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Bears-Giants: What to Watch 4

Saquon Barkley vs. Bears linebackers Roquan Smith and Nick Kwiatkoski will be a key matchup. Can the Bears rattle Giants rookie QB Daniel Jones? Mitch Trubisky’s health — and effectiveness — is an X-factor.

Chicago Bears v New York Giants
Giants running back Saquon Barkley rushed for 125 yards against the Bears in a 30-27 overtime victory on Dec. 2 last season at the Meadowlands.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Key matchup

Giants running back Saquon Barkley burned the Bears for 125 yards on 24 carries as a rookie last year (the Dolphins’ Frank Gore was the only other rusher to gain 100 or more yards against the Bears — and both needed overtime to do it). Barkley’s 29-yard run on the first play from scrimmage in overtime keyed the Giants’ winning field-goal drive.

But after a fast start this season — 120 yards against the Cowboys and 107 against the Bills — Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain and a shoulder injury, and his production has progressively diminished. In fact, he had 29 yards on 27 carries (1.1 average) in his last two games, including 13 carries for one yard against the Jets in his last game.

Coming off a bye week of rest, Barkley figures to be as healthy as he has been in a while, which presents a challenge for Bears inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Nick Kwiatkoski, who are excellent run defenders.

Smith, in particular, is coming off an outstanding game against the Rams in which he had an interception and 11 tackles, including four third-down stops.

A year ago, Smith was blocked cleanly by running back Elijhaa Penny on Barkley’s 29-yard run in overtime. As with any tackle machine, avoiding those situations is the key to his game.

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The Bears’ offense ranks 30th in the NFL in yards per play, 29th in yards per carry and 32nd and last in yards per pass. They have had one game with more than 300 total yards. Every other team in the league, including the Redskins, Dolphins and Jets, has had at least three games with more than 300 yards.

But the Bears’ offense has at least had fits of production against bad pass defenses — three touchdown passes against the 25th-ranked Redskins, three touchdown passes against the 27th-ranked Lions. The Giants are in that category, ranking 31st in yards per pass and 26th in yards per play.

Player to watch

Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones ranks 21st in the NFL in passer rating (88.0) with fits of excellence, including 308 yards, four touchdown passes and no interceptions against the Jets in his last game.

But he has struggled against top-half defenses, and the Bears, even without Akiem Hicks, are still a top-10 defense — sixth in yards per play, fourth in yards per carry and ninth in yards per pass.

X-factor

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky suffered a hip pointer against the Rams but practiced all week and is expected to play.

Even if he plays, it remains to be seen how effective he’ll be coming off the injury, how much the injury will inhibit him, particularly as a runner, and if he can avoid aggravating the injury no matter how careful he might be.