Football Team

3 things Washington fans should watch for in Bears-Rams

Football Team

A big NFC matchup is on the horizon for Week 1 of the NFL season, with the Chicago Bears taking on the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football. Though the Washington Football Team won’t play either of those teams during the 2021 campaign, D.C. fans have a few reasons to tune in.

Chicago is hoping to improve upon their Wild Card loss in last year’s playoffs, while L.A. will once again look to their stellar defense all season to bid for another Super Bowl appearance. Both sides have extremely tough schedules this season—Chicago with the third-hardest, L.A. with the 12th—so a Week 1 win to begin the season is crucial.

All eyes will be set on the City of Angels for the first Sunday Night Football game of 2021. Three-thousand miles away, WFT fans have a dog in that race. Here are three things football fans in the nation’s capital should keep an eye on for Bears-Rams:

Old QBs, new places

Both the Bears and Rams will be starting a veteran quarterback for Week 1. Chicago brought in Andy Dalton this past offseason after one year in Dallas, while L.A. shipped Jared Goff to Detroit and upgraded to Matthew Stafford.

It’s almost a guarantee at this point that rookie QB Justin Fields will take over starting duties for Dalton within the first six weeks of the season. However, Dalton’s performance under center could have an impact on that timeline—if he starts his season off with a win, Matt Nagy might just be inclined to sideline Fields for a bit longer than anticipated. In all likelihood, Fields will be a force that Washington will have to reckon with in the NFC for years to come, so his rookie year could indicate the level of his long-term success.

 

For the Rams, Stafford will likely prove to be a huge catalyst that can take their offense to the next level. He’ll have Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to target downfield, enabling him to make deep passes that he was seldom able to make in his latter years in Detroit. Will he be able to bring the Rams to the big game, like his predecessor Goff? Keep an eye on both quarterbacks during Sunday Night’s game.

Will the Rams replicate their top-ranked offense?

Washington got a taste of what it was like to play the best defensive unit in football during Week 5 last season. Los Angeles held starting WFT quarterback Kyle Allen to just 74 yards passing on the day, as the visitors got the W 30-10.

Experts are already pegging the Rams to have one of the league’s best units again this year, and it all starts on Sunday night. Aaron Donald will lead the front lines, while Jalen Ramsey will hold down the secondary. Donald is a perennial DPOY candidate and perhaps the NFL’s scariest player—expect him to snag at least 1.5 sacks on Sunday.

Ramsey, though, could have his hands full. He’ll likely be covering Allen Robinson all day, and that’s a tough task even for arguably the league’s best CB. It’ll be interesting to see if L.A.’s secondary will be able to contain Robinson and Darnell Mooney, who is primed for a breakout year.

How will running backs fare?

The Rams lost their starting running back Cam Akers for the season with an Achilles injury last month. Darrell Henderson will take over lead back duties in his place, but evidently Sean McVay wanted a bit more oomph at the position as the team traded for fellow RB Sony Michel. Both are in a bit of a precarious position, having to step into full-time roles against the league’s best defense in their first game of 2021.

On the Bears’ side, David Montgomery assumes his regular position as RB1 which he has had for some time now. Consider this from the Bears’ senior writer Larry Mayer: “David Montgomery rushed for 598 yards and seven touchdowns in the final six games—more than doubling his output from his first nine contests, when he ran for 472 yards and one TD.” Will he pick up where he left off, or will it take him a few weeks to regain that power?

 

Chicago also added depth at running back this summer, signing free agent Damien Williams and drafting Khalil Herbert from Virginia Tech. We’ll see if Matt Nagy wants to mix the energy of a rookie with the experience of a veteran behind Montgomery.

It’s a passing league, but running backs can be the difference between a mediocre offense and an explosive one. Washington fans should compare the effectiveness of Montgomery, Henderson and others against the opposing defenses with that of Antonio Gibson, who himself is gearing up to be Washington’s franchise RB.