This is one of the biggest games that the Bears have faced in a long time. Yes, their match ups this season against the Vikings and Patriots were big tests, but now it’s later in the season, and this looms as the single biggest test they’ve had to date.
The Rams are among the best teams in the league and most rank them behind the Saints for NFC supremacy. The Bears are among the best, sure, but I think it’s fair to say that outside of Chicago there are quite a lot of doubts.
The Bears did beat the Vikings on a previous Sunday Night Football game, and they lost a close one to the Patriots, but they aren’t quite as battle-tested as the Rams, who’ve gone toe-to-toe with both the Saints and Chiefs, as well as the Chargers and even the Vikings.
The Rams have both a star-studded defense and offense, with superstars such as Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley. Plus playmakers such as Jared Goff, Ndamukong Suh and Marcus Peters.
While their defense hasn’t always produced, they rank just behind the Bears in turnover margin. If the Bears can hang with or, dare I say, beat, the Rams, then there should be few doubters left.
Los Angeles Rams
SB Nation Site: Turf Show Times
Game day/time/TV: Sunday, 7:20 p.m. CT, NBC
Last week: 30-16 win over the Lions in Detroit
Bears all-time record against: 52-35-3
Historical match ups: The last time these two teams met when the Rams were in Los Angeles was Dec. 18, 1994.
At Soldier Field, the 8-4 Bears hosted the 4-10 Rams. The Bears won behind Raymont Harris and Lewis Tillman rushing for a combined 161 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries. Steve Walsh threw 25 passes and a touchdown to Keith Jennings.
The Bears held the Rams to just 37 rushing yards and both Chris Miller and Chris Chandler played for the Rams.
The Bears won 27-13.
Last meeting: The Bears moved to 4-5 with a week 10 beatdown of the Rams in 2015 as the Bears won 37-13.
Jay Cutler threw three touchdowns, including two of 80+ yards to Zach Miller and Jeremy Langford. Miller caught two touchdowns in the game while Langford added a rushing score.
Nick Foles started for St. Louis and Todd Gurley rushed for 45 yards and a touchdown.
Offense: The Rams boast one of the best offenses in the league, and entering this week they are second in both points scored and yards gained.
They rank fourth in passing yards and fourth in rushing yards.
Obviously, they are stacked, led by Jared Goff (66.4 comp. pct./3,754 yds./27 TD/7 INT) throwing to WRs Brandon Cooks (63 rec./1,026 yds./3 TD), Robert Woods (64/971/5), plus TE Tyler Higbee (19/217/2). Josh Reynolds (15/197/3) has been coming on in place of the injured Cooper Kupp.
Their main weapon, however, is Todd Gurley. Gurley is effective as both a runner (233 att./1,175 yds./15 TD), where he leads the league and also as a receiver (46 rec./474 yds./4 TD). He leads the league in not only rushing, but rushing TDs, yards from scrimmage, all-purpose yards. points scored and touchdowns.
There is so much this offense can do, much of it off of play action. If Gurley gets going, it could get ugly. The Bears have had trouble setting the edge and tackling running backs in each of their losses this year. Blowing coverages (a la the Packers and Giants game) or poor tackling efforts (such as against the Dolphins, Giants and Patriots), this could really get away from them.
Their offense isn’t afraid to get into a shootout and, as good as it’s been, it’s fair to wonder if the Bears can keep up in that situation.
Defense: The Rams come into the game with the league’s 19th ranked defense in terms of points allowed and 18th ranked in terms of yards.
Their passing defense is 17th and their rushing defense is 18th.
The Rams defense has been porous at times.
They’ve allowed over 440 yards four times this season and over 30 points five times.
The Rams are led by Aaron Donald, who may be, along with Khalil Mack, the best defensive player in the league. Donald has an unbelievable stat line of 16.5 sacks, 1 PD, 4 FF, 20 TFL and 32 QB hits. He also has two fumble recoveries.
Donald’s had at least two sacks in each of the last three games, the only game he was shut out of a sack in the last nine games, was the Saints game.
Helping Donald out are Ndamukong Suh (3.5 sacks/2 PD/3 TFL/14 QB hits), LB Cory Littleton (4 sacks/10 PD/8 TFL/4 QB hits), recent addition Dante Fowler (2 sacks/1 FF/4 TFL) and Samson Ebukam (3 sacks/3 FF/1 INT/2 FR/2 TDs).
In the secondary are John Johnson (3 INT/8 PD/1 FF), Marcus Peters (2 INT/5 PD) and now they have Aqib Talib back.
Injury report: The Rams listed just two players on their Wednesday report:
Did not participate: RB Malcolm Brown (shoulder)
Full: CB Marcus Peters (ankle)
Key match ups: Aaron Donald against Cody Whitehair and Bryan Witzmann. The interior of the line is going to have their hands full of Donald and the rest of the Rams’ defensive line. The best offensive weapon is going to be the running game, so the OL is going to be key.
For the defense, slowing down Gurley is going to be the biggest key. The Bears can’t afford missed tackles or blown coverages. Roquan Smith is likely going to be asked to shadow Gurley a lot, out of the backfield and at the line of scrimmage.
For Mack and Hicks, it’s going to be key for them to win at the point of attack and fill the running lanes, as well as pressuring Goff. Rattling him and making him rush his throws is going to be a big key.
Elsewhere on offense, they just need to score points. Exploit their questionable linebackers by getting Tarik Cohen in space and get the running game going with Jordan Howard. Adam Shaheen, Trey Burton and the tight ends might be able to find some room. Trubisky needs to knock his rust off early and get into a rhythm.
The Rams play a lot of coverages that Trubisky should be able to exploit.
What to watch for: If this game doesn’t get you hyped, there is no hope for you as a Bears or a football fan. You don’t have a pulse.
This is a clash of one of the best offenses in the league and one of the best defenses. The Bears are going to be looking to replicate the success that the Saints had against Los Angeles while the offense is going to try to score to keep up with this high flying attack.
It’s going to be a good one.
Key stats: The Bears defense has allowed 25 touchdowns total. The Rams offense 44 touchdowns.
The Rams are allowing opponents a 99.7 passer rating. The Bears defense is allowing a 78.5 passer rating.
Chicago has as many interceptions as passing touchdowns allowed (21).
The Bears have allowed 30 or more points just three times (all losses). The Rams have failed to score more than 30 points just twice (and one of those times it was 29).
The Rams opponents have scored 30 or more points five times. The Bears have scored 30 or more points four times.
Jared Goff has played one game in a temperature below freezing: Week 6 at Denver. His stat line: 14/28 for 201 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, sacked 5 times. His worst statistical game of the season.
The pick: I think the Bears keep it close but come up just short, I have Rams 28, Bears 26. To see my pick against the spread and the total click here to visit Sports Bet Collective. Sign up for my free analysis of the game.
What do you think it will take for the Bears to win?