While most of the attention around Sunday night's showdown between the Chicago Bears (4-5) and Los Angeles Rams (5-4) has been on both teams' struggling quarterbacks and underperforming offenses, the defensive side of the ball will provide fans with a rare opportunity to watch two future Hall-of-Famers: Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald.
Mack, who despite falling into a bit of a slump by his standards, remains the Bears' headline player. His 5.5 sacks through nine games put him on pace for just under 10 on the year, which would be the first time since his rookie season that he failed to reach double digits.
Donald, meanwhile, is also experiencing a regression in his production. He had a remarkable 20.5 sacks in 2018 but is on pace for just under 11 sacks in 2019, which is actually right around his yearly average. And let's face it: last season was his career-year.
The analytics paint a clearer picture for how well Mack and Donald have played this season. Mack's 89.4 grade from Pro Football Focus ranks him seventh among edge defenders, but keep in mind that third place is currently held by 49ers rookie Nick Bosa with an 89.7. Mack can easily end the year at or near the top once again.
Donald, on the other hand, doesn't have to make a run to reach the top of the interior defenders' list. He owns PFF's highest grade with a 92.9. In fact, Donald's grade is the highest for any defensive player in the NFL entering Week 11.
So, yeah, the Bears' interior offensive line trio of Cody Whitehair, James Daniels and Rashaad Coward have their work cut out for them.
But even with Donald having such a fantastic season and Mack struggling a bit over the last month or so, Bears fans are still all-in on No. 52. We ran a poll on Twitter asking which of these two superstars fans would rather have in Chicago, and the results were overwhelmingly in Mack's favor.
Who would you rather have?— Bears Talk (@NBCSBears) November 15, 2019
Is this a because of fan bias? Maybe. But the annual conversation about who will win the league's defensive player of the year always includes these two guys; it's not unreasonable to think 81 percent of Bears fans would prefer the edge rusher over the interior disrupter. Although, with the way the NFL's passing offenses are evolving, we're seeing more and more evidence that interior disruption is as valuable (if not more valuable) as pressure off the edge. Let's see how a poll like this shakes out a year from now.
Mack and Donald represent the worst possible reality for a struggling quarterback. The last guy Jared Goff wants chasing him down is Mack, and Donald busting through the offensive line is a nightmare-turned-reality for Mitch Trubisky. It'll be must-see TV.
Kickoff between the Bears and Rams is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. CST on NBC's Sunday Night Football.