Stats & Info: Alshon Jeffrey

Matchups to watch: Packers at Bears

December, 26, 2013
The Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers in Week 17, with the winner taking home the NFC North division title and more importantly, a playoff berth.

Aaron Rodgers is expected to start for the first time since Week 9, when the Packers lost to the Bears by a touchdown after he was injured in the first quarter. Jay Cutler didn’t play in that game, and his 1-8 career record against the Packers could level the playing field.

Cutler’s checkered past against the Packers is just one of the key matchups to watch in the game.

Jay Cutler versus Dom Capers

Since joining the Bears, Cutler has thrown eight touchdowns and 17 interceptions against the Packers. Against the other NFC North foes, Cutler has thrown 33 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers joined the Packers the same season Cutler joined the Bears, and his schemes -- specifically the pass rushing tendencies -- have caused problems for Cutler.

Cutler has completed 49 percent of his passes with one touchdown and eight interceptions when the Packers have sent five or more pass rushers over the last five seasons.

One of the reasons these pass rushes have been so successful is that Capers brings added pressure when Cutler might not be expecting it. The Packers have sent five-plus 43 percent of the time on first down against Cutler, something the rest of the NFL has done only 29 percent of the time to Cutler.

However, Cutler has more support his season, leading to another key matchup:

Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery versus Packers’ secondary

Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are one of two sets of teammates with 1,000 receiving yards this season (Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker). In Week 9 against the Packers, the duo combined for 12 receptions, 167 yards and two touchdowns.

Marshall and Jeffery did a majority of their work on the right side of the field in that game (defense’s left), the side cornerback Tramon Williams predominantly works. The duo grabbed eight of their passes for 115 yards and both touchdowns on the right side of the field in the game.

The Packers’ secondary has struggled all season, allowing 28 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions. The Packers have allowed no more than 29 touchdowns and recorded no fewer than 18 interceptions in any of the previous four seasons.

Packers run game vs Bears rush defense

The Packers nearly won in Week 9 without Rodgers due to the success of the run game. The Packers gained 199 yards on 29 rushes, including two touchdowns, in the game.

Eddie Lacy rushed 22 times for 150 yards against the Bears, but could be limited in Week 17 due to an ankle injury. Even if he is out, James Starks has been just as capable, averaging 5.2 yards per rush this season (6.7 in Week 9).

The Bears’ rush defense has only gotten worse as the season progresses. Prior to the Packers game the Bears were allowing 4.0 yards per rush, but have since allowed a whopping 6.5 yards per rush. To put that into perspective, no team has allowed more 5.3 yards per rush in a season over the last 10 years.

What challenges await new NFC coaches?

July, 25, 2013
Eight NFL teams welcome new head coaches to the sideline this season. We take a closer look at some of the challenges those coaches will face. Here’s a look at the NFC (the AFC can be found here.

Arizona Cardinals: Bruce Arians
2012 record: 5-11

Big addition: Carson Palmer has to be an improvement on the 21.4 Total QBR posted by Cardinals quarterbacks last season, worst in the league.

One headache: Has the offensive line improved enough? Adding Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford in the draft should help, but Arizona’s line allowed a sack every 11.7 dropbacks last season, worst in the NFL.

Key stat: The defense is ready to win now, finishing with the fourth-best Total QBR allowed last year (40.0). However, the offense cost the Cardinals 217.4 expected points last year, more than 100 points worse than the second-worst offense (Kansas City Chiefs, -107.94).

Chicago Bears: Marc Trestman
2012 record: 10-6

Big additions: Free-agent offensive linemen Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Eben Britton and first-round pick Kyle Long will help keep Jay Cutler upright. Cutler’s been sacked every 13.2 dropbacks in his Bears career (2009-12), most among 28 quarterbacks with 1,000 dropbacks in that span.

One headache: Can anyone take pressure off Brandon Marshall? There was a 140-target difference between Marshall (188 targets) and Earl Bennett and Alshon Jeffrey last season (48 each), the second-biggest margin between a first and second target in the league.

Key stat: In the last five seasons, the Bears’ defense allowed 16 more touchdowns than interceptions with Brian Urlacher off the field and had 12 more interceptions than touchdowns with him on the field.

Philadelphia Eagles: Chip Kelly
2012 record: 4-12

Big addition: Cary Williams is the biggest addition in the secondary, after disrupting 24 dropbacks last year (interception, pass defensed or sack). Only Richard Sherman (26) had more among defensive backs.

One headache: Lane Johnson may not be enough to upgrade an Eagles offensive line that ranked last in sacks or tackles for loss allowed.

Key stat: Chip Kelly’s Oregon offense averaged a play every 20.9 seconds, which would have been easily the NFL’s most up-tempo offense (New England Patriots, 24.9 seconds per play). Oregon averaged 82.8 plays per game, well beyond New England’s NFL-most 74.4 per game.