good football this season and they’ve proven capable of beating up on poor offenses and below-average quarterbacks. The Bears’ offense is overmatched in every aspect, including coaching.
It doesn’t matter much who starts at Quarterback, the Patriots find a way to move the ball
Could Zappe lead a successful offense against a good defense? Who knows. But, even if he had to start Monday night, the Bears’ defense isn’t a good defense. They rank 19th in Defensive DVOA and 27th against the run. I have faith that Zappe or Jones would be able to lead a successful offensive outing against Chicago. The running game is a big reason why. Rhamondre Stevenson has been outstanding this season and assuming Damien Harris is back in the lineup, that’s a very very good two-headed monster.
Betting Prediction: Patriots Cover the -8 Spread
My official score prediction is 28-10 Patriots. Simply put, New England is the better team.