Listening and reading to some of the Bears fans on sports talk radio and social media you get the sense confidence in the Bears winning tonight vs. the Rams isn’t very high. Surely, last week’s loss to the then 3-8 Giants has a big reason to do with that. There are some legitimate concerns coming out of that loss going into this game tonight.
There’s the Bears inability to stop Saquon Barkley and how that relates to tonight’s matchup versus Todd Gurley who is similar in his ability to factor as a runner, as well as a pass catcher. There’s also the Bears uninspiring Offensive Line performance against a less formidable defensive front 7 than the terror that is the Rams led by their interior linemen Ndamukon Suh and MVP candidate Aaron Donald.
There’s also the Bears inability to get their running game going in the second half half to run the clock and sustain their second half lead. Maybe more so the reluctantness of Nagy to stick with it after a successful first half pounding the rock particularly getting Jordan Howard off and having him look liked his old self.
While all legitimate concerns going into tonight’s matchup there’s just as many reasons if not more looking at the matchup tonight to favor the Bears.
Number one reason is looking at the respect Vegas is giving the Bears. The line started at -4 Rams and jumped to -4.5, than back to -4, to -3.5 and ultimately settling in at -3 Rams. Of course this has a lot to do with the way the action is going as far as how the public bets but Vegas would not put out a line it didn’t feel it could win while still drawing in the public money. So this says the Bears will absolutely compete tonight.
Than there’s how well the teams have been performing this season. Looking at both these teams rankings on Defense and Offense it overwhelmingly favors the Bears. Bears are ranked 5th in scoring at 28.7 just below 4th ranked Pittsburgh at 28.8 and the Rams are 2nd tied with the Saints at 34.9 with Kansas City leading the NFL with a whopping 37 points per contest.
Defensively, the Bears Rank number one in nearly every positive category, but as far as scoring defenses are concerned the Bears are ranked 5th while the Rams are ranked 19th. So the disparity is vast between the Bears and Rams defensively while offensively not so much between the two teams. Now, the Rams will make some big plays but even there the Bears beat them as they lead the league in turnovers and defensive touchdowns.
The Bears will also be getting a big boost offensively with the return of starting Quarterback Mitch Trubisky. His ability to throw downfield, As well as run will give the Rams problems keying on what level of the defense to protect and will likely force them to play a lot of zone. This will leave open spots in that zone so the Wide Receivers need to be mindful of the depth of their routes and disciplined and not try and improvise as Trubisky will be throwing to spots in the zone. If his receivers aren’t where they need to be that could lead to costly picks. Trubisky also needs to be accurate which is a slight concern given he has missed the last two games and rust may be evident especially early on.
Zone also can lead to costly broken coverages especially versus a gambling secondary who have had discipline problems and have given up their fair share of big plays down the field. Bears fivure to have a lot of opportunity for chunk yards in this game. Aside from the Chiefs in week 11 this will be the most diverse, dangerous and deep group of weapons the Rams have faced this season. The Rams gave up a ton of big plays and points in that game but their offense exploited the Chiefs defense which won’t happen near as easily against the Bears defense. The Rams figure to get theirs but no way to the level of what they did versus the Chiefs. With the Bears keeping the score reasonable it will be on the Bears Offense to exploit a Rams defense susceptible to the big play and giving up points.
Bears will be at home which in itself is an advantage. Factor in the cold and winds at Soldier Field and the Bears will have an excellent chance at slowing up that Ram offense. The Rams struggled mightily in their one cold game in Denver Where temps were in the 30’s and relied heavily on the run game to squeeze that game out. It will be in the low 20’s with wind chills in the teens tonight at soldier field.
Add in the crowd noise limiting communication and the ability to audible and make line calls and checks make it a good bet the Bears pass rush will be difficult to block. Should lead to big plays for a defense that leads the league in them.
There’s also the fact that the game is more important to the Bears in the Standings and in making a statement in the league than it is for the Rams. Also, given the fact the Bears are coming off a disappointing loss with a subpar defensive performance you figure this unit is anxious for a redemption game. I expect Akiem Hicks to have a huge game as he usually does in big games. Especially with all the Donald talk. You know Hicks is thinking he wants to show the league and the national audience that he belongs in the conversation with the best interior defensive linemen in the league.
