The Chicago Bears will face the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday at Soldier Field. Coming off a brutal loss on Sunday Night Football, Chicago looks to get back on track here. Cincinnati had a nice win Week 1 versus the Minnesota Vikings. However, I still think they’re a bottom ten team in the NFL. Chicago is currently the slight favorite (-2.5) at home. Essentially, the folks in the desert believe Chicago and Cincinnati are pretty equal with Andy Dalton still starting. Considering Chicago gave up their 2022 first round draft pick to go up and take Justin Fields (which no one should regret), it’s not a great feeling to be compared to a bottom ten team.
Now to get to the game ahead, we’re going to go over some of the keys for Chicago. Cincinnati is not a very talented team, but Chicago isn’t very far behind them anymore. With the losses of Charles Leno and Kyle Fuller, the regression of Cody Whitehair and Eddie Jackson, and the disappointment of Robert Quinn and James Daniels, Chicago’s talented 2018 team is gone and forgotten. How can Chicago attack Lou Anarumo’s defense? How can Chicago stop Joe Burrow and Zac Taylor’s offense? Who needs to step up? Grab yourself your favorite cup of coffee, beer, or cocktail and let’s break it all down now!
The Bengals actually look to have a solid defense this season. Jessie Bates III is one of the best safeties in the NFL. Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt and Akeem Davis-Gaither are all young and talented linebackers who played well last week. Their defensive line was also much improved with the additions of Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi.
Their weakness is at cornerback. Bringing in three new starters: Eli Apple, Chidobe Awuzie, and Mike Hilton, Bengals tried to revamp their secondary via free agency. Eli Apple is now on his fourth team since being drafted in the first round in 2016, which gives you an idea of how he has played thus far in his NFL career. Chidobe is another cornerback looking for a fresh start. After not living up to expectations as a second round draft pick for Dallas, Awuzie has shown flashes of solid play in his career. Mike Hilton is a solid slot cornerback and should bring some consistency to this cornerback trio.
Matt Nagy and Bill Lazor should be scheming up Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, and Marquise Goodwin early and often on Sunday. Andy Dalton throwing the ball sounds unappealing, I know. However, it is a revenge game for Dalton and Lazor, if you believe in that kinda stuff. I believe Chicago’s best chance to score points this week (besides handing the keys to the offense over to Justin Fields) is to throw it around the yard all game. Test Eli Apple against Goodwin and Mooney on deep balls and make him play smart, technical coverage. Allen Robinson will most likely see a lot of Jessie Bates over the top of him, but Nagy must find a way to get him in the game early as well.
Pass protection could be an issue. If Cincinnati starts blitzing, Montgomery could be used on screen passes as well, spreading the defense horizontally while Goodwin and Mooney stress them vertically. Nagy also has to utilize play action and force the defensive line to hesitate, if only for a split second. That will take pressure off a shaky offensive line. Running the ball into the teeth of Cincinnati’s defense is playing to their strengths, Chicago will not win that way.
Cincinnati has a very balanced offense. Their great skill position players are only hindered by their below average offensive line. Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Mixon are the headliners of that skill group, but Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are also solid starters in the NFL.
The Bears will need Sean Desai to improve upon a brutal start to his coordinating career. The Bears looked lost Week 1 at times and that is not just the players fault. Desai must figure out what went wrong on some of the busted coverage plays and fix them immediately.
As I pointed out before, Robert Quinn has disappointed immensely since signing his $70 million contract. Quinn and Mack both have to bounce back and become the elite edge rushers that they are paid like to save this defense in 2021. Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor played fine last week, but not without mistakes. Eddie Jackson had an even worse day, missing tackles and blowing coverages. Desai has to find a way to put Eddie Jackson in a place to succeed and be the playmaker we have known him to be.
Starting Andy Dalton over Justin Fields at this point is indefensible. Fields has shown to be accurate, smart, and electric with the football. I believe we’re going to see Fields more and more as the weeks go on. I anticipate seeing Fields have five pass attempts at the end of this game with a few runs as well. Nagy is coaching for his job and may be bringing Fields along slowly to ensure he will look good when he’s the full-time starter. A selfish act and one I’m only speculating on, but something NFL coaches have done before in an attempt save their own job.
Overall, Chicago and Cincinnati are pretty equal in-terms of talent in my opinion. Bears fans may scoff at that as Cincinnati is coming off a 4-11-1 season, but the way the Bears played last week I have no reason to be hopeful Eddie Jackson or Robert Quinn will ever be pro-bowl players again. Akiem Hicks is getting older and Chicago’s skill positions are reliant on Allen Robinson (who is more than likely gone after this season) and David Montgomery at the moment. I do think playing at Home will help Chicago here.
Final Score: 35 — 31, Chicago
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