Last season, these two teams met on Sunday Night Football as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. This year, they meet again as teams that have fallen well short of their preseason expectations. It’s the Chicago Bears (4-5, 3rd NFC North) at the Los Angeles Rams (5-4, 3rd NFC West) to wrap up the weekend of football. Here is a preview for Sunday night’s game, along with odds and a pick.
By the Numbers
We’ll start with Chicago, who once again has a great defense that has to make up for a lackluster offense. The Bears have allowed the fourth-fewest points per game at 17.4, and rank ninth in both rushing yards allowed (94.0) and total yards allowed (327.3). But the offense is holding the Bears back, ranking in the bottom-five of nearly all major stats. They’re 29th in total yards with 262.2, 30th in passing yards and 28th in rushing yards, while scoring the sixth-fewest points per game with 18.0.
The Rams have been very up and down this season, especially on offense, but have still managed to average the 10th-most points per game with 25.1. They’re 12th in total yards, mostly due to their passing game, since they rank just 20th in rushing yards. On defense, they’re average across the board. Los Angeles is 15th in points allowed (21.2) and 12th in yards allowed (331.0). The only area they excel is against the run, where they allow the fifth-fewest rushing yards per game.
1. Can Gurley get going? It wasn’t too long ago where Todd Gurley was considered one of the best running backs in the league. But nagging injuries and a shaky offensive line have limited Gurley’s effectiveness this season, as the fifth-year back has 428 rushing yards and six touchdowns. The Rams hope Gurley can break out in a big way against a Bears defense that has struggled mightily against the run ever since defensive lineman and Pro Bowler Akiem Hicks went down with an injury.
2. The Mack factor. The Hicks injury didn’t just change the run defense. It has also impacted the effectiveness of star pass rusher Khalil Mack. Mack has 5.5 sacks this season, a ways away from the 12.5 he had last season. Hicks going down has resulted in teams double-teaming Mack throughout the game, neutralizing his impact. But Mack is primed to break out against an offensive line that suffered two injuries last week. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Mack have a big night.
3. Quarterback concerns. At this time last year, Mitchell Trubisky and Jared Goff were considered rising young stars who were destined to be long-time NFL starters. But the outlook is bleaker this year, as bad offensive lines and lack of consistent running games have resulted in both QBs struggling mightily. Trubisky has just 1,390 yards and eight touchdowns, struggling with accuracy and field awareness. Meanwhile, Goff is struggling with turnovers, as the fourth-year QB has 2,610 yards and 11 touchdowns but nine interceptions as well. We’ll see how Bears head coach Matt Nagy and Rams head coach Sean McVay game-plan with their limited signal-callers.
The Bears will be without a couple significant players on Sunday. Linebacker Danny Trevathan suffered an elbow injury last week and has been ruled out. Tight ends Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen have also been ruled out. Keep an eye on running back David Montgomery. The rookie rolled his ankle in practice this week and is considered a game-time decision. His absence would make Tarik Cohen the primary back, with Ryan Nall possibly getting some snaps in the backfield.
The Rams also have their fair share of injuries to be concerned about. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks, offensive tackle Rob Havenstein, and defensive back Darious Williams have all been ruled out. Los Angeles is also dealing with ailing tight ends, as Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee are each considered questionable. One name to monitor is Cooper Kupp. The wide receiver was a late addition to the injury report, as he is now dealing with an illness. While he will likely play, that would be a massive loss for Goff and the Rams should he be out.
Odds and Pick
The Rams are pretty significant favorites in this game, listed by odds-makers at -6.5. Based on the way L.A. is playing, I think Chicago’s pass rush makes it closer than that. But ultimately, I think the Rams possess a big advantage in offensive skill players, and still have enough talent on defense like Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey to frustrate Trubisky and the Bears. So give me Chicago +6.5, but the Rams to win on Sunday night.
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