Sunday night will mark the showdown of two NFC divisional leaders. The two best defenses in the NFL will collide as the Chicago Bears are set to face the Los Angeles Rams Sunday in primetime at Soldier field. This will likely be the toughest game of the regular season for the Bears, and could be the make or break game for their hopes of a first round bye in the playoffs. The Rams will enter this weekend with an 11-1 league-best record. Matt Nagy and his young Bears squad will look to avenge their overtime loss against the Giants and get back on a winning track. Much like the Rams’ matchup with the Chiefs, this game has all the makings of another instant classic.
The Bears loss against the Giants came in disappointing fashion, dropping a game in overtime to a sub .500 opponent. However, the young gunslinger Mitchell Trubisky was unable to play due to an injury in his shoulder. This marked the second straight week Trubisky was forced to stay on the sidelines, and this time the Bears could not overcome the absence of their star quarterback. In order to have any sort of a chance against the Rams, they will need Trubisky. Coach Matt Nagy has said in press conferences this week that Trubisky is “getting better” but no decision has been made yet either way. This will be the most significant headline to look out for as the game approaches.
Other than the hopeful recovery of Mitch Trubisky, what will the Bears have to do to defeat the football machine that is the Los Angeles Rams?
First and foremost, the defense must step up. The Bears defense for much of the season has been the most dominant in the NFL, rivaled only by the that of the Rams. Against the Giants, though, the defense was lackluster at best. They were unable to come up with big stops when it mattered the most. The defense’s strongest attribute this season has been their ability to force turnovers. The teams’ 30 total takeaways this season is the best in the NFL, but they were unable to force any against the Giants. They will need to against the Rams if they want any hope of winning this game.
The Bears must win the time of possession battle. Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense. The longer Mitch Trubisky and the offense has the ball in their hands, the longer the ball is out of the hands of Jared Goff and Todd Gurley. Chicago has had success with this in the past, they won the time of possession battle in their previous two wins against the Vikings and the Lions. Against the Vikings, the Bears most comparable opponent to the Rams to this point, they held the ball for 10 minutes longer than Minnesota. In their loss to the Giants, the Bears only held the ball for 45 seconds longer. This will be no easy feat however, as the Rams defense is one of the best in the NFL and will put pressure on Trubisky and the Bears’ offense.
Who to Watch Out For
This almost goes without saying. Todd Gurley leads the NFL in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. He averages 19.4 rushing attempts and 97 rushing yards a game, which are the second and first best among running backs in the NFL respectively. However, the Bears’ defense is second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed this season. The Monsters of the Midway faced a similarly talented Saquon Barkley last week, and Barkley had his way with them. The rookie rushed for 125 yards and caught three passes for 21 yards. Todd Gurley is like an upgraded, veteran version of Barkley in that he is a freak athlete who is hard to contain. The Bears will have to play significantly better against the league’s top running back if they want to have a chance of dethroning the Rams. Gurley is the key to the Rams offense, stopping him needs to be priority No.1 for the defense.
Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen
Reversely, the Bears will need to get the running game going against the Rams. The running game for Chicago has been lackluster all season, and now is as good a time as any for the backfield to get it going. Obviously Cohen has been a menace for opposing defenses through the air this season, but on the ground, the Bears rank 16 in the NFL in rushing yards and rushing yards/game. To beat the Rams stellar defense, the Bears can’t afford to be one dimensional. Defending the run has actually been a weak point for the Rams defense, ranking 18 in the NFL in yards per game. This is a golden opportunity for Jordan Howard to have his breakout performance under Matt Nagy and shift this tough matchup in the Bears’ favor.
Los Angeles’s answer to Khalil Mack. Aaron Donald leads the NFL in sacks with 16.5. Donald has also forced four fumbles, which is fourth best in the NFL, and recovered two, also tied for fourth best in the NFL. In their win against Detroit last week, Donald recorded five tackles, all for a loss, and two sacks. He has been a killer of opposing backfields all season, and most concerning for the Bears, is playing his best football of the season right now. The challenge for the Bears offensive line will be to find a way to slow Donald while also attempting to contain Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler Jr. The Rams, much like the Bears, potentially have a defensive line made up completely of Pro Bowlers. The Bears undoubtedly will have their hands full with these matchups. Their best chance may be not to try and stop them all together, but to just slow them enough to allow Nagy to run the offense he wants to.
The Rams only loss of the season came in a shocking 28-0 defeat to the Saints. With all the weapons the Rams have on offense, this would be near impossible for the Bears to recreate this late in the season. The Saints did however, force Los Angeles to turn the ball over four times. Chicago’s defense are takeaway masters, and it will be absolutely necessary for the Monsters of the Midway to wreak havoc on the Rams by forcing turnovers if the Bears are to win this primetime matchup.
In all, it will be a hard fought game and will come down to the wire. However, the Rams’ high flying offense will ultimately be too much for the Bears to handle. Los Angeles’s defense will be in the backfield constantly and will give Trubisky more headaches than he’s had to deal with yet in his young career. Coming off of two weeks of not seeing game action will do no favors for the Bears young quarterback, he will struggle to return to midseason form against this defense, and the Rams will escape Solider field with a victory.
Score Prediction: Rams 42-Bears 36