The NFL season is finally here! The defending Super Bowl Champion, Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the Dallas Cowboys later tonight. Chicago fans will most likely be tuning in, as it is the first meaningful professional football game of the season, but the real excitement will come on Sunday night. The Chicago Bears are set to take on the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium for Sunday Night Football. Here we’ll look through some key matchups that could dictate how this game shakes out. So grab your favorite beer, cocktail, or cup of coffee and let’s get into it.
The Rams offense, orchestrated by Sean McVay, is built on their run game. Coming from the Mike Shanahan tree of coaching, McVay will run different variations of outside zone mixing in play-action passes. The mixture of these wide run plays and play-action pass plays stretches defenses both horizontally and vertically if pieced with the right weapons and quarterback. Jared Goff was a solid option, often playing within the offense and occasionally taking the deep shot if it was wide open, but was mostly inconsistent and could not make plays on his own. Matthew Stafford appears to be a massive upgrade as a playmaker and a deep ball thrower. The Bears have faced Stafford twenty times in his career, with Stafford winning 11 of those games. Now in LA, Stafford is inserted into one of the best offensive schemes in the NFL and is poised to have a big season.
Sean Desai has been in The Bears Organization for nine years. Desai has never been a defensive coordinator and truthfully, no one knows exactly how his defense will look this upcoming season. Desai is a Vic Fangio disciple which points to a defense featuring plenty of three and four deep defenders while only rushing four defensive linemen and keeping the remaining defenders underneath. Zone coverage encourages its defenders to look at the quarterback and break on the ball when thrown, (in theory) forcing turnovers. This is typically how Vic Fangio runs his defense. The key to this style is to have a front four that can get to the quarterback and force bad decisions while also have defensive backs who can run with their receivers and instantly break back to the ball when it’s in the air. Chicago’s defensive line featuring: Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Robert Quinn/Trevis Gibson, and Bilal Nichols/Eddie Goldman, should get to Stafford and force quick decisions. The Bears defensive backfield is much more of a question with the departure of Kyle Fuller and the waiving of Desmond Trufant. Desai and Ryan Pace must have plenty of faith in Jaylon Johnson to step into the role of CB1 while also having faith in Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelly to round out the starting rotation at cornerback. Eddie Jackson has had a couple rough years, but this defensive scheme is the one he was built for. As a ball hawk, Eddie Jackson is the perfect fit in this defense and will help the cornerbacks along the way while they find their footing as NFL starters.
Bears’ Offense versus Ram’s Defense
Andy Dalton is the Chicago Bears QB1 (sigh). Justin Fields had a spectacular preseason but will be starting his NFL career as the backup. This should inspire no hope in Bears fans for their offense to be significantly better than last season where they ranked 26th overall in total yards. Is Dalton an improvement over Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky? Yes. Is Justin Fields still an objectively better playmaker than all three of the aforementioned quarterbacks? Yes. The argument is made that: “You dont want to start a rookie quarterback against Aaron Donald with that offensive line!” However, not to point out the obvious, every NFL team has good NFL players. Justin Fields will have to go up against Donald, Watt, Bosa, or Garrett eventually. If Fields’ development is ruined because of one game, he was never the savior at quarterback in my opinion, you either have “it” or you don’t.
Jalen Ramsey will be up against Allen Robinson. It will be interesting to see if he follows Robinson all game. Darnell Mooney is poised to have a breakout season as well, check out my article talking about that right here. I believe Mooney and Robinson should be able to beat up on the Rams secondary without John Johnson III, who was signed by Clevelandthis off-season. Ramsey will lockdown whoever he is going against for the most part, but the other Bears wide receiver should be able to beat Darius Williams somewhat consistently.
The Bears offensive line is in bad shape. After drafting Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom last April, Ryan Pace cut Charles Leno. Leno did not miss a game since 2016, while Teven Jenkins season is seemingly over with a pre-existing back injury. Ryan Pace did go out and sign 39 year-young offensive tackle and former Philadelphia Eagle, Jason Peters. However, Peters has not been healthy for an entire season since his age 36 season. Sam Mustifer is now the Bears starting center who I am optimistic for. Mustifer is undersized, but has strength and is technical in his approach. Using leverage and hand placement he’s often able to be plus-run blocker. James Daniels will look to improve on his 2020 season where he started all 16 games and had only one penalty. Overall, Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd should be able to terrorize Andy Dalton for much of the game. This Bears offensive line is in bad shape, I expect Donald to take full advantage of it.
Overall, Chicago is facing an uphill battle here. They are deploying an unproven secondary with a new defensive coordinator. Their offensive line is uninspiring and going up against the best defensive player of our generation. Their starting quarterback is best known for being average and has shown he cannot elevate the team around him. A tough blow here my Final Prediction is:
Final Score: LAR — 35, Chicago — 17
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