SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports activities’ Steve Gardner loves those two Chargers in day-to-day myth this week. He additionally breaks down a handful of price choices.

If closing week was once a warning call, Sunday evening could be the intestine test.

The Chicago Bears are final in on their first NFC North name since 2010, thank you largely to the NFL’s third-ranked protection. However the staff is on understand after a 30-27 time beyond regulation loss to the New York Giants snapped a five-game successful streak.

Going through off in opposition to the Los Angeles Rams’ second-ranked offense is its personal problem. The sport, on the other hand, shall be one thing of a proving floor for Chicago’s protection because it prepares to stand the league’s elite gadgets within the postseason. The Bears have not squared off in opposition to a top-15 offense since Week 7 and are simply 1-2 in opposition to the ones groups this season.

In all probability probably the most vital fight for Chicago shall be producing power on Jared Goff, who has taken benefit of superlative coverage and thrown for three,754 yards and 27 touchdowns this season. Khalil Mack, who could be within the dialog for defensive participant of the yr if now not for Aaron Donald’s exceptional marketing campaign, will glance to construct on his 9 sacks and 5 compelled fumbles up to now this yr via proceeding to create havoc. However whilst the Rams will indisputably supply further sources to blocking off each Mack and Akiem Hicks, offensive tackles Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein had been a few of the league’s very best bookends. 


Goff, on the other hand, is coming off a 17-of-33 passing efficiency in opposition to the Detroit Lions and would possibly now not be capable of rely on Todd Gurley to bail him out once more. The Bears rank 1/3 in yards allowed in line with raise with simply three.7 and feature handiest allowed one again, the Miami Dolphins’ Frank Gore in Week 6, to crack the 100-yard mark. Goff will even must be wary in opposition to a gaggle that leads the NFL with 21 interceptions and 30 general takeaways, despite the fact that big name protection Eddie Jackson has been hampered via a shin damage.

Listed below are 4 different matchups that may outline Week 14 within the NFL:

Chiefs TE Travis Kelce vs. Ravens CB Jimmy Smith

Protecting tight ends has been one of the vital few sore spots for Baltimore’s top-ranked protection, and their matchup in opposition to the league’s very best on the place comes at slightly of an inopportune time. Protection Tony Jefferson is in doubt with an ankle damage, whilst peak cornerback Marlon Humphrey is questionable with a groin damage. Whilst protection Eric Weddle and others would possibly see important motion in opposition to Kelce, Smith may just to find himself matched up in opposition to the tight finish incessantly given how steadily Kansas Town splits the three-time Professional Bowl variety out vast.

After posting 22 catches for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns in his closing two video games, Kelce represents now not handiest the largest risk to Baltimore’s protection but additionally Patrick Mahomes’ primary weapon for fighting the move rush. The Ravens rank 1/3 in blitz frequency at 36.Nine p.c and feature given up only a 76.6 passer score when doing so. However Kelce can alleviate some power via dominating on the catch level along with his 6-6, 250-pound body.

Cowboys WR Amari Cooper vs. Eagles CB Rasul Douglas

Cooper took slightly of a backseat to operating again Ezekiel Elliott within the Cowboys’ Week 10 win over the Eagles however nonetheless completed with six catches for 75 yards. Within the rematch, the vast receiver is poised to make an excellent larger splash. With 256 yards and two touchdowns in his closing two video games, he has emerged because the unquestionable go-to goal for Dak Prescott, who has finished 72.eight p.c of his passes within the 5 video games Cooper has performed.

Douglas’ presence is paramount for an Eagles secondary that during Week 12 was once with out 4 of its peak 5 cornerbacks. With Jalen Turbines out, Philadelphia must depend on Douglas and Sidney Jones to carry their very own in opposition to Cooper. However Philadelphia has given up the second-most yards to opposing vast receivers (averaging 192 in line with recreation) of any staff, forward of handiest the Saints — whom Cooper burned for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Dolphins’ secondary

Brady is solely 7-Nine all-time in Miami in opposition to the Dolphins, who’ve claimed 4 of the closing 5 matchups at house. However contemporary historical past could be little convenience for Adam Gase’s staff. Cornerback Xavien Howard, who intercepted Brady two times in closing yr’s win over New England and has 4 choices in his closing two video games, has been dominated out with a knee damage. 

With its move rush suffering to generate power and score 29th with simply 20 sacks, Miami would possibly have a selected downside coping with Howard’s absence. The Patriots can proceed to emphasise their operating recreation after 375 yards at the floor within the closing two video games, however the passing assault might be what breaks the Dolphins’ protection. Josh Gordon would require particular consideration from safeties Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, whilst Julian Edelman has a good outlook in opposition to a protection that has now not fared neatly on 1/3 downs (41.three p.c conversion price).

Seahawks G Jordan Simmons vs. Vikings DTs Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson

As simply one in every of 3 groups with extra dashing makes an attempt (380) than passes (326), Seattle is among the league’s largest offensive outliers, particularly given the staff’s talent to unearth large performs throughout the air. Whilst the formulation has labored up to now, the present degree of potency has been depending on a considerable turnaround from the offensive line. The Seahawks will want to supply a constant push up entrance to stay the bottom recreation heading in the right direction and the offense out of too many evident passing downs.

Simmons is anticipated to as soon as once more step right into a beginning function with D.J. Fluker anticipated to be sidelined via a hamstring pressure. He has performed in simply 4 NFL video games with one get started however fared neatly in opposition to the Rams, serving to pave the way in which for the staff to hurry for 273 yards at the day. Minnesota, on the other hand, has one of the vital league’s maximum ambitious choice of inner defensive linemen with Joseph, Richardson and Tom Johnson. The latter two are each former Seahawks avid gamers and took exception to how their time with the staff ended. 

Apply Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.


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