Matt Nagy and the Bears took care of business week 2. Beating the Cincinnati Bengals 20-17. In that victory the Chicago Bears lost Andy Dalton, their starting quarterback. Dalton is reportedly dealing with a knee injury and is return date is up in the air. The injury sets the stage for Justin Fields to lead Chicago’s offense this Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
With the defense playing better in week 2 and Justin Fields taking over as the new QB1, Chicago’s faith has seemingly been restored in the Bears 2021 season. How will the Bears’ offense look this week versus a good Browns defense? How will Chicago’s defense look against a great Cleveland running game? This will be one of the best teams Chicago plays all season long, so grab yourself your favorite beer, cocktail, or a cup of coffee and let’s see how they matchup.
Chicago’s Run Defense
Chicago’s run defense ranks eleventh in DVOA. With Eddie Goldman as a limited participant and Akiem Hicks as a DNP for Thursday’s practice, Sean Desai will likely bring in a consistent rotation of Hogs upfront. Bilal Nichols, Angelo Blackson, Mario Edwards, and rookie Khyris Tonga will all get snaps Sunday. Eddie Goldman has not played yet this season, but figures to be an important piece to this defense. Bilal Nichols and Akiem Hicks have been getting the start but Goldman is the best run defender of the bunch.
Cleveland has the best offensive line in the NFL currently. Featuring second year standout Jedrick Wills at left tackle, three time pro-bowler Joel Bitonio at left guard, NFLPA president J.C. Tretter at center, second-team all-pro Wyatt Teller at right guard, and two time first-team all-pro Jack Conklin at right tackle. This Browns running game also features two of the best running backs in the NFL, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Sean Desai and Chicago’s front seven will face an incredible test this Sunday. If Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks play and are close to 100% healthy, I think the Bears will stack up well. I imagine we will see three defensive linemen plus two edge rushers often on Sunday. Khalil Mack will have to play at an elite level to help disrupt and force the running backs to cut back into the teeth of the Bears defense. Robert Quinn and Jeremiah Attaochu will have to do the same on their side to prevent Cleveland from dominating in the run game.
Chicago’s Offense with the New QB1
As mentioned above, Justin Fields is now Chicago’s starting quarterback. Get excited, the future of Bears football is now upon us. Justin Fields is unlike any quarterback Chicago fans have ever seen. In college he excelled in big moments, including a college football playoff win over eventual number one overall pick, Trevor Lawrence.
Matt Nagy should be creating a game plan to highlight Justin Fields strengths while also protecting him from the Cleveland pass rush. Jason Peters has been great through he first two weeks at left tackle. Ifedi has also been serviceable at right tackle. However, the interior of the offensive line has been a problem. Whitehair, Mustifer, and Daniels have all been below average at their positions according to PFF.
The Bears offense should feature plenty of outside zone, read option, and bootleg play action plays. Giving the interior offensive line an easier job. This will also help highlight Justin Fields’ athleticism by getting him outside of the pocket and on the move. The offensive line is not equipped to handle five and seven step drop backs consistently. The Bears will have to attack deep down the field on play action plays to stall the Browns defensive line, even if it’s just slightly.
Overall, the Bears are (+7.0) underdogs this Sunday. They are facing one of the best and most complete teams in the NFL. The Browns have a much-improved defense this season and have an elite running game to compliment them. Baker Mayfield has taken steps forward and looks like a true franchise quarterback. Justin Fields is in his first start in the NFL and has limited talent around him on offense. I don’t see the Bears winning Sunday and I honestly do not even see them covering the 7 point spread.
Final Score: Cleveland — 35, Chicago — 17
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