On the Edges I expect havoc to be wreaked especially from Kahlil Mack who himself may feel slighted by all the Donald talk and is a big game player when on the biggest stages.
The Key will be containing Todd Gurley which isn’t a revelation but the key to the defenses success none the less. Not sure what Vic Fangio has in mind but not having Roquon Smith matched up with Gurley would be a mistake in my opinion as it was when he didn’t have Smith on James White versus the Patriots at Soldier Field earlier this season in week 5. You hope a lesson was learned there.
The Rams Also will be missing a key player in their passing game in Cooper Kupp. While the Rams still have plenty of juice in their receiving Corp. without him he is the guy that moved the sticks. It’s no surprise the Rams offense has slowed up a bit since his loss. The Rams efficiency rate of success has dropped without him. From 61% via pass and 60% via the run to 49% in both categories. Also, the sack rate has increased drastically since they’ve lost Kupp. Going from 3.2% to 10.1%. Got these numbers courtesy of a Parker Hurley blog beargoggleson.com. You can read even more in depth analysis of Kupp’s loss and the impact on the Rams offense because of it here. Chicago Bears: How Cooper Kupp injury has affected Rams Offense.
This will make the secondaries job a little easier. Mark Reynolds who has replaced Kupp is a big play receiver typically line up at split end, but the Bears matchup well there. With Eddie Jackson playing mainly single high in cover 3 the Bears have a speedy safety with range for days to allow the corners to play their games and be aggressive. Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara figure to be tasked against Reynolds while Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks figure to flip flop between flanker and the slot where Bryce Callahan will have yet another test to prove himself one of the best Nicklebacks in the league.
Most of the consternation involving the game revolves around all world Defensive Tackle Donald and his partner in crime Suh versus the Bears interior line which has struggled at times in the run game. They have particularly had problems since losing Kyle Long at Right Guard. Since picking up discarded guard Bryan Witzmann off of waivers from the Chiefs he has by far been the Bears weakest link. That is the biggest concern in this matchup versus the Rams. While Suh isn’t exactly a slouch it appears that Witzmann won’t be facing Donald as he primarily plays on the right side of the defense So there is a little sigh of relief there.
Which brings up perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the night. Donald versus Bears rookie Left Guard James Daniels who has gotten better and better with every passing game and looks like a pro bowler in the near future. Daniels most intriguing trait aside from his Massively sized ass and lower body strength is his lateral quickness and overall athleticism which matches up well against Donald. It may be asking alot of the rookie and one of the youngest players in the NFL to single block Donald most of the game but he will be the most athletic player at the Guard position Donald has faced all year if not in his entire career. It’s a good bet Cody Whitehair will be helping Daniel most of the night along with Charles Leno Jr. Both players among the most athletic at their respected positions in the NFL.
While what the Rams have done upfront on defense, particularly Donald, has been impressive they have faced some of the league’s worst offensive lines this season. Rankings by both the NFL metrics and Pro Football Focus confirm this. Here are the opponents the Rams have played and where their offensive lines rank with PFF and the NFL at current.
Week opponent PFF NFL
1 Raiders 29 – 28
2 Cardinals 32 – 17
3 Chargers 28 – 6
4 Vikings 30 – 14
5 Seahawks 18- 25
6 Broncos 22- 12
7 49ers 15 – 27
8 Packers 6 – 24
9 Saints 5 – 1
10 Seahawks 18 – 25
11 Chiefs 13 – 5
13 Lions 17 – 23
14 Bears 10 – 11
The Bears are ranked 3rd best according to PFF and the 4th best by NFL.com’s rank the Rams Front 7 has played this season.
On paper the Bears offensive line will be the most athletic the Rams have faced to this point. Particularly from Center to the Left of the line. Then there is the wild card of having Adam Shaheen who will be able to block on the edges which will allow both Leno and Bobbie Massie to help out on double teams versus Donald and Suh at times when warranted. The Bears strength matches up well against the Rams strength between the two lines. Bears have struggled to run block it have been excellent in the pass blocking aspect of line play. Rams strength has been rushing the passer while they struggle to stop the run. This will be a classic unstoppable force versus immovable object matchup and likely the key to the game.
My take is the Bears win a close game throughout but pull away with a clock draining touchdown drive late in the game to salt it away leaving seconds on the clock for the Rams to do nothing with.
Bears: 34 Rams: 24