The Bears have been an absolute mess on and off the field this season. Last week, Justin Fields turned in his best career performance as a passer, yet Chicago still found ways to lose to Denver. On Thursday night, they will try again to end their 14-game losing streak that dates back to last season.
Since starting undefeated, the Commanders have suffered two consecutive losses. Sam Howell has taken an alarming amount of sacks under pressure – yet this might not be a concern against Chicago.
Sam Howell has faltered under pressure this season – ranking 34th out of 34 quarterbacks for EPA/play when under duress (out of 35 total QBs). However, When he has a clean pocket, his ranking jumps significantly to 20th.
Therefore, his rating increases from worst in the league to just below average when he has an uninterrupted pocket to throw from.
On Thursday night, Howell could enjoy an unencumbered pocket against the Bears, who have produced the second-lowest pressure rate this season. Their secondary lacks the talent to allow QBs as much time to throw, ranking 31st in DVOA against pass this year.
Howell recently had an impressive 290/1/0 game against the Eagles, and I believe he can replicate his success against the Bears here.
Once they gain an advantage, the Commanders may rely less heavily on running plays than last season; under new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s direction they have become far more pass-heavy (second in pass rate over expected).
Last week, the Bears led Denver by 14 points heading into the fourth quarter before ultimately relinquishing it and losing by three points.
In recent memory, Justin Fields had one of his finest performances as a passer on Sunday when he completed 28 of 35 passes for 335 yards and four touchdowns – much of which can be attributed to Chicago’s prized offseason acquisition, DJ Moore.
Fields has consistently targeted Moore at an increased rate – from 4% in Week 1, 18% in Week 2, 21% in Week 3, and 26% in Week 4. As a result, he posted an 8/131/1 line against Denver.
Sometimes, a new quarterback-wide receiver duo only takes a few games to find their footing. Already, they’ve connected on seven plays that resulted in 20+ yards, keeping in mind the Commanders have been vulnerable against deep ball attacks this season; Washington currently allows an average of 125 yards per game on passes 15+ yards downfield, which ranks second most allowed among teams.
The Commanders have also struggled to stop Fields and his dual-threat QB counterparts like Russell Wilson (56 rushing yards), Josh Allen (46) and Jalen Hurts (36) from picking up yards with their legs when necessary.
The Bears could regain their starting right guard, with Teven Jenkins having been designated to return. Whitehair, however, has struggled to block for run plays this season and allowed 11 pressures on 160 dropbacks so far this season.
Jenkins only allowed 12 pressures in 304 dropbacks and graded as one of the premier run blockers at his position, his return would be immense.
The Bears are a mess and while Washington is not a great team they are better than the Bears. Look for Sam Howell to have an excellent game and lead the Commanders to a win and a cover/. Washington 31 Chicago 21.
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