1. Stay disciplined on defense. No team disguises what it does on offense better than the Rams, who run 98 percent of their plays from 11 personnel but do an outstanding job of making everything look the same after the snap. That means not only how their receivers are running routes, but how they use play-action in absolutely lethal fashion, because opponents have to respect Todd Gurley — who leads the NFL with 1,175 rushing yards, 15 rushing touchdowns and 97.9 rushing yards per game. For the Bears’ defense, this means discipline and communication will be vital to their success. This group blew two coverages last week, allowing Odell Beckham to both throw and catch a touchdown. Those kind of mistakes can’t happen again on Sunday, because if they do, Sean McVay’s offense will absolutely take advantage of them.
2. Sustain drives on offense. Time of possession is usually a meaningless statistic; often times teams that “lose” the time of possession battle win the game because of a rash of explosive plays on offense. But there is an added importance to this for the Bears on Sunday night, specifically on offense: Even with the league’s best defense, the best way to keep the Rams from scoring is to not let them have the football (case in point: the Rams average 2:51 time of possession per drive, while the Bears average 2:48). Unless the Bears want to get into a shootout, the best thing they can do is put together extended drives and score points on those, giving their defense a rest and keeping the Rams’ offense off the field.
3. Make more big plays. In that mesmerizing 54-51 Monday night game against the Kansas City Chiefs, a key reason for the Rams’ victory was the two touchdowns scored by defensive end Samson Ebukam. That game, too, ended with Patrick Mahomes throwing two interceptions on the Chiefs’ final two possessions. So while the Rams’ defense is beatable, they’re a useful boom-or-bust group for today’s modern NFL. If the Bears can hold the Rams under 24 points, that’s a huge accomplishment — the Denver Broncos are the only team to keep the Rams under that number this year, and the Broncos and Green Bay Packers are the only two teams to hold the Rams under 30 points. But as things get close in the fourth quarter, the Bears will have to rely on their big-play-making ability, like a pick-six or forced fumble or explosive touchdown. Make those plays and the Bears will have a chance to win. Allow the Rams to make more of them, and the Bears will likely fall to 8-5.
Prediction: Rams 27, Bears 25. Six of the Rams’ 11 wins have been by one possession or less, and when they’ve gone on the road against good teams (defined here as the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints) their point differential is minus-five. Granted, a lot of that comes from a 10-point loss at the Superdome, but a two-point win over the Seahawks and a three-point win over the Broncos represent the starting point for this prediction. Additionally: The Bears have kept all four of their losses remarkably close, losing those games by an average of a little over three points. We’ll say this one goes down to the wire, too, with the Rams — the best team in the NFL — making a handful more plays than the Bears, leading them to a win at Soldier Field.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears and stream the ‘Football Aftershow’ easily on your device.