The Week 3 edition of Monday Night Football is a bit of an outlier. Unlike so many other Week 3 games, this one does not feature a backup quarterback getting a start. Unlike some other Week 3 games, this one does not have a 20-plus-point spread. Unlike some other Week 3 games, this one does not feature a pair of high-flying offenses.
It's just a regular ole' NFC clash between two teams looking to get their seasons on track. The Chicago Bears have escaped the first two weeks with a 1-1 record despite looking incredibly disappointing -- especially on offense. Washington is 0-2 with two divisional losses, and its defense is getting torn apart.
Bears at Redskins
- Date: Monday, Sept. 23
- Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ESPN
- Odds: Bears -5.5, O/U 41 (via SportsLine)
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When the Bears have the ball
Things are not at all going well for the Chicago Bears offense. This is a team with only 19 points across two games, and needed a last-second field goal in Week 2 to get to that total. There has been a near-total backslide of everything going on with this offense, but the appropriate place to start digging in is no doubt with Mitchell Trubisky.
In every way a quarterback can possibly regress, Trubisky seemingly has. His completion percentage is down. His yards per attempt average is way down. He has not thrown a touchdown. He's taking more sacks. He has not made many big plays. (He's just 3 of 11 for 74 yards and an interception on deep throws, per Pro Football Focus.) He has been an abject disaster (7-20, 48 yards, INT) when under pressure. And he is not yet making up for any of this by making plays with his legs, as he has just four carries for 19 yards in two games.
Perhaps this week's game provides an opportunity for him to get untracked. The Washington defense was torn apart through the air by the Eagles and Cowboys during their first two games, allowing Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott to complete a combined 54 of 69 passes (78.3 percent) for 574 yards (8.3 per attempt), six touchdowns and just one interception, which came on a tipped pass. Cornerbacks Josh Norman, Jimmy Moreland, and Aaron Colvin have all been absolutely torched, allowing passer ratings of 147.9 or better on throws in their direction.
Norman may or may not get full-time shadow duties on Allen Robinson, who looked terrific in Week 1 but predictably came back to earth amid Trubisky's struggles last week. Norman did not shadow Amari Cooper everywhere he went last week, though he did spend a lot of time covering the Cowboys' star wideout. On another snap, though, he was smoked by Devin Smith for a deep touchdown. And he also got stiff-armed in the open field by Prescott. It has not been a good start to the season for Norman.
But if the first couple games are any indication, Robinson is basically the only pass-catching threat Washington has to worry about on this team. Trubisky is 11 of 20 for 143 yards throwing to him 31 of 52 throwing to other receivers, but for a paltry 205 yards. Running backs Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis have 17 catches for 73 yards. That's insane.
The Bears may be able to have more success on the ground than they have had thus far, though, as the Washington defense is besieged by injuries. Stud interior lineman Jonathan Allen is likely to miss his second consecutive game, while linebacker Reuben Foster is done for the year after tearing his ACL and LCL in offseason workouts. Opponents have carried 65 times for 336 yards and two scores against Washington through two games, and they're allowing 4.53 Adjusted Line Yards per attempt, per Football Outsiders. Chicago's offensive line has not exactly been a road-grading group in its matchups with the Packers and Broncos, but maybe they'll be able to get going on Monday night.
When Washington has the ball
It feels like we have to start with rookie wideout Terry McLaurin, who looks like he's on his way to a fantastic debut season. He's got 10 grabs for 187 yards through two games, and has scored in each of his matchups. He appears to be a fantastic route runner. He's got good body control and excellent hands. And he has quickly earned the trust of his quarterback. All of those things are great signs for his development. Oh, and he figures to have the trust of his next quarterback, too, because Dwayne Haskins is his former college teammate. (Side note: Doesn't it seem like a bunch of Ohio State receivers are better in the pros than they were in college?)
Washington has moved McLaurin around the formation quite a bit, so he figures to see an equal amount of Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, and Buster Skrine in coverage. The Bears play sides with their corners, with Fuller lining up at left corner on 99 percent of his snaps, Amukamara is at right corner on 99 percent of his, and Skrine in the slot 94 percent of the time. That has not changed under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who took over for the departed Vic Fangio. (Fangio is now the head coach of the Broncos.)
Skrine is clearly the weakest link of the trio, so slot man Trey Quinn could be in line for an increased target share. He's got eight catches through two games, though those grabs have only gained 69 yards. Washington will unfortunately be without tight end Jordan Reed, whose career is in jeopardy due to repeated concussions. Vernon Davis has been filling in at that spot, who has still got it when he gets into the open field, as he displayed in Week 1. Jimmy Graham hit the Bears for three catches for 30 yards and a score in Week 1, while the Noah Fant-Jeff Heuerman combination snared eight of nine targets for 54 yards in Week 2, so it's possible Davis could be fairly involved in this matchup as well.
Keenum has been delivering the ball quickly so far, averaging just 2.52 seconds per pass attempt, per PFF. That's a good thing, too, because the offensive line is working without star left tackle Trent Williams. He's been pressured on 35 percent of his drop backs despite that quick release, and that could mean a whole lot of trouble against a pass rush featuring Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd, and contributing rushman Roy Robertson-Harris. Mack has split his time rushing off the left and right side of the line through the first two games, but he should have a plus matchup no matter where he's attacking from on Monday evening.
And even bigger issue for the Washington offensive line will presumably be in the run game, where they are struggling, if we want to be incredibly kind about things. This is a team with 30 carries for 75 yards in two games. They rank 29th in the league in Adjusted Line Yards, 31st in open-field yards per carry, and 32nd in second-level yards per carry. The team's longest run of the season is just 10 yards, and they've been stuffed behind the line of scrimmage on six of those 29 running-back carries. This is a team that badly wants to Establish The Run because that's the philosophy of the coaching staff, but has not been able to do so just yet. It's difficult to see that changing on Monday night.
Prediction: Bears 20, Washington 14