Sunday sees the first of the NFL London games as the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders. Ben Steele previews the action and thinks Oakland will struggle to breakdown a terrific Chicago defence...
With the Raiders offence seemingly incapable of travelling well, the Chicago Bears boasting one of the best defences in recent memory and Khalil Mack on a revenge mission I don't think this game will be close.
Mack attack will lead defence
In the 2017 season Khalil Mack was responsible for a third of the sacks registered by the Oakland Raiders defence, then Jon Gruden arrived and Mack was traded to the Chicago Bears. Mack then spent the 2018 season anchoring a Bears defensive unit who were the best in the league, and they've shown no signs of slowing down this year either. Chicago have held the opposition to just 45 points in their four games this term and look on track to post another historic season.
Mack has already notched 4.5 sacks and forced four fumbles this season, particularly impressive as he consistently has to beat two offensive linemen in pass rush situations. The four time Pro Bowler, and the rest of the Chicago defence, will come in to London expecting to shut down the Oakland Raiders, and knowing their opponents have struggled on foreign soil in the past. The Raiders are playing their final season in California and over the past few seasons have consistently been picked to play in the NFL International Series which hasn't often been successful.
Last year's visit to London saw the Raiders crushed 27-3 by the Seattle Seahawks, a defeat which followed a 33-8 defeat to the New England Patriots in Mexico City the previous year. With the Raiders offence seemingly incapable of travelling well, the Chicago Bears boasting one of the best defences in recent memory and Khalil Mack on a revenge mission I don't think this game will be close. I'm backing Chicago to win comfortably, and the Raiders to score less than 18 points.
Daniel must provide Chicago spark
With such a good defence it is no surprise that the Bears are 3-1, but that record is almost entirely down to the defensive unit. Chicago have scored just 66 points this season, six of those on a defensive score, a total that makes them the fourth lowest scoring team in the entire NFL. The only teams to have scored fewer points than the Bears this term are the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and the Cincinnati Bengals, who have a combined record of 0-11. Chase Daniel will start at QB for Chicago, in place of the injured Mitch Trubisky, and will be looking to create a spark.
The career-backup was solid, if unspectacular, in relief last week as he guided his side to a 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Daniel completed 22/30 passes and threw a touchdown against one of the better defences in the league so should have more success against an inferior Oakland side. It is to Daniel's credit that he was able to slot in to the system so seamlessly last week, and he showed a good understanding of the system head coach Matt Nagy is trying to install.
Rookie Jacobs faces first big test
When the Raiders traded Khalil Mack they received a first round pick in the 2019 draft, they used that pick to select running back Josh Jacobs, who has started his NFL career in impressive fashion. While he may not be getting the publicity that the likes of Gardner Minshew and Daniel Jones have (quite rightly) earned in their young careers, he has been a key part of the Raiders 2-2 start.
Jacobs, a two time National Champion while at Alabama, is averaging 76.8 yards per game at a rate of five yards per carry, well above the standard for every down running backs this term. A combination of Jon Gruden's ability to start games quickly, the Raiders have scored first in three of their four games this season, and his own ability to break tackles make Jacobs a nice price at 15/2 to score the first touchdown. While the Raiders may not have too much success at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this week, I see Jacobs as the man who can give them a chance.
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