The Chicago Bears will face the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road for their Week 16 matchup. The 1-13 Jaguars have the worst record in the league and probably want to lose in order to hold onto the first overall draft pick. However, most NFL players don’t like to purposely lose, so Chicago can’t assume their opponents won’t try to win. Here are 3 Bears keys to the game for Week 16.
Look out for James Robinson
One of the biggest surprises from the 2020 NFL Season is the emergence of running back James Robinson. An undrafted rookie out of Illinois State University, he was on no one’s radar before the season. In the past few months, however, Robinson has become one of the best running backs in the league.
Robinson has the third most rushing yards in the league, 10 total touchdowns and averages 4.5 yards per carry. He is frequently involved in the passing game as well, with 49 receptions and 344 receiving yards. James Robinson is having one of the best rookie seasons ever for an undrafted free agent.
Part of his success can be attributed to how much the Jaguars offense relies on him. Jacksonville’s roster is void of any other offensive stars, with average wide receivers and a mediocre quarterback room. Therefore, Robinson gets the majority of Jacksonville’s touches. He ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing attempts and has the fourth most targets of anyone on the team.
There is a chance that Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone rests the star running back, as Robinson suffered a minor ankle injury last week against the Ravens. But if Marrone decides to keep Robinson in the lineup, it will be important for the Bears to focus on him.
Control the tempo
Last week against the Vikings, the Bears did a great job of controlling the game’s pace.
After jumping out to an early lead, Chicago never looked back, consistently moving the ball downfield by running the ball and taking their time. Running back David Montgomery finished the game with 32 carries for 146 yards, both career highs. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky played the role of a game manager, not throwing many risky throws and playing smart. This worked, as the Bears were able to run down the clock and control the pace of the game.
In the past, the Bears offense has struggled to move the ball and get in a good rhythm. However, in the past two games, they have turned this around, seeming to control the tempo of the game.
Chicago will need to repeat this effort against the Jaguars. Jacksonville is one of the worst teams in the league, both on offense and defense, so it should not be too difficult.
A Cardinals loss
This is not necessarily a key to the Bears beating Jacksonville, but Chicago’s playoff hopes largely rest on the shoulders of the San Francisco 49ers this week. Jacksonville is the Bears easiest opponent yet, and as long as Chicago plays smart football, they should have no problem beating them. Therefore, the thing to watch for this week is a Cardinals loss.
The most likely scenario in which the Bears make the playoffs relies on the Arizona Cardinals losing. If the Bears win their last two games and the Cardinals lose at least one of their last two, Chicago will make the playoffs.
Chicago’s remaining schedule is less difficult than Arizona’s. The Bears will play Jacksonville (a game they should win) and Green Bay, a much tougher matchup. However, it is quite possible that the Packers will rest their star players in that game, as they just need a win or a Saints loss to clinch the first seed in the NFC. If that were the case, it would not be difficult for the Bears to win that game as well.
Meanwhile, Arizona plays the 49ers this week and the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17. The 5-9 49ers are riddled with injuries but still a solid team, better than their record suggests. The 9-5 Rams are an even tougher opponent, but after losing to the Jets last week, it is unclear how good the Rams really are.
The Bears can only make the playoffs if Arizona loses at least one game. Therefore, even though it is out of their control, one of Chicago’s keys for Week 16 is the Cardinals need to lose.
Chicago seems to have figured something out, while Jacksonville is quite possibly the worst team in the league. Expect the Bears to win this game handily.
Bears 27 – Jaguars 10
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