Football

Rams (5-4) vs. BEARS (4-5)

Kickoff: 7:20pm

TV: NBC

Radio: 780 WBBM

You ever see the movie “Big Fan”? It’s a wonderful film, and at the end (no spoilers), the main character played by Patton Oswalt is looking at the newly released schedule for the NY Giants (his favorite team), and says aloud “it’s gonna be a great year.” I remember looking at the Bears schedule before the season and marking this game down as the game where the collective fanbase could know what type of team we were looking at by how they played against the cream of the NFC’s crop. This, my friends, is why I don’t write about football for a living.

Both the Rams and the Bears hobble into this game starkly different than they were when they battled at Soldier Field nearly a year ago, despite not many major personnel changes save for the addition of Jalen Ramsey. The places these teams find themselves is a testament to the parity of the modern NFL, when two teams that were primed to be perennial playoff contenders last year now look at the playoffs from the outside if the season ended today.

That said, these two teams have stumbled to a position where they can ride a mid-season surge to relevancy and possible Wild Card spots, but both need a win to do that. A win here for the Bears could be a signature one, and with their next two games at home against the Giants and at Detroit, the best case scenario for Nagy and the boys would be a 3 game win streak before the season ending gauntlet of Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, and Minnesota. A 7-5 Bears going into that last 4 game stretch could be confident knowing that going .500 and catching a break or two along the way could get them into the playoffs, where anything can happen. This paragraph is the last of my optimism for 2019 about this team save for a convincing win on Sunday in front of America and Carrie Underwood.

The Rams need this one badly too, since while their remaining schedule has Arizona twice, they also go against Dallas, Baltimore, Seattle, and the 49ers. Both teams are looking for a big win to prove the same thing: the best moments of last season were not just flashes of what could be, but honest reflections of who these teams are when they get hot. Both teams also look at a potential loss as the moment when hopes for this season are dashed hopelessly against the rocks like Lady fuckin MacBeth did it herself. Admittedly, the Rams can lose this game but the Bears absolutely cannot.

I wholeheartedly believe an embarrassing showing by the Bears puts Matt Nagy on the hot seat, less than a year removed from winning Coach of the Year, a mind-blowing take that really encapsulates exactly how far this franchise has fallen. Both the Bears and Rams have been trainwrecks, but not even especially fun to watch trainwrecks.

Todd Gurley has been underutilized this season, and the Rams as a whole aren’t taking the league by storm in terms of how effectively they run the ball, which I believe was a big reason why play action was so essential to their success last year. Gurley has 104 carries on the year, while David Montgomery has 129. Monty also has more rushing yards than Gurley, which blows my mind considering I believed that he had been underutilized for most of the beginning of the season.

Unfortunately for Sunday, this is the time of the year when offenses buckle down and start to rely on the run game to prepare for the postseason and I believe that is a major strength for Los Angeles. Danny Trevathan is out, Akiem Hicks is out, and the Bears are weak up the middle. Nick Kwiatkoski has filled in well, but this game is a big test. Zone blocking techniques have found success against this defense (Oakland, anyone?) and I fear this might be a breakout game for Todd Gurley. It’ll be interesting to see if an offensive line missing a starting Tackle (Rob Havenstein) and it’s Center (Brian Allen) can find consistency against the Bears.

One key element of the Rams offense that is playing this week and didn’t last year is Cooper Kupp, Goff’s favorite target. He was shut out last week, but still ranks 7th in the NFL in catches and yards per game. Expect the Bears to pay extra attention to Cupp while also trying to contain Robert Woods, who is coming off a 7 catch, 95 yard performance in last weeks drubbing by the Steelers. Woods hasn’t scored yet this year, but he should still be considered a threat.

Do the Bears have what it takes to build another win streak and set themselves up for a December run? There is certainly going to be an opportunity to do that on Sunday night. The Rams are not playing at their best, but at the same time do we really even know what the best version of these Bears looks like?

