Jacksonville Jaguars vs Chicago Bears Preview: Jags Off a Bye to Face Improving Bears

Chicago Bears (1-4) rebound from close loss to Colts, host Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) resting from trip to London

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JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

RECORD: 1-3

DIVISION RECORD: 1-0

NEXT OPPONENT: Oakland Raiders

GAME INFORMATION

TIME: 1:00 PM EST

LOCATION: Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois

BETTING LINE: CHI -2.5

OVER/UNDER: 47

CHICAGO BEARS

RECORD: 1-4

DIVISION RECORD: 1-0

NEXT OPPONENT: Green Bay Packers

INDIANAPOLIS PLAYER TO WATCH

BLAKE BORTLES (QB – #5)

 The former UCF star has become a legitimate starter in the NFL and is the driving force in the Jaguars offense. Jacksonville won its last game in London where it has built a considerable fan base over the last half-decade. Across the pond, Bortles threw for two touchdowns and only 207 yards. While his numbers weren’t off the charts, he protected the football well, completing his first game this season without an interception. Jacksonville also ranks highest in the league in penalties per game, so Bortles’ ability to avoid interceptions and keep his team disciplined will be factors to keep your eye on in Chicago.

CHICAGO PLAYER TO WATCH

ALSHON JEFFREY (WR – #17)

Once the focus of the Bears offense, Alshon Jeffrey has failed to align himself among the league’s best at the receiver position so far. While backup quarterback Brian Hoyer has done well statistically in his time with the first team, Jeffrey has not been a beneficiary of Hoyer’s play. He hasn’t eclipsed 100 yards since Jay Cutler’s thumb injury, while Cam Meredith stole the show last week with 130 yards receiving. Jacksonville is 7th in the NFL in pass defense, providing Alshon Jeffrey a stout challenge to return to form.

JACKSONVILLE POSITION GROUP PREVIEWS

TIGHT ENDS: Julius Thomas missed the Week 4 game with an elbow injury, but expects to be active for the Jags after their bye week. Thomas seems to have settled in with his new team. He is currently on pace for his highest receiving yards per game since Denver’s AFC Championship in 2013/14.

RUNNING BACKS: Jacksonville has failed to establish a rushing attack this season, 3rd from the bottom in rushing yards per game. RBs T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory combined for 100 yards in London last time out for the first time this year. Chicago gives up 118 rushing yards on average, but held Indianapolis to under 100 in week 5.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Jacksonville’s defensive ends are young and athletic, much like the Bears’ secondary. Similarly, they are still adjusting to the pace of the NFL. DE Dante Fowler, Jr. is in his 2nd year out of Florida and opposite him is Yannick Ngakoue. The 2016 3rd round selection from Maryland has forced 3 fumbles and even has a pick, but has not put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

GAME PREVIEW ANALYSIS

Chicago is returning home with a chance already to increase their wins at Soldier Field over last year. Both the offense and defense seem to be able to play with consistency now that the injury report is no longer accepting applications. Offensively, Brian Hoyer is compiling a strong argument for the top spot on the depth chart. He is helped by the ever-increasing threat of Jordan Howard’s combination of size and vision. Wideouts Cam Meredith and Eddie Royal have had success accounting for the injured Kevin White, as Alshon Jeffrey nurses a knee injury of his own. CB Bryce Callahan has emerged as the defense’s pick-me-up, playing opposite of Tracy Porter after Kyle Fuller was moved to the IR. Overall, Hoyer appears to be an intelligent leader and the coaching staff on both sides of the ball are positive about the potential of their young players.

Jacksonville’s road to the playoffs is arguably easier than that of Chicago. The AFC South has a lot of weaknesses and no real dominant favorite for the division title. Meanwhile, Chicago must deal with a perennial Green Bay and a new title contender in Minnesota. Blake Bortles seems confident that Jacksonville can turn things around, accepting the blame for the rough start thus far. Bortles has promoted a relaxed atmosphere in press conferences in hopes that they can avoid “penalties and shooting ourselves in the foot.” His big receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns appeared comfortable in London, with a TD apiece. They’ll need production from the backfield if they want results like that on a consistent basis without being a one-dimensional offense.

I think Chicago’s form is trending upward. They’ve got plenty of motivation after the recent performances of their division counterparts. Jacksonville has had a week to figure out what positives to take away from London, but I don’t believe they’ve found all the answers. My prediction is a second Bears victory at home, with a strong defensive performance making the difference. Bortles won’t find rhythm to get the ball to his playmakers, and Jordan Howard continues to impress, leading the Bears to a 23-10 victory over the Jags.

CHICAGO POSITION GROUP PREVIEWS

OFFENSIVE LINE: The Bears O-line has been steadily improving as new teammates gel up front. Brian Hoyer, going back to his time with the Houston Texans, has shown that he can be a very successful quarterback if he is given time. Kyle Long and Josh Sitton gave him time against Indy, and he set a career high in passing yards with 397. “We gotta translate that into scores,” Hoyer told the press after the game.

RUNNING BACKS: Also benefitting from the improved play in the trenches is rookie RB Jordan Howard. In a league where Dak and Zeke have taken Dallas by storm, and Carson Wentz looks like a young, mobile Peyton Manning, Howard is bidding for Rookie of the Year votes. Jeremy Langford is still inactive, but John Fox won’t be in a hurry to get him back while Howard exceeds expectations.

LINEBACKERS: Willie Young had a keystone game in Lucas Oil Stadium, reaching Andrew Luck three times. Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio put together a good gameplan to use twists and stunts to confuse Indy’s offensive line. Their ability to pressure and contain Blake Bortles will be a big part of a winning effort.

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TEAM A (with team specific logo)

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TEAM B (with team specific logo)

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TEAM A PLAYER TO WATCH

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TEAM B PLAYER TO WATCH

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TEAM A POSITION GROUP PREVIEW

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TEAM B POSITION GROUP RATINGS

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Author Details
MLS Department Head | The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
I am Caylor Feltman, currently located in Tuscaloosa, AL getting my Masters degree in Sports Management at UA. I’m working as an assistant with Event Management in the Athletic Department. My sports of choice include football and fútbol, as well as basketball, but I’m one of those people who is just enthralled by human competition. So if it’s on, I’ll watch it. I’m also one of those people who has a hierarchy of fanhood. If my team isn’t playing, I’ll root for my division/conference, so don’t be surprised if you see me tweet (@TheSeltrain) about Aaron Rodgers or LSU. Just know that you won’t ever see me favour Manchester City, Chelsea, or the Patriots. #BearDown #USMNT #USWNT #Rapids96 #MUFC #RollTide #Smashville
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MLS Department Head | The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
I am Caylor Feltman, currently located in Tuscaloosa, AL getting my Masters degree in Sports Management at UA. I’m working as an assistant with Event Management in the Athletic Department. My sports of choice include football and fútbol, as well as basketball, but I’m one of those people who is just enthralled by human competition. So if it’s on, I’ll watch it. I’m also one of those people who has a hierarchy of fanhood. If my team isn’t playing, I’ll root for my division/conference, so don’t be surprised if you see me tweet (@TheSeltrain) about Aaron Rodgers or LSU. Just know that you won’t ever see me favour Manchester City, Chelsea, or the Patriots. #BearDown #USMNT #USWNT #Rapids96 #MUFC #RollTide #Smashville

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