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The first month of the 2023 NFL Season has concluded as the month of October is set to give a new insight into the AFC and NFC playoffs. This Thursday Night Football matchup could have a significant impact on the NFC Playoffs as the Chicago Bears (0-4) go on the road to take the Washington Commanders (2-2).
The Bears are one of two teams in the league that have yet to account for a win through week four. They had their best chance to win their first game of the season last week at home against the Denver Broncos. Chicago had a 28-7 lead late in the third quarter before allowing 24 unanswered points to lose 31-28.
The Commanders started the season 2-03 with one-possession wins over the Arizona Cardinals and at Denver. They were dominated at home in week three by the Buffalo Bills before losing at the Philadelphia Eagles 34-31 in overtime.
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See also how we think about the big TNF matchup between two desperate NFC teams.
The Washington Commanders have improved the most on the offensive side of the ball.
First-year offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has created more urgency and production from the talent on the team. The Commanders are not settled on second-year quarterback Sam Howell, but he and running back Brian Robinson Jr. have established consistency in productivity.
The Commanders are ranked 17th in the league in points per game (22.2), but the numbers stagger due to facing the tough defenses of Buffalo and Philadelphia.
Many people will talk about how bad the offense for the Chicago Bears is, but they are even worse on the defensive side of the ball. The Bears are 31st (out of 32 teams) in points allowed per game (34.2), 28th in total yards allowed per game (383.2), and 29th in passing yards allowed per game (267.8).
The Bears' defense doesn't get enough blame for their inability to stop an opposing offense. The Bears have accounted for two sacks and two interceptions this season. It doesn’t help that defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned before the infamous 41-10 road loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The game was the first showing of Taylor Swift at an NFL game where non-football fans saw how terrible the Bears were.
While the defense is beyond horrible, the offense shouldn't be blameless. In a season where dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields was supposed to take a step up, he took a hard step in passing the ball.
In the first three games of the season, Fields showed the inability to drive the ball down the field by passing the ball and getting the ball to his best receivers. Last week in the 31-28 loss to the Denver Broncos, Fields had his best-ever passing performance in the NFL by completing 28-of-35 of his passes for 335 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, and a quarterback rating of 132.7. That game was against the Broncos' defense, the worst unit in the league.
The Commanders' defense has given up 120 points for an average of 30 points allowed per game (29th in the league). The team has collected a vast amount of pro-bowl caliber talent throughout the field, which shows defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is showing his poor ability to create a top defense in the league as they were not too many seasons ago.
This stacked defensive line of Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Chase Young, and Montez Sweat could be a serious problem for the Bears' ineffective offensive line.
Fields having his best NFL passing game is an anomaly as he did against the Denver Broncos' defense. One week before facing Chicago, Denver gave up 70 points to the Miami Dolphins. This Commanders' defense is going to trap Fields in the pocket and make him beat the defense with his arm, which has shown no signs of improvement, outside of the Broncos game.
Throughout the four games played this season, the Commanders have given star wide receiver Terry McLaurin just over five receptions in a game. With the Bears' defense being so terrible, this will be a perfect opportunity for Howell to get the ball more to the best offensive playmaker.
The offensive line for the Bears has allowed 17 sacks this season. The number would be higher considering Fields is a mobile and elusive quarterback. Montez Sweat leads the Commanders' defense with three sacks this season. There is a great possibility he could have a single-game career high.
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Michael Hanich is a sports journalist/analyst with a wide variety of experience in the newspaper and digital field. He has a love for all sports. The leagues that he covers are College Football, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, College Basketball (men’s and women’s), the MLB, Lacrosse, Volleyball, and the WNBA.More info on Michael Hanich
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