Romilly Evans reckons Jay Cutler will be the next man to profit from the New York's Giants' pathetic defense tonight
"Martellus Bennett, whose liking for short-field drop-offs presents a low-risk route for Cutler, could be the go-to guy"
The New York Giants have become the ultimate binary proposition. One minute Super Bowl winners (2008 and 2012), the next struggling to get a win on the board. And lately, it's getting worse. Big Blue are 0-5 for the season - so even at this early stage in a poor division, you can stick a fork in their postseason hopes. They're cooked.
All of which is good news for the Chicago Bears as they look to arrest their own mini two-game slump again the Giants in tonight's late primetime match. One might quibble with the word "prime", considering the protagonists, but the Bears have actually had chances to win their first five games and are play-off contenders if they can get their show back on the road tonight.
At 3-2, Chicago are still in control of their own destiny in the NFC North, but with Green Bay closing fast and Detroit finally adding up to something approaching the sum of their parts, the Bears cannot afford the early mistakes which have cost them in recent encounters.
With Jay Cutler at the wheel, it's invariably a fine line between supreme self-confidence and crushing bone-headedness. And so it has proved this term, as the supremely skilled yet capricious quarterback has both manufactured game-winning drives and coughed up needless interceptions.
Fortunately for Cutler, the man staring him down this evening is Eli Manning, a QB whom they're knocking chunks out of in the Big Apple. Manning Jnr has racked up a deeply disappointing 12 interceptions to date this season (admittedly often when chasing a losing situation), but he's not the only person coughing up the ball unnecessarily.
Supposed Giants running back of the future, David Wilson, has fumbled and stumbled more times than an excited teenager on a first date, while his replacements (Wilson is currently sidelined with a neck injury) seem to have misinterpreted the term "moving the chains" for "dropping anchor". A league-low 57 yards in average rushing eloquently emphasises the point.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants D are conceding over 36 points each game. It's a worrying figure. And their porous secondary's tendency to blow coverage will give Cutler's cannon arm all the open invitations it craves. True, Chicago have also surprising struggled on defense (yielding 28 points per match) but there are signs of tightening and their athletic turnover ability (14 takeaways in the plus column) means that they can outscore their offense on a good day.
The last time Cutler faced the Bears he got knocked out cold, having taken nine sacks. The time, however, he should enjoy more time in the pocket and get Chicago marching again at a boisterous Soldier Field. Look to leading receiver Brandon Marshall and terrific tight end Martellus Bennett in the First Touchdown Scorer markets. Bennett, whose liking for short-field drop-offs presents a low-risk route for Cutler, could be the go-to guy if things get tight in the red zone. Elsewhere, Matt Forte will keep the clock winding down with his combative but consistent ground gains.
In short, then, the Bears are the more complete package and although a touchdown handicap might have looked an excessive burden at the beginning of the campaign, these teams' respective motivations have changed a lot since then. A quick kill and another damp televised squib is the call - Cutler's familiar fireworks aside.
Back Chicago Bears (-7.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 2.111/10 or better
Back Chicago Bears (-4.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 1.9110/11 or better
Back M Bennett to score First Touchdown @ 10.09/1 or better