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JETS - BEARS PREVIEW
By Dan Powell
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
November 17th, 2006
Rex Grossman and the Chicago Bears invade Giants Stadium for the second week in a row.
Rex Grossman and the Chicago Bears invade Giants Stadium for the second week in a row.
For the second week in a row, the Jets will find themselves as David standing in Goliath’s shadow as they play seven point underdogs to the NFC-leading Chicago Bears at the Meadowlands. While the Jets were able to take down Belichick, Brady, and the rest of the Patriot dynasty last week, they may face an even more daunting challenge this week against the Monsters of the Midway.

The Bears, dormant for several years in the beginning of the decade, have burst back into the upper echelon of the NFL. If anyone had any doubt about Chicago, they were silenced last Sunday night at Giants Stadium when the Bears beat the Giants to the tune of a 38-20 rout. That should not scare head coach Eric Mangini and his Jets, though, considering that just a week ago they knocked off another team that was considered to be among the top contenders in the league.

In fact suddenly Gang Green finds itself with surrounded by reporters and fans buzzing about playoff possibilities, something Mangini and his players, even the outspoken Laveranues Coles, will not talk about. There would no better way to show the rest of the league that the Jets are a different team from the 4-12 disaster they were last year and prove that they are contenders, not pretenders in this season’s race for the AFC East crown than to take down two elite teams in back-to-back weeks.

If the Jets defense can repeat their performance from a week ago, the Bears will not be hanging big numbers up on the Giants Stadium scoreboard as they did a week ago. Though Chicago has one of the league’s best offensive lines, they are somewhat lacking at skill positions. Many experts question if Rex Grossman is a Super Bowl caliber quarterback. Thomas Jones is the team’s one man running game since Cedric Benson, the fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft, has been a total bust thus far. Jones is hardly an All-Pro back himself, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry this season.

Grossman is still young and does not tend to play well without time in the pocket. If defensive end Shaun Ellis and the rest of the Jets front seven can pressure Grossman like they did Tom Brady last week, the Jets secondary could be looking at some good opportunities for interceptions.

The Bears defense has been known to create some turnovers themselves, however. The Bears have a plus seven in the giveaway/takeaway category this year and there is no doubt that the Monsters of the Midway are back in the form of linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs and the rest of the Chicago D.

Mangini and his staff will certainly have to come up with a clever game plan again. The priority has to be to get the ground game established again. The Jets have struggled in the running game often this year, but it was their success rushing the football that keyed last week’s victory in Foxboro. It will be just important this week considering the Bears have the stingiest pass defense in the NFL so it will be up to rookie-veteran running back tandem of Leon Washington and Kevan Barlow to provide the offense for the Jets this weekend.

Still after outfoxing Bill Belichick, widely considered one of the best coaches in the NFL, last week it is hard to doubt that Mangini and his staff are capable of cracking this Bears juggernaut. If they do it will be this biggest statement win for the franchise in quite some time as no one can deny the Jets would be players on the postseason scene.

INSIDER TIDBITS

-There could be some serious fireworks from the special teams this weekend. The Bears’ Devin Hester has the second highest return average among NFL punt returners and ran back a missed field goal for 108 yards against the Giants last week. Kicker Robbie Gould has also been key for Chicago this year, hitting all 23 of his field goal attempts thus far.

Special team coach Mike Westhoff has formed a potent unit of his own in New York, however. Justin Miller leads the NFL in kick return average with just over 30 yards a return and punter Ben Graham is second in the NFL, pinning the opponent inside the 20 on 42.5 percent of his kicks.

-This is a match-up between two of the best young coaches in the NFL. Lovie Smith has done a tremendous job turning around the Bears organization and Mangini seems to have instilled winning attitude and values in New York. Smith will likely end up as a highly regarded Coach of the Year candidate, somewhere Mangini could get if he somehow manages to lead Gang Green to the playoffs.

-The Jets should not have to worry about playing against the elements again this weekend as the forecast calls for 53 degree temperatures with sunny skies.

-If the Gang Green pulls off the upset, it will be Chicago’s first road loss of the 2006 season.

Injury Report

Chicago Bears

-CB Dante Wesley (Knee): Doubtful
-WR Bernard Berrian (Ribs): Questionable
-LB Leon Joe (Hamstring): Questionable
-TE Gabriel Reid (Wrist): Questionable

New York Jets

-FB B.J. Askew (Foot): Questionable
-CB David Barrett (Hip): Questionable
-WR Tim Dwight (Thigh): Questionable
-RB Cedric Houston (Knee): Questionable
-RB Kevan Barlow (Calf): Probable
-LB Matt Chatham (Foot): Probable
-CB Drew Coleman (Thigh): Probable
-WR Laveranues Coles (Calf): Probable
-CB Andre Dyson (Ankle): Probable
-OL Pete Kendall (Thigh): Probable
-OL Nick Mangold (Eye): Probable
-WR Justin McCareins (Foot): Probable
-DL Rashad Moore (Hand): Probable
-QB Chad Pennington (Calf): Probable
-QB Patrick Ramsey (Thigh): Probable

Game time is at 1:00PM on Sunday, nationally-televised on FOX, local TV on FOX 5 and local radio on 1050 ESPN radio and WCRN 104.3 on Long Island. Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com after the game for a complete recap!