It’s been another up-and-down year so far for Giants quarterback Eli Manning (810 passing yards, 5 TD), who’s had his share of both good and bad moments in the early going. The former Super Bowl MVP has connected on over 65 percent of his throws and racked up 386 yards through the air — the second-highest total of his career — last Sunday against the Titans. He was also intercepted two times and has thrown six picks for the year, tied for the most in the league. The receiving corps of top target Steve Smith (18 tackles) and youngsters Hakeem Nicks (13 receptions, 4 TD) and Mario Manningham (14 receptions, 238 yards, 1 TD) has displayed some inconsistency as well, particularly with drops, while aging tackles David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie haven’t helped Manning’s cause with their deficiencies in protection. The struggling front line will also be without its anchor for a second straight week, with two-time Pro Bowl center Shaun O’Hara dealing with a degenerative condition in his left ankle. The Giants were still able to run the ball effectively in his absence, with Bradshaw (253 rushing yards, 2 TD, 7 receptions) gaining 88 yards with a touchdown on 15 attempts while adding another 30 yards on five catches.
The Giants will need to shore up their blocking issues to order to obtain success on Sunday, with the Bears possessing one of the game’s elite pass rushers in All-Pro end Julius Peppers (3 tackles, 1 sack). The free-agent acquisition made a huge impact in Monday’s victory with a couple of second- half plays, drawing a holding penalty that negated a Packers touchdown and blocking a field-goal attempt on the subsequent snap. Though the Bears failed to record a sack of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, both Peppers and counterpart Mark Anderson (5 tackles) were able to get consistent pressure. The pair will be counted on to do so again this weekend, as the Giants’ deep group of receivers will pose a challenge to cornerbacks Charles Tillman (17 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PD) and Zackary Bowman (17 tackles). Bradshaw should face a stern test as well, however, from a Chicago defense that’s yielding a minuscule 39.7 rushing yards per game (1st overall) on the year. Urlacher (25 tackles, 1 sack) and weakside linebacker Lance Briggs (25 tackles, 1 INT, 3 PD), a tandem with 11 Pro Bowl citations between them, have been flying to the football all throughout the season’s first month.