Prediction: Bears 16 Rams 14

Statistics from Pro Football Reference @ pro-football-reference.com

Football

Tony Martin: Well Wes, I guess saying we would be at this point in the 2019 NFL season would’ve been pessimistic had we predicted it in August. The system is all busted up and now the 5-4 Rams welcome our shitty Bears to their house for an opportunity to show ass to a national audience once again.

In preparation for this nightmare, we’re both going to look at top tier QB regression nominees Jared Goff and Mitch Trubisky, and how they’ll fare against the opposing defenses.
Jared Goff, who my initial mischaracterization as Ryan Phillipe even though I meant Ryan Gosling caused the excellent photoshop that accompanies this article, is without a doubt hitting his Senior Slump. In spite of his excellent 2018 season, Goff is back to playing incredibly unevenly once again. He’s coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl season and looks simultaneously like a world-beater and an average bumslayer. He’s destroyed bottom-tier defenses like Atlanta and Cincinnati, but struggled against Tampa Bay (?) and San Francisco.
Combing through Goff’s game logs, there is ABSOLUTELY a correlation between how often Goff is sacked and how often he makes mistakes and turns the ball over. He has had nine passes intercepted and fumbled nine times in their nine games this season, but they come in bunches, and it’s all rooted in how much pressure the opposing defense puts on his pretty blonde shoulders.
How much of the Bears domination of Goff last year was scheme and game-planning, and how much of it was just a talent disparity between the Bears D and the shorthanded Rams (Cooper Kupp was out by week 14 last year). Watching highlights, it’s not that Goff was completely ineffective – he just had no time to pass on most of his snaps. Mack, Hicks, and Goldman were in the backfield on almost every snap. Incidentally, when the Bears couldn’t get pressure, Goff was successful in moving the ball down the field.
The 2019 Bears defense has struggled to get consistent pressure against quarterbacks, and closing running lanes despite a fairly good job shutting down cutbacks. Maybe they don’t allow lots of cutback runs because the initial hole is always big enough to get decent yards out of, but I don’t have the All-22 to confirm that. Do the Bears bring more heat this week against a QB who is not known for his mobility? I’m into it.
I would have to say the Rams biggest highlight from this season has to be their stunning reverse flea flicker against the Bengals earlier this season. A team with a pass rush doesn’t give Goff that kind of time, and he struggles as a result. If this team can do two things, Goff struggles and the Bears look like a real NFL team again:

1. Contain Todd Gurley
2. Apply consistent pressure to Jared Goff, even if it means committing extra defenders

Wes French :I’m taking partial credit for the photoshop in that I was the one that kept the Phillipe bit going and correlated it to Goff as a real world metaphor…but let’s move on.

Mitchell Trubisky isn’t even worthy of a Phillipe comp as his one uneven year led to the brutal 2019 through 10 weeks that we’ve seen, putting him on more of a “got a try out for Mickey Mouse Club, was an extra for three episodes, wound up doing B-movies and dabbling in Cinemax after dark features to pay rent” realm of actor.
Mitch was supposed to take a leap along with the Bears offense, the one that ranked 20th in yards/play last year and currently sits at 30th in 2019. All the leaps for the 2019 Bears have been backwards, sometimes literally as Mitch hops, skips and jumps to double digit yard losses on a lot of the sacks he takes (of which there are far too many).
Mitch only has three INTs on the year, but he did miss a few games and he’s still barely over 2:1 TD:INT ratio with eight touchdowns on the year. And three of those came last week against a beaten and brutal Lions pass defense that Mitch still only managed 173 passing yards. His 5.8 yards per attempt round out his 30th and over club for individual QB stats, a club that Mitch finds himself in too often this year.
There’s been a lot of optimistic talk about the 3rd-year QB and his offense building on that Lions effort, but a trip to the suddenly not so defensively stout Rams may not be the tonic Mitch needs. The plan should mirror last season when Mitch wasn’t very effective, but the running game was.
The Bears used a lot of slide help protection on the O-Line to mitigate the great equalizer that is Aaron Donald, and I’d look for them to double/triple team him on nearly every play he’s on the field. The rushing attack would also do well to scheme away from Donald, where using Tarik Cohen and his speed to run AWAY from Aaron Donald while simply allowing blockers to seal him off and keep him in pursuit is the winning formula.
Mitch will need to be something he hasn’t in 2019 – accurate and on point with decision making. The Rams can and will make his life hell with their rush, but if he can commit to a play and make the throw that’s there without hesitation the Bears will have a shot to move the ball and potentially steal one on the road. Moving the pocket a little more like last week against Detroit and getting Mitch on some bootlegs and misdirection PA plays, if they can get that ground game going early, could lead to the big plays the team and fans have been waiting for all year. We got a few glimpses last week, how about a whole decent offensive game?
1. Contain Donald
2. Run wild, protect the ball and stay the course with what worked in week 10
Football

