Sunday Night Football Preview: Rams @ Bears

Week 14 brings NFL fans a very interesting Sunday Night Football game.  The Los Angeles Rams head into to Soldier field with a record of 11-1 to square off with the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears at 8-4.

The Bears are coming off a tough overtime loss to the Giants.  The Bears were without starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, and it really showed.  Backup quarterback Chase Daniel threw 2 interceptions and had difficulties handling some snaps which really hurt the Bears offense in a tight game.  Trubisky should be back Sunday night against the Rams.  Head Coach Matt Nagy seemed optimistic about Trubisky playing this weekend, especially after being a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.  If Trubisky plays and is 100%, this Bears offense has potential to put up some points against a Rams defense that has given up over 30 points on 4 occasions this year.  I would expect the Bears to try to run early on the Rams with Jordan Howard and mixing in some touches for Tarik Cohen.  Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel have given the Bears a much more reliable receiving group this season, and they will need them to be at their best on Sunday night if they are to pull off this upset.  If the Bears go down early, I expect a lot of passing, which opens the door for Aaron Donald who is having a career year on the defensive line for the Rams.

On the other side of the ball, we will see if a good offense can beat good defense.  The Rams are easily one of the best offenses in the league this year.  Third-year quarterback Jared Goff is having his best year as a pro, and running back Todd Gurley is in the MVP race.  Throw in some very talented receivers like Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, and you get a team that is averaging 34.9 points per game.  Lining up across from the Rams is a top 5 Bears defense gives up 317 yards per game and only 20.1 points per game.  This unit is led by Khalil Mack who has been worth every penny for the Bears since trading for him before the season.  His presence on the outside has allowed for Akiem Hicks to become more dominant on the inside.  The Bear’s secondary is led by Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller who respectively have four and five interceptions on the season.  Although they can look shaky at times, the secondary is certainly capable of taking a receiver off of his groove.

Rams Keys to victory: For the Rams, it is simple.  Keep doing what they have been all year. Let Gurley get settled in and run him often.  If the Bears can’t stop the run continue to do it all night.  If the run game isn’t there, Jared Goff is more than capable than slinging the ball around the field and throwing for a couple hundred yards.  The only thing to worry about is the Chicago pass rush.  With Mack lurking every pass play can be a bit nerve-wracking for an offense.  I think Sean McVay is a smart enough coach to realize this and will give Goff quick and easy throws to combat the pass rush.  If the Rams take care of the ball against this pesky defense they should be fine.  The defense just has to be good enough and make the plays they should. The Rams can simply outscore the Bears and win without much of a worry.

Bears Keys to victory:  To keep it simple, the Bears pass rush needs to be firing on all cylinders.  If they can make Goff uncomfortable, the Rams become one-dimensional with Gurley and stopping him becomes that much easier when you can stack the box.  On offense, Trubisky needs to be solid and take care of the ball.  I think the X-Factor for the Bears is Tarik Cohen, who has fit in very well in Chicago’s new offensive scheme this year.  If the Bears can win the turnover battle and make some timely catches on offense I think they can pull it off.

Overall, this is the biggest matchup of the year for the Bears.  This is the best team they will face all year and they will get to do it on national television in primetime.  The weather could play a factor, and the home crowd will only help the Bears chances.  I look for them to come out with some intensity as they did against the Vikings last month on Sunday night.  In the end, the Rams are too talented offensively and will pull out a 33-26 victory on the road.  If the Bears hang tough they should gain a lot of respect around the league.  If they can upset the Rams, they are a team to be feared come January.


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