Monday Night Football: Hawks can prey on the Bears
Romilly Evans assesses Monday Night Football where he expects Seattle's experience to outshine Chicago's promise in Week two primetime
"Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny may not exactly be thunder-and-lightning combination for Seattle, more rattle-and-hum. But that could be enough here."
Another lesson for green Trubisky?
Chicago Bears @ Seattle Seahawks
Start-time: Tuesday, 01:15
TV: Live on Sky Sports Action
Snatching defeat from the gaping jaws of victory and other such memes were doing the rounds late Sunday night after Chicago and Seattle both blew leads on the road. Of these two narrow losses, Chicago's was certainly the more painful, as the Bears conceded a 20-0 lead from late in the third quarter in a telling divisional head-to-head with Green Bay.
Trademark Aaron Rodgers heroics provided the lazy diagnosis for Chicago's collapse, but in truth the mustachioed Maverick got lucky (with injury and a couple of potential picks). Instead it was the Bears' mistakes and fragmented second-half effort, allied to some poor strategy from head coach Matt Nagy, which led to a self-inflicted demise.
Over in Denver, Seattle's porous offensive line was up against it from the outset, but the valiant Russell Wilson continued to strive against Von Miller et al, while Case Keenum kept coughing up interceptions. However, once Keenum got a handle on his misfiring cannon, there was little Wilson could do to respond.
The challenge in this game is to separate the good from the bad in both the Bears' and Seahawks' respective performances, and determine which characteristics are mostly likely to survive the journey to storied Soldier Field. The Vegas line gives the hometown Bears the early edge here by over a field goal but I'm not so sure.
First, the good. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky posted 32 yards on seven carries against the Pack, scoring once and firing accurately for most of the first half. Trubisky's fledgling "no-interceptions" mantra is all well and good. Yet if you decline to pass so often, it's somewhat less impressive as a QB. And 77.2 Passer Ratings for zero touchdowns certainly don't pave the way to elite status in this league.
For now, though, Mr Biscuit (as his freshman peers curiously named him) can use discretion as the better part of valour: by simply handing off the pigskin off to Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen in the backfield. These RBs pack a powerful one-two gore for the Bears, and should also free up Trubisky's throwing arm in time.
That said, Cohen was particularly slow to go in Week One, so the Hawks will fancy their chances of stifling Trubisky and Co here. The Legion of Boom may be a thing of the past but its work ethic endures and while Chicago's talented roster appear priced on potential, I'm happy to take them on.
The aforementioned Wilson is something of a lone Hawk for star quality, and Seattle can't keep relying on him to make them competitive. Then again, he is at the most pivotal position and his twin-threat skills can still pull the strings here. What's more, they'll have to here against a redoubtable defense, which has been bolstered by the preseason signing of Khalil Mack from Oakland.
Mack attack and how to handle it
Mack's debut at Lambeau Field was exemplary, a one-man defensive MVP masterclass no less. Effort, skill, strength and commitment were all there in abundance and his defensive detail must learn from him instead of suffering from the comparison (no names, but Roquan Smith!). Indeed, Chicago's outside linebackers' handler, Brandon Staley, called Khalil Mack's Bears bow "as impressive a performance as you could expect from a guy who got here seven days ago." It's hard to disagree, so Wilson must be cautious when freelancing outside the pocket.
The home comforts of fortress CenturyLink Field are still a fortnight away for Pete Carroll's crew, and his O-line need to protect Wilson better. Of six sacks last weekend, a couple were on Wilson, but the remainder were due to ineffectual resistance. They must establish a ground game here, in order to take the sting out of Mack's oncoming pass rush.
So look to Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, who split just 14 rushing attempts between them last Sunday, to take on a heavier workload here. They may not exactly be a thunder-and-lightning combination, more rattle-and-hum. Although that might just be enough to exploit a weak link in the Chicago D, or at least buy Wilson more time to improve his chemistry with seasoned wideout Brandon Marshall.
Sure, Marshall only hauled in three catches for 46 yards at Mile High, but he's just getting acclimatized. Expect his understanding with Wilson to grow week-on-week.
So while Trubisky remains a work in progress, it's the Hawks for me - especially now they're on the right side of useful "big number" handicap line. And speaking of big numbers, remember Wilson and his Seahawks invariably soar in the national spotlight of Monday Night.
In fact, they are a staggering 22-5-3 against the spread in primetime, and 11-1 in their past 12 MNFs. Trubisky, however, still needs to acquire this big-game experience. This will be close.
Back Seattle Seahawks (+3.5) to win on the Match Handicap @ 10-11 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Seattle Seahawks Over 20 Points @ 10-11 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Chicago Winning Margin (10-point bands) to win by 1-10 points @ 11-10 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back M. Trubisky Passing Yards Under 219.5 @ 8-11 on the Betfair Sportsbook