The 2019 LA Rams started the season with Super Bowl aspirations; but thru nine games, they are treading water. The walls are closing in quickly and the doubters have been out in full force. Rams QB Jared Goff is currently ground zero for criticism and his offensive line is among the worst units in the league. This all sounds too maddening familiar, doesn’t it?

Goff is averaging 292 passing yards per game, good for 6th best in the league; this is clearly not the issue. What is killing the Rams is Goff’s 11-9 TD to INT ratio, which is near the bottom of the league and comparable to the great Sam Darnold, Andy Dalton, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The TD/INT numbers are especially shocking given his 2017 and 2018 Pro Bowl seasons where threw for 60 TDs and 19 INTs combined.

Coming off the two previous seasons where he was a combined 24-7 as a starter, this year’s 5-4 mark screams Super Bowl hangover. It has also raised the big question we are asking here in Chicago: “Has this offense been figured out?” This question was asked even louder with last weeks loss to the Steelers, where the Rams scored 12 points. Coming off a bye week.

Right now, the Rams are elated they are playing in a market that really doesn’t give a fuck about sports. If they were here, or Philly, or New York, or Boston – this teams struggles would be front and center every day; which in turn, would magnify the way Jared Goff has given balls away like he’s Bruce Jenner.

So, after reading all of this, do the Bears have a chance this Sunday? Maybe. This isn’t the 2018 Bears defense, far from it, but last year, Goff had the worst game of his career against Vic’s Fangio’s guys – throwing four INTs and completing only 20-44 for 180 yards.

If he wants to redeem himself from last years abortion, Goff is going to rely heavily on WR Cooper Kupp, who not surprisingly, is a white guy. But Kupp is coming off a game last week where he and I had the same numbers of catches. What makes last week’s performance even more bizarre is that Kupp went for 220 receiving yards the game before. Look for Goff to make Kupp a priority early and often on Sunday and expect big things from the tandem.

Additionally, look for a big game from Robert Woods, who will get a lot more looks with Brandin Cooks out this week. Woods has yet to see the endzone this year, but with almost 13 yards per catch on 45 receptions, it’s only a matter of time until Woods scores six.

Tight end Gerald Everett ranks in the top-10 at his position with 34 catches for an average of 11 yards per catch and over 40 yards per game. As a maddening point of reference, Bears future Hall of Fame TE Adam Shaheen is averaging nine receiving yards and 1 reception per appearance. Sweet!

Underused and struggling Todd Gurley doesn’t pose much of a threat out in the passing game out of the backfield, averaging only 1.5 catches per game. Rams coach Sean McVay has relied less and less on Gurley in both the run and pass; a decision which has not sat very well with the once elite running back. If McVay wants to quiet some critics and appease his star, look for the Bears to get forced fed a steady diet of Gurley.

So, in a worst case scenario for the Bears, what does Goff do this Sunday night?

Well, here’s your answer, and it’s not pretty:

This was from Week 4 against Tampa Bay. Ho. Lee. Shit. 68 attempts, 517 yards – this is some quarterback porn right here people.

 OK, so then what is the best case scenario for a somewhat struggling Bears defense?

Take a peek at Goff’s Week 6 performance against a solid 49ers defense:

As you can see here, Goff wasn’t able to complete a single pass over 10 yards. This type of offensive game-plan fits very well into the Bears defensive scheme due to the speed of the linebackers and athleticism of the defensive line.

What does it all mean?

