The San Diego Chargers (2-6) are set to host the Chicago Bears (2-5) tonight in a Monday Night Football matchup between two franchises who have had largely disappointing starts to the 2015 season. Both teams will be dealing with a star offensive player being out of the lineup — running back Matt Forte for the Bears, who is out for at least two weeks with a sprained MCL, and wide receiver Keenan Allen for the Chargers, who is out for the season with lacerated kidney. Nonetheless, this game projects to be highly entertaining, despite each team’s disappointing win/loss record and the injuries to Forte and Allen.
The Chargers will enter the game with the No. 1 offense in the league in terms of total yards gained per game, while the Bears will enter the contest with one of the NFL’s top-10 defenses in terms of total yardage allowed. Both starting quarterbacks — Philip Rivers for the Chargers and Jay Cutler for the Bears — have the ability to take games over, and each team has a player that is a matchup nightmare in the passing game: tight end Antonio Gates for San Diego and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery for the Bears.
Neither the Bears nor the Chargers appear to be a real threat to make the postseason in 2015, but this game still has the makings of a highly compelling Monday night tilt. With that being said, here is a look at three key matchups that will play a major role in deciding the outcome of this game.
1. Bears’ wide receiver Alshon Jeffery vs. Chargers’ cornerback Jason Verrett
Since returning from a hamstring injury that kept him out for four games, Jeffery (pictured above) has exploded for 18 receptions, 263 yards, and two touchdowns in Chicago’s last two games. Verrett, on the other hand, is on the verge of solidifying his place as a shutdown cornerback, but is still dealing with a nagging groin injury. If Verrett can make Jeffery a non-factor, the Bears will have an extremely difficult time winning this game. If Verrett struggles against the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Jeffery, the Bears will likely keep this game close enough to pounce at the end and come away with an upset win on the road.
2. Bears’ running back Jeremy Langford vs. Chargers’ defensive front seven
With Forte out of the lineup, Langford will get the start at running back for the Bears in tonight’s game. He will be going up against a bruised and battered defensive front seven for the Chargers, and the rookie running back’s performance may ultimately prove to be the deciding factor in this game. San Diego will be without inside linebackers Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman, and defensive end Corey Liuget is listed as questionable with a foot injury. If Langford cannot find success tonight, the Bears’ chances of winning are slim-to-none.
3. Chargers’ passing attack vs. Bears’ secondary
At the end of the day, we aren’t expecting Allen’s absence to change the fact that the Chargers have one of the best passing attacks in the league. Rivers is playing some of the best football of his career, and he still has several solid targets to throw to in Gates and wide receivers Malcolm Floyd and Stevie Johnson. On the flip side, the Bears are giving up the third-fewest passing yards per game in the league in 2015. If the Chicago secondary can limit San Diego’s success through the air, the Bears will likely win this game. If not, the Chargers could hang 30 or more points on them en route to a double-digit win.
Final prediction: Chargers 30, Bears 24
The Chargers’ offense will carry them to victory behind another strong performance from Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates. The San Diego defense will force multiple turnovers out of Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler, and the Chargers will improve their overall season record to 3-6.