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

If remaining week used to be a serious warning call, Sunday night time could be the intestine test.

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

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

Possibly essentially the most important combat for Chicago can be producing power on Jared Goff, who has taken good thing about 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 no longer for Aaron Donald’s exceptional marketing campaign, will glance to construct on his 9 sacks and 5 compelled fumbles thus far this yr by means of proceeding to create havoc. However whilst the Rams will certainly supply further assets to blockading each Mack and Akiem Hicks, offensive tackles Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein had been a number of the league’s best possible bookends. 

 

Goff, then again, is coming off a 17-of-33 passing efficiency towards the Detroit Lions and would possibly no longer have the ability to rely on Todd Gurley to bail him out once more. The Bears rank 0.33 in yards allowed in step with lift with simply three.7 and feature simplest allowed one again, the Miami Dolphins’ Frank Gore in Week 6, to crack the 100-yard mark. Goff may even must be wary towards a bunch that leads the NFL with 21 interceptions and 30 overall takeaways, although celebrity protection Eddie Jackson has been hampered by means of a shin damage.

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

Chiefs TE Travis Kelce vs. Ravens CB Jimmy Smith

Protecting tight ends has been probably the most few sore spots for Baltimore’s top-ranked protection, and their matchup towards the league’s best possible on the place comes at quite 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 vital motion towards Kelce, Smith may to find himself matched up towards the tight finish incessantly given how often Kansas Town splits the three-time Professional Bowl variety out huge.

After posting 22 catches for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns in his remaining two video games, Kelce represents no longer simplest the largest risk to Baltimore’s protection but in addition Patrick Mahomes’ most important weapon for fighting the go rush. The Ravens rank 0.33 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 by means of dominating on the catch level along with his 6-6, 250-pound body.

Cowboys WR Amari Cooper vs. Eagles CB Rasul Douglas

Cooper took quite of a backseat to working 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 huge receiver is poised to make an excellent larger splash. With 256 yards and two touchdowns in his remaining 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 used to be with out 4 of its peak 5 cornerbacks. With Jalen Generators out, Philadelphia should depend on Douglas and Sidney Jones to carry their very own towards Cooper. However Philadelphia has given up the second-most yards to opposing huge receivers (averaging 192 in step with recreation) of any group, forward of simplest the Saints — whom Cooper burned for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Dolphins’ secondary

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

With its go rush suffering to generate power and score 29th with simply 20 sacks, Miami would possibly have a specific drawback coping with Howard’s absence. The Patriots can proceed to emphasise their working recreation after 375 yards at the floor within the remaining two video games, however the passing assault may well 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 towards a protection that has no longer fared neatly on 0.33 downs (41.three p.c conversion price).

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

As simply one among 3 groups with extra dashing makes an attempt (380) than passes (326), Seattle is likely one of the league’s biggest offensive outliers, particularly given the group’s skill to unearth giant performs in the course of the air. Whilst the components has labored thus far, 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 obtrusive passing downs.

Simmons is predicted to as soon as once more step right into a beginning position with D.J. Fluker anticipated to be sidelined by means of a hamstring pressure. He has performed in simply 4 NFL video games with one get started however fared neatly towards the Rams, serving to pave the best way for the group to hurry for 273 yards at the day. Minnesota, then again, has probably the most league’s maximum bold number of inside 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 group ended. 

Apply Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

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