This game lies squarely on the shoulders of Jared Goff. If Goff is good, not even great, the Rams will win handily. But if Goff replicates last year’s performance against the Bears or his Week 6 struggles against the 49ers, the Bears will win a very low scoring game.

Rams 24 – Bears 10

Football

Welcome back to THE VAULT, my weekly sacrifice to the Dark Lord of Bears fandom. Through a combination of a shrine to Josh Bellamy and a woven idol made entirely of Bobby Engram’s discarded trash, I hope to write 750 words and pay tribute to the fans before me so that one day during my darkest hour the spirits of men in mustaches and sweater vests whisk me to safety. Also if this blog blows up and I make this my full time job, I hope to one day be in the position to insult Jay Mariotti to his stupid face.

Speaking of Jay’s that I’ll never be cool enough to even insult, Jay Cutler’s 2015 Bears were a John Fox led 6-10 dumpster fire that shares an uncomfortable level of talent with Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy’s 2019 eventual 7-9 shitshow. Let it be noted once again, if prime Jay Cutler was under center for this team, they’d be playing a lot better until he inevitably got hurt and the Bears had to turn to one of their menagerie of garbage backups (the 2015 season being highlighted by Jimmy Clausen’s outstanding performance against Seattle- a game that might not look out of place this year).

The Bears were 3-5 going up against the then 4-4 St. Louis Rams, in a game won handily by the good guys, 37-13. Not only did Jeremy Langford out perform Todd Gurley in every statistical category, Ka’Deem Carey also gained more yards on the ground than Gurley. Langford caught a screen pass and took it EIGHTY THREE (shouts out to Clark from Des Plaines) yards to paydirt. Hell, even Zach Miller scored from over eighty yards out, grabbing 5 balls for 107 and 2 touchdowns. Zach Miller was the last capable Bears tight end and that’s sad because he was literally a journeyman though he played way above his pay grade in his time in Chicago.

It’s always been a testament to the various Bears offensive lines that so many mid-round, ostensibly just average running backs have found success in the blue and orange. Jeremy Langford got 537 of his career 762 rushing yards his rookie year despite backing up Matt Forte for more than half the season, and was then replaced by Jordan Howard three games into the next year. Jordan Howard is a beast and should be on an NFL roster, but he is about a league average running back depending on his situation. The John Fox-led Bears was the perfect situation for a relatively slow, grinding running back that gets more effective as the game goes on.

Jeremy Langford, Alshon Jeffery, and Marty Bennett are the Bears players on the offensive side of the ball for this team that the Bears turned loose for one reason or another, and the only one I really think could’ve stayed and made a difference on the field was Marty. Notable castoffs on defense are Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan, and of course a now retired Willie Young. Goddamn I loved Willie Young.

You can see some of the building blocks of last year’s NFC Champion Rams on this 2015 trash heap football team, mainly Gurley and Aaron Donald. Sure, Jared Goff is just blonde Mitch, but he had a core intact that made Sean McVay look pretty damn smart for a year. Sounds familiar, somehow. Also, we have a Big Dick Nick sighting, as America’s favorite cocksman was the godawful Rams QB of the week!

Also, James Laurinaitis was on this team! The son of BIG JOHNNY himself! This game took place years after the John Laurinaitis/CM Punk feud, but I’d still like to think the Bears won this one for Phil Brooks as well as themselves. Even though CM Punk ignored me when I yelled “HEY YOU’RE CM PUNK” while reeking of weed walking down North Avenue last spring, I still believe in CM Punk, and I think Zach Miller knew in his heart that breaking two tackles and racing down the field to score was basically hitting a Go To Sleep in the heart of one disappointed father.

It’s narratives like that, ones that I’ve just totally made up, that provide the much needed subtext to make this game between two shitty teams mean something to you in 2019. Zach Miller, CM Punk, John Fox, what does it mean? Well, for one, it means the Bears aren’t winning jack shit anytime soon.

