The Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams will meet Sunday night for the fourth consecutive season after the Bears notched a 15-6 win at Soldier Field in 2018. The Rams prevailed, 17-7, and then, 15-6, the past two seasons in Los Angeles.
Obviously, these two organizations have risen and fallen with their defenses in recent seasons, but both clubs made big commitments on offense this past offseason and will have new starting quarterbacks, rebuilt wide receiver corps and new defensive coordinators.
The Rams are 7 ½ point favorites and the over/under is 43 ½.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Aaron Donald vs. Bears’ offensive line
Donald is the most dangerous game-wrecker in the league today with three Defensive MVP awards in the past four seasons, but he will line up all over the line of scrimmage, so a head-to-head matchup is hard to find.
Best guess is he won’t see a lot of Jason Peters – that primary matchup could be ex-Bear Leonard Floyd - but look for Bears’ O-linemen to locate him before every snap and double team him whenever possible.
Among the reasons not to start a rookie quarterback Sunday night, Donald could be the biggest.
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
How committed to his run game will Matt Nagy be?
This is more than just a tired old refrain with Nagy.
The Rams were No. 3 in the league last year against the run but three of their top four tacklers, including safety John Johnson, have moved on, as has DT stalwart Michael Brockers, and they are average at inside linebacker, starting Troy Reeder and Kenny Young.
The Bears had one of the best ground games in the league over the final six weeks of last season, and the best way to protect a suspect offensive line is let them fire off the ball and bully people, which also could slow Donald.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Lions QB Matthew Stafford, WR DeSean Jackson; Bears QB Andy Dalton, WR Marquise Goodwin, RB David Montgomery
Obviously, all eyes will be on the quarterbacks with Dalton’s extremely limited reps in exhibition games and Stafford’s none.
But if Jackson, at 34, and Goodwin, coming off an opt-out season, can still take the tops off defenses, it will help both teams’ ground games and intermediate passing attacks.
For all the focus on their QBs though, Montgomery is the key to the Bears offense right now. Let’s see if he has another gear after his breakout second half last year.
Raheem Morris, Sean Desai
Morris is a highly experienced NFL coach, including three years as the head coach in Tampa from 2009-2011, but strangely has only one year as a defensive coordinator, last season in Atlanta.
While only seven years younger than Morris at 38, Desai s a relative novice with only two years experience as a position coach after six years as a quality control guy.
While the Bears return their entire defense except for Kyle Fuller, it is one of the older groups in the league.
The Rams will have at least four new starters, all of whom are mostly unknown.
WILD-CARD PLAYERS WHO COULD SURPRISE
Rams WR Tutu Atwell, OLT Andrew Whitworth; Bears OT Jason Peters, QB Justin Fields
Much like all the Bears new wideouts, Atwell is a Ram mainly because of his 4.27-to-4.32 40-yard dash speed, but in spite of his diminutive stature, he also was a highly accomplished receiver at Louisville and could make an immediate impact.
Whitworth is actually a month older than Peters but no one seems to be questioning his age or assets. Could either or both have stuck around a season too long, or will either or both play like the potential Hall of Famers they are?
The Bears will have a handful of plays for Fields – a “Fields Package” – in the gameplan. How much, if at all, will they use him?
THE FINAL WORD
Rams 23, Bears 16
At this point there is more we don’t know about these two clubs than what we know, but until the Bears show us on the field the offense has been improved, recent history screams the Rams are the better team.