Hub Arkush: Key matchups, players to watch and more for Bears vs. Seahawks

Chicago Bears wide receiver Dazz Newsome plays against the Tennessee Titans in the second half of a preseason game Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn.

At 5-9, the Seahawks are arguably an even bigger disappointment than the Bears. They entered the season a solid playoff contender and some folks’ pick to win the highly competitive NFC West.

An injury that cost Russell Wilson 3 ½ games and three starts certainly hurt, but the Seahawks were just 2-2 when he got hurt and are 2-4 since he returned to the starting lineup.

Seattle is, however, still one of the most difficult home-field advantages to contend with in the league.

The Seahawks are 6 ½-point favorites and the over/under is 42 ½.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Bears passing game vs. Seahawks 32nd-ranked pass defense

Seattle’s 31st-ranked pass protection vs. Bears pass rush

Regardless of who is under center with the exception of Andy Dalton’s 317-yard day at Detroit, the Bears have struggled to throw the ball all year long.

Will the Seahawks’ 32nd-ranked pass defense aid the Bears?

Cornerbacks Sidney Jones and D.J. Reed are where the Bears are likely to focus their attention, if Reed is activated off the COVID-19 list.

The Vikings came in last week second in the NFL protecting Kirk Cousins, and the Bears’ pass rush owned them. With Seattle ranked 31st protecting its QBs, the Bears rush could have a field day.

COACHING DECISION TO WATCH

Will Matt Nagy empty the bench to evaluate youngsters?

The Bears will do all they can to win this game, but a priority should be put on starting offensive tackles Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom along with defensive backs Thomas Graham Jr. at corner and Kindle Vildor at nickel.

Finding significant snaps for players like Jesper Horsted, Rodney Adams, Dazz Newsome, Isaiah Coulter, Caleb Johnson, Charles Snowden, Ledarius Mack and others to evaluate their futures even if they don’t give the Bears the best chance to win.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, RB Rashaad Penny, WRs Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, LB Bobby Wagner and DL Carlos Dunlap

Wilson will be playing to reestablish his leverage over his future and he will be dangerous.

Lockett and Metcalf are matchup nightmares for whoever is healthy in the Bears’ secondary, and Penny is likely to be the feature running back.

Wagner, of course, is a perennial All Pro inside linebacker. Former Pro Bowler Carlos Dunlap had been a shadow of himself at 32 in an injury-riddled campaign, but exploded last Tuesday with three sacks against the Rams.

THE X-FACTORS

COVID-19; Seahawks OLs Gabe Jackson, Brandon Shell; Bears QBs

Both teams dealt with COVID-19 outbreaks last week, and it is uncertain how healthy they’ll be Sunday.

As poor as Seattle’s offensive line has been when healthy, Jackson, at right guard, missed practice all week with a knee injury and Shell, at right tackle, has been on the COVID-19 list.

On the other side, who will be under center for the Bears? Justin Fields was limited Wednesday and didn’t practice at all Thursday with a gimpy ankle, while Dalton has returned from the COVID-19 list.

WILD-CARD PLAYERS WHO COULD SURPRISE

Seahawks RBs Alex Collins, DeeJay Dallas, LB Jordyn Brooks; Bears WRs Newsome, Coulter, OLB Trevis Gipson

If Collins can go at running back, he’ll likely be first up. He and Dallas have both flashed big-play ability at times this season.

Brooks was Seattle’s first-round pick in 2020 and playing inside next to Wagner is emerging from his shadow more every week.

Newsome got significant snaps last week but did nothing with them. If he and Coulter get the chance and have NFL chops, this is the pass defense to show it against.

Gipson has flashed but not emerged, and Seattle’s challenged offensive line certainly will be paying extra attention to Robert Quinn.

THE FINAL WORD

Seahawks 27, Bears 24

These are two teams struggling in so many areas and playing for nothing but pride. The Bears are on the road on Christmas and the day while knowing significant changes are coming. It is really difficult to find a rationale that has them winning this game.

I have it this close because of how well they played on defense Monday night, and them losing because they once again showed they’d find a way.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media