The Giants haven’t played a regular-season game on a Thursday since last September, when they visited the Carolina Panthers.
That Giants club was hurting. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and running back Ahmad Bradshaw both missed the game with injuries. New York, for the record, was slight a underdog to Carolina.
Then, the game kicked off, and the Giants dispatched on the Panthers with surprising ease. Wide receiver Ramses Barden and running Andre Brown had breakout games, and quarterback Eli Manning threw for 288 yards and a score as the Giants rolled to a 36-7 victory.
But winning tonight's matchup in Chicago will be a taller order than that game. The Bears are a stronger team than last year's Panther's squad. The 2013 Giants appear a cut below last year’s club, as well.
Still, the underdog Giants aren’t without a shot Thursday night. Here is NBC 4 New York’s preview of Thursday’s Giants-Bears game:
Reasons why the Giants can win on Thursday night
The Bears’ pass protection, while improved over recent seasons, is not special. The Giants have to believe they can pressure Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who has been sacked three times in each of the last two games.
The Bears’ pass defense is shaky. Chicago is allowing 278.8 passing yards per game, about 65 yards more than last season's average. The Giants have the passing game to give the Bears fits.
The Bears are two failed fourth-quarter comebacks from being 1-4. Give Chicago its due — the team made the plays it needed to make to secure late wins against Cincinnati and Minnesota. Also, the Bears are playing significantly better than the Giants to this point. But on paper, the Giants do not look overmatched.
The Giants’ offense comes off its most productive game in weeks. The Giants gained 383 yards and scored three offensive touchdowns in Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia. They had scored a combined three touchdowns in the previous three games.
Reasons why the Giants could run into trouble against the Bears
The Giants lead the NFL in turnovers, and the Bears are outstanding at forcing mistakes. Only the Chiefs and Seahawks (15 apiece) have more takeaways than the Bears (14). If the Giants do not take care of the ball, the Bears will make them pay.
The Giants’ pass defense could have major problems with the Bears’ passing offense. How will a Giants secondary thinned by injuries match up with wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett? Moreover, the Giants have notched just five sacks in five games. New York has the pass-rush talent to pressure Cutler, but can they follow through?
The Giants’ passing game has faltered in some way in just about every game this season. Manning has thrown three or more interceptions three times this year and is only three picks away from matching his total for the 2012 season (15). He has also been sacked 15 times this season, tied for fourth-most in the league.
The Bears’ return game is a tough matchup for the Giants. The Giants have had too many miscues in the kicking game this season to have much confidence in their ability to hold Devin Hester in check.
The Giants should be competitive Thursday night. The Bears have hardly looked like NFC powers in the last two weeks, and the Giants showed some promise, relatively speaking, in a week five loss to Philadelphia. In the end, though, New York seems likely to fall short — Chicago is simply more dependable in all phases of the game. The Giants will keep it close, but the Bears will prevail late.
Score: Bears 24, Giants 20.