We’ve already seen Todd Gurley break down, and the 2018 Rams lost all their momentum near the end of the regular season. The then red-hot Bears exposed the weaknesses Goff and friends had on primetime, and Sean McVay no longer looks like the greatest coach in the history of coaching. It’s entirely fatalistic and somewhat reasonable to suggest that Matt and Mitch are already at 2019 levels of McVay/Goff regression, with less to put on their resumes. It’s eerie to look at these two teams in 2015 and see foreshadowing somehow, but it’s there and it’s hideous.

Football

Holy shit do I want to hate Carson Wentz, who I would like to first off assure you is NOT Prince Harry. I typed out and deleted a whole paragraph on how his Christian charity and religious work makes me uncomfortable, so let’s just ignore his personality as best we can and break down the Marcus Mariota to Jared Goff’s Jameis Winston (holy shit what a jumble of mediocre quarterback names).

Carson Wentz was the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and has had a somewhat star-crossed career in his time as the Eagles QB, similarly to how a certain member of the royal family is on one hand a darling of the British media while also having a history of wearing Nazi regalia. He came in as a rookie and put up middling numbers, played at a Pro Bowl level in 2017 before suffering a season-ending injury in week 14 before watching “Giant Penis” Nick Foles take his team to the mountaintop and win the Super Bowl against New England. Wentz came back partway through the 2018 season and again played well statistically. He’s doing the same this year, but just like last season his team isn’t holding up their end of the bargain.

Let’s take a quick look at his Next Gen Stats from NFL.com from last week:

A lot of short passes or passes behind the line, which makes a lot of sense against a stout Buffalo defense during a game that featured steady high winds. Wentz makes good use of screen passes, which the Bears are actually decent at defending, but he also makes good use of the deep ball when he needs to, which the Bears are shit at stopping. It’s worth keeping track throughout the week to see if speedsters DeSean Jackson and rookie burner Miles Sanders are suiting up on Sunday.

Wentz is an outstanding game manager when he isn’t being asked to do too much. He’s like the Duke of Sussex, he needs just a little less responsibility than one would ask of a proper King. He also excels in making plays with his feet, as he has underrated mobility and can buy time for players like Alshon Jeffery to break off routes and find open spots downfield. He’s getting sacked at the second lowest rate of his career according to Pro Football Focus (a sack on every 5.7 dropbacks), so you know he’s a threat there as well.

How do you beat Carson Wentz? That’s a good question. Even with injuries, Wentz has plenty of weapons in the aforementioned Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Dallas Goedert, not to mention Jordan Howard anchoring the rushing attack and a decent offensive line. Wentz is impressive against the blitz, and if given too much time will make things happen with his feet.

He spreads the ball around very well considering the injuries he has dealt with this season with his skill position teammates. As mentioned before, he has two tight ends that can run any route asked of them, a wide receiver that can win at the point of the catch, and if Sanders is healthy he has 3 running backs that can catch passes (I am including Jordan Howard, thank you very much). This is not an offense that you can key on one player and isolate, the Eagles can beat you in a number of ways through the air.

If the Bears want to successfully beat Carson Wentz, they need to pressure him into throwing his occasional bad pass. He will literally pull a Mitch if given the chance and just leave you with a head-scratcher. Wentz tends to have a ball or two sail on him, and the Bears need to capitalize. If somehow Chicago jumps on an early lead, Wentz can get erratic. If the game goes how we all expect it to go, Wentz will put up outstanding numbers.

The Eagles can beat a team in a number of different ways, and this is a far different team than the one the Bears faced this previous January. Holding them to 16 points would be a big surprise and could make this game winnable, but Wentz has too many weapons and the Bears offense isn’t inspiring anyone to make us think opposing QBs will be feeling any situational pressure when on the field. If Carson takes the field and is pressing to make a play, the Bears will be able to take advantage, but ask yourself first if you can actually see that being the case when you envision the game on Sunday.

Good luck on Sunday Bears fans, because I’m setting the line at 2.5 for “mentions by the announce team of the ‘double-doink’ and Eddy Pineiro’s miss last week”.

Prediction:
Take the over for the announcers
Eagles 24 Bears 10
Carson Wentz is NOT actually Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton

 

 

…or IS HE?