Happy Thanksgiving everybody! This week the Chicago Bears (2-8) host the Tennessee Titans (5-6) on Sunday at Noon in Soldier Field. All eyes will be on QB #12 Matt Barkley, who will make his 1st career start in this his 4th NFL season. He was originally drafted in the 4th round (#98 overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft by Philadelphia. Since playing in 4 games over two seasons with the Eagles, he joined the Cardinals in Arizona in 2015 before joining the Bears this season. In his one game of action with Chicago, you might recall he got in the Week 7 game at Green Bay. He completed 6 of 15 passes for 81 yards and 2 interceptions in relief of injured starter Brian Hoyer. You likely remember him not looking very good, but of course that was partially due to not having practiced with the Bears starters much, if ever, prior to that game. This time he takes over for injured starter Jay Cutler, who is likely out for this game as Head Coach John Fox stated after practice on Wednesday. However, Fox emphasized firmly that Cutler is not out for the rest of the season as was originally speculated by the “experts” who cover the team.
Nonetheless, Barkley has been put in a tough situation starting for the first time in an offense that has 6 other starters out of his 10 surrounding teammates in the huddle who are also out with injuries or suspensions. Starting WR’s Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White, along with TE Zach Miller are out as potential pass catchers while Barkley will likely have less time to throw because of 3 injured linemen in LG Josh Sitton, RG Kyle Long, and RT Bobby Massie. Hmmm, better get backup QB David Fales ready. He may need to relieve Barkley before too long.
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans are a young team that is improving with each and every week. They are the 5th highest scoring team in the league with 281 points scored in 11 games for a 25.5 ppg average. Only Atlanta, San Diego, Dallas, and New Orleans have scored more total points. The Titans are led by their 2nd year QB #8 Marcus Mariota who is on the verge of becoming a superstar. Already this season he has thrown for 2,772 yards (7th in NFL), 23 TD’s (4th), and just 8 INT’s. His QB rating is 100.3 (7th). He has also run for 264 yards with 2 more scores on the ground. Add it all up and it makes Mariota not only one of the best “young” Quarterbacks in the NFL but one of the best QB’s period.
For those of us that watched him play in college at Oregon, this comes as no surprise. “Maserati” Mariota has all the tools: speed, arm strength, accuracy, brains, even humility. I think his personality is one of his greatest assets. He comes from a great family in Hawaii who raised him well. He’s a student of the game. From all accounts, the reason he vaulted to the starting spot as a redshirt freshman at Oregon was more than his supreme athleticism. It was mainly due to the fact that he knew the playbook better than anyone else. He memorized it through voracious studying. He translated it to the practice fields in Eugene and once he started driving the offense, nobody was going to stop him. Despite the obvious talent and success, Mariota doesn’t let fame get to his head. He’s very well grounded, despite winning the 2014 Heisman Trophy as the college game’s greatest player. Tennessee made the right move in drafting him 2nd overall behind Jameis Winston, the #1 overall pick by Tampa Bay. I know Winston is also doing well in his 2nd season, but if you ask me Tampa picked the wrong guy. Mariota is the man and if Tennessee keeps surrounding him with the right complementary parts, “Maserati” will drive the Titans to new heights.
Aikman Efficiency Ratings
- Chicago : 26th Offense, 18th Defense, 27th Overall
- Tennessee : 3rd Offense, 19th Defense, 4th Overall
These AER numbers are surprising. Tennessee is the 3rd best offense and 4th best overall team in the NFL!?! Yet they are only 5-6. Sounds like they are due for some more wins in their last 5 games. After playing the Bears and then getting a late bye week, the Titans play vs Denver, at Kansas City, at Jacksonville, and vs Houston. They will probably only be favored against Chicago, Jacksonville, and possibly/probably Houston. So they are likely to go 3-2 to even their season record at 8-8. Will that be enough to win the AFC South? Currently they are in 3rd place behind Houston (6-4) and Indianapolis (5-5). So that season ending game at home vs Houston could be huge.
Keep An Eye On : ILB #44 Nick Kwiatkoski
Now that starter #50 Jerrell Freeman is suspended for the next 4 games for PED use, expect Kwiatkoski to get plenty of experience next to #59 Danny Trevathan in the middle of the Bears defense. I have a friend who has been clamoring to see more of Kwiatkoski all season! I’m also excited to see this guy play. Freeman has made a team-high 91 total tackles which ranks 5th best in the league. Can Kwiatkoski pick up where Freeman left off?
Tennessee is favored by 5 points at Soldier Field. With all of the injuries, suspensions, and drama surrounding these Bears, I expect the Titans to handle Chicago. Even though the Bears defense is really starting to gel as of late, the Titans offense has too many weapons in QB Mariota, RB’s DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, WR’s Rishard Matthews and Kendall Wright, and supreme TE Delanie Walker. With the Bears offense unlikely to put up more than 2 touchdowns at most, look for the Titans to not only win but possibly stick the dagger in the Bears. However, a bear can be tough to kill. Do the Titans have the strength to finish off a wounded bear? I think they can and I think they will.
Tennessee Titans 31 Chicago Bears 13