THE GAME: The Chicago Bears (2-7) at the Giants (6-3) at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. on Sunday, Nov. 20 at 1 p.m. ET.
THE WEATHER: Whoa! Bundle up. It's going to be nasty on Sunday, if the forecasts are indeed right. At the moment, the temperatures are going to be in the 40s with winds whipping around from 20-30 miles per hour. Pretty much, it's exactly the kind of weather you're hoping for if you're an underachieving team hoping to pull off an upset against a team that passes twice as much as it runs the ball.
WHAT IT MEANS: Trap! Ok, maybe not a trap, because that would mean the Giants were looking past the Bears to their big game in Cleveland against the 0-10 Browns (and nobody is looking forward to that). But this game, like next week's game, is the type of game a true contender absolutely has to win. No, a loss wouldn't kill the Giants' playoff hopes. But a loss would expose them as a not-quite-ready-to-compete-for-a-championship team. Right now the Giants are widely considered to be a notch below the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks in the NFC, in part because they haven't had a real defining victory yet. That may come in December. But this would be a defining loss. Yeah, it's true, who cares about perception? But it'll be hard to argue the Giants are gearing up for a Super Bowl run if they pull a stinker here.
PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Rashad Jennings. He's already lost some of his carries to rookie Paul Perkins, but he reasserted himself with a decent performance (87 yards) and a strong finish (34 yards on his last two carries on the final drive of the game) Monday night. Now the question is: Can he build on it? There is no doubt that Perkins is a threat to Jennings, who is not having his finest season. But he's still good enough to hold off the challenge if he can make something out of nothing. With Justin Pugh out and Brett Jones banged up, the Giants' already questionable offensive line is now diminished, so it won't be easy. What Jennings does in this game - especially if the winds are as strong as predicted - will be key for the Giants, and also for his Giants career.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Giants Ts Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart vs. Bears OLBs Leonard Floyd and Willie Young. I still believe the Giants' offensive line has not been as good as it's sometimes looked. And by that I mean that just because Eli Manning gets the ball off before he's sacked or even hit doesn't mean there isn't actual pressure. The Giants' offense is designed for quick throws, in part because the line has been shaky. Think about it: When's the last time you saw Manning with consistent time to really sit in the pocket and pick apart a defense or throw downfield? It doesn't happen often. And with Young (6 ½ sacks) and Floyd (5) it's possible it won't happen in this game especially if Hart struggles as much as he did at times against the Bengals. A 3-4 defense alone is enough to give the Giants trouble because they don't see it often. The injuries to Pugh and Jones won't help either because it means the line will have to do some shuffling. So it's important for Flowers and Hart to hold the edge, which is where the smaller, faster Floyd and Young will be coming from. And from the sound of things in Chicago, the Bears will be coming after Manning as much as they can.
THE PICK: I'm still not sure I believe the Giants are a true contender for a championship, but I'm sold on them as a playoff team and as the best of a mediocre pack huddled behind the Cowboys and Seahawks in the NFC. That means they should have little trouble with the Bears. I know, I know, they've had emotional let downs before. Given the renewed energy I've sensed from them under Ben McAdoo, I'd be surprised if that's a problem. It could be if the offense struggles and the Bears are allowed to stay in the game, and that definitely is a danger. But I don't think there's any chance of the Giants looking past their opponent (especially to the awful-er Browns). Besides, Jay Cutler is a guy that can absolutely be rattled, and it will already be tough for him without suspended WR Alshon Jeffrey. And over the last few weeks the Giants' pass rush, with a healthy Olivier Vernon, has shown definite signs of life. The Bears defense isn't bad, and I would worry about the Giants moving the ball consistently especially if it's windy. Their running game has been a mess all year, and despite last week's fourth quarter I don't expect that to change. But it's the Giants' defense that I think will make the difference in this one. They've been terrific lately and I don't expect the depleted Bears to give them much trouble at all. … Giants 17, Bears 7.
MY RECORD: 6-3.
MY RECORD WHEN PICKING THE GIANTS TO WIN: 4-1
MY RECORD WHEN PICKING THE GIANTS TO LOSE: 2-2