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

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