It’s the same key matchup as in every other Giants game: Odell Beckham, Jr. vs. Odell Beckham, Jr. The Giants’ emotional wide receiver can be his own worst enemy when he can’t control his frustrations, but a spectacular, big-play player when he can.
The Vikings’ Xavier Rhodes got the best of Beckham in Week 4. He not only shut him down (three catches, 23 yards, no touchdowns) but baited Beckham into an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting when he retaliated after a late hit by Rhodes. Two weeks later Beckham had eight receptions for 222 yards — including touchdowns of 75 and 66 yards — in a 27-23 victory over the Ravens. He has 54 receptions for 773 yards and six touchdowns this season. All six touchdowns have come in the Giants’ last five games.
The 5-11, 198-pound Beckham is a superb, multi-dimensional athlete who can make fantastic catches and also is dangerous in the open field. “Once he gets the ball in his hands he’s great athlete,” Bears cornerback Tracy Porter said. “We definitely have to be mindful of it and do what we can and play sound football and not let him get those explosive plays.”
Since its worst performance of the season against the Cowboys in Week 3 (447 yards, 31 points), the Bears’ defense has improved from 27th in points allowed (27.7) to 16th (22.0).
For what it’s worth, the numbers indicate the Bears’ defense is faltering under the weight of the last-place scoring offense. In the first half of six games since that loss to the Cowboys, the Bears are first in fewest touchdowns allowed (two), and second in yards allowed per play (4.6, behind the Seahawks). In the second half in that span, the Bears have allowed 5.4 yards per play and 13 touchdowns — nine in the fourth quarter.
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Wide receiver Cam Meredith has excelled in a complementary role behind Alshon Jeffery, but with Jeffery suspended, Meredith suddenly is the Bears’ No. 1 wide receiver.
After back-to-back 100-yard games against the Colts (9-130) and Jaguars (11-113), Meredith has had one catch in each of the last three games (12, 24 and 50 yards).
Though the Giants are 6-3, they recently have been just as skittish as the Bears. Last year they were 5-4 at this time and lost six of their last seven games to finish 6-10. In 2014, they lost seven straight after a three-game winning streak. In 2012, they were 6-2, then lost five of seven.