1. Get turnovers, and points off turnovers.
Jared Goff's interception rate is 2.5 percent, and only three quarterbacks have been picked off more than the nine charged to the former No. 1 overall pick. As a result — fun fact time! — Goff’s passer rating (82.7) is worse than Mitch Trubisky’s (85.2).
Sean McVay’s play action-heavy offense has still worked at times this year, but Goff has looked like a liability operating it. The opportunities should be there for Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Ha Ha Clinton Dix and Eddie Jackson — who’s still searching for his first interception of 2019 — to take the ball away multiple times, something they haven’t done since Week 5 (the Bears have two takeaways in their last four games).
Of course, McVay could deploy an extremely conservative gameplan to keep Goff from putting the ball into harm’s way. But this offense largely is what it is, and as long as the back end of the Bears’ defense doesn’t bite on play action, it’ll have chances to take the ball away.
And when those chances do come, one of two things needs to happen: Either it’s a pick six, or the Bears’ offense scores a touchdown immediately following a turnover. Sustaining long drives against a good Rams defense will be difficult for an offense that hasn’t really done that in 2019 anyway. So score on short fields, or get defensive touchdowns, and the Bears will put themselves in position to win on Sunday night.
2. Make it three for three against Aaron Donald.
The Bears muted Aaron Donald’s impact a year ago, limiting him to just one tackle in their 15-6 win at Soldier Field. Credit Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand for an excellent coaching job of his guys last December, which maybe wasn’t a fluke — when Hiestand’s Notre Dame offensive line faced Donald back in 2013, they held the then-Pitt star to…one tackle.
Hiestand’s O-line shut down Donald last year with backup Bryan Witzmann starting at right guard, though the challenge on Sunday may be greater given current right guard Rashaad Coward is still very much a greenhorn at his position. And Donald, too, is entering Sunday playing some of his best football.
Five of Donald’s six sacks have come in his last four games, and he has 13 “stops” — tackles that represent a failure for the opposing offense, as defined by PFF — in that same span. His ability to wreck the game, whether or not David Montgomery plays (he's a gametime decision with an ankle injury), needs to be held in check.
The Rams are fourth in defensive DVOA, one spot ahead of the Bears, with Wade Phillips’ defense actually improving off 2017 and 2018 while the Rams’ offense has regressed. Donald, who’s still playing like the best defensive player in the NFL for the third year in a row, is a big reason why.
3. Have Allen Robinson win his matchups against Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey hasn’t played the sort of transcendent worthy of sacrificing two first-round picks to acquire, as the Rams did before October’s trade deadline. In three games with the Rams, Ramsey has allowed 14 receptions on 17 targets with no interceptions, though he hasn’t allowed a touchdown either, per PFF.
While Ramsey has been good, he hasn’t been great — and that should allow Allen Robinson to have chances to make plays as his former Jacksonville Jaguars teammate shadows him. Robinson has been outstanding this year, and has been the only player on the Bears offense in whom Mitch Trubisky has displayed unbridled trust. If he can manage a big game — how about 100 yards and a touchdown? — it’ll be because he won his matchups against Ramsey. And if Robinson does that, the Bears offense will have its best chance at beating one of the league’s better defenses.
If Trubisky can't get Robinson the ball, or Ramsey gets an interception or two, the Bears will have an exceedingly difficult time overcoming having their best offensive player being taken away.
Prediction: Rams 22, Bears 13
The Bears will arrive at the Coliseum with a 3.6 percent chance of making the playoffs, per Football Outsiders, the result of how poor they’ve played this year coupled with a loaded NFC wild card race led by the Minnesota Vikings (7-3) and Seattle Seahawks (7-3). A win will keep their flickering playoff hopes from being extinguished, but it will not mean Chicago can start thinking about the postseason yet.
The Rams, though, are in a similar boat. A win would move them to 6-4, and they still have a game against the Seahawks remaining that could swing a wild card spot in their favor. So both teams will play Sunday evening with their metaphorical backs against the wall.
Ultimately, the Rams’ defense is what will drive their win. Phillips’ zone-heavy scheme stifled Trubisky and the Bears’ offense last year, and not even having the threat of Trey Burton on Sunday will have a negative impact on Matt Nagy’s offense.
The Bears will have to play their best game of the season to earn a victory (even better than Week 4), but last weekend’s win over the Lions was not the kind of inspiring effort that leads one to believe a great, complete game is coming.
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