Behind Enemy Lines: Taking deeper look at Patriots’ Week 7 matchup with Bears Wire

After handling business on the road, the New England Patriots (3-3) will play host to Monday Night Football and the visiting Chicago Bears (2-4) in Week 7.

The Patriots finally have a little momentum on their side after a rough start to the season. At one point, they were sitting at 1-3 with Mac Jones out with an injury and rookie Bailey Zappe serving as the starting quarterback.

Now, they’re sitting at .500 win percentage with Jones expected to be back under center and Zappe as the franchise’s brand new cult phenomenon. However, a loss to the Bears would derail the burgeoning Patriots’ hype train quicker than a Thanos snap.

We caught up with Bears Wire’s managing editor Alyssa Barbieri to get the opponent’s perspective on this upcoming matchup.

Here are five questions with Bears Wire:

The Bears are currently ranked last in passing offense. Is there any hope of them improving moving forward?

There are a number of factors that have contributed to their abysmal passing offense, and the personnel is a big part of that. Not only does Justin Fields not have dependable weapons, outside of Darnell Mooney, but he’s struggling behind a makeshift offensive line.

Barring a miraculous turnaround where the offensive line is better in pass protection, receivers start stepping up and Fields builds trust in his supporting cast, it feels hard to expect a whole heck of a lot of improvement. Although, when they’re as bad as they’ve been, there’s nowhere to go but up.

N’Keal Harry, a former New England Patriot, is close to making his Bears debut. What does the team expect from him?

That’s a good question. Harry remains a mystery at this point after limited training camp action. No one is expecting Harry to come in and suddenly live up to his first-round billing. But the hope, at this point, is that he can be a big-bodied threat in the red zone, an area where Chicago has notably struggled over the last few games.

Outside of Darnell Mooney, Fields doesn’t have a receiver that he really trusts. Perhaps Harry can develop into that guy, and it shouldn’t take a lot to do that. And Harry has a chance to do that against his former team.

If you had to put a percentage on it, what’s the concern level with Justin Fields and his potential to be the franchise QB the Bears have been searching for?

For the sake of the current situation, I’ll put it at 40%. It’s important to remember that Fields still hasn’t started an entire season (he’ll be making his 17th start on Monday), and quarterback development is far from linear.

With that said, it’s hard not to be concerned by his apparent regression in Year 2, which has a lot to do with his supporting cast. With the Bears in the beginning of a rebuild, GM Ryan Poles didn’t invest a lot on the offensive line and receiving corps, putting his faith in Luke Getsy’s scheme and Fields’ raw talent to make up for those deficiencies.

When you look at how other young quarterbacks around the league struggled early and have developed, that certainly helps lessen the concern factor. The frustrating thing is it’s hard to fairly evaluate Fields given the situation around him. Not to mention, Bears fans have been burned too many times by the hope of a potential franchise quarterback.

The ability to stop the run could be key on both sides in this game. How has the Bears’ defensive front looked without Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks?

For years, the defensive line was the strength of the Bears defense and that’s because of guys like Mack and Hicks. With them gone – along with mainstays in Eddie Goldman and Bilal Nichols – the interior of the defensive line has become a huge weakness.

The Bears’ run defense has been among the worst in the NFL all season, and they’re currently allowing 163 rushing yards per game. Tackling has been the biggest issue for Chicago’s defense – from the linemen to the linebackers. The Bears face a tall task going against Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris, who could both feast in this game.

Another big talking point in this game will be coaching. How has Matt Eberflus looked so far in his first year as Bears head coach?

Well, considering the inauspicious start for Denver’s Nathaniel Hackett, it’s safe to say Matt Eberflus has gotten off to a much better start than other first-year head coaches. That’s not to say he hasn’t been without his struggles – which included clock management early on. But he’s someone who’s not only learning on the job, but he’s learning from his mistakes.

We’ve seen both the cautious and aggressive side to Eberflus, depending on certain game situations. But we’ve also seen how the culture he’s implemented has allowed his talent-deficient team to remain competitive in every game they’ve played this season.

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Story originally appeared on Patriots Wire