Arkush: Bears, Rams each face toughest challenge yet

  • Los Angeles Rams cornerback Troy Hill, left, intercepts intended for Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller during an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Los Angeles.

    Los Angeles Rams cornerback Troy Hill, left, intercepts intended for Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller during an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Los Angeles. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/25/2020 11:32 PM

This will be the toughest test of the season to date for both teams when the Bears visit the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night.

While the 5-1 Bears have played both the 4-2 Colts and 4-2 Bucs and split those two games, both were in Chicago and the Bears now have to prove they can handle a quality team on the road.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Buffalo is the only winning team the Rams have played this year but that game was on the road, so we'll see if home cooking helps them with the Bears, at least record-wise, being the best team they have faced.

Matchups to watch

Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley vs. Matt Nagy and Aaron Donald vs. Rashaad Coward and Charles Leno

Staley, a Vic Fangio disciple, was the Bears outside linebacker coach in 2017 and 2018, so he knows exactly what to expect from the Bears offense. Staley was Khalil Mack's position coach in 2018, so if there is a way to attack him, Staley will have a plan.

Of course, the flip side is Nagy is intimate with the Fangio/Staley defense.

Donald, meanwhile, could end up anywhere along the defensive front over the course of the game, but the majority of the time you're likely to see him head up on the left guard that we assume will be Coward or on the outside shoulder of Leno.

Those are obviously mismatches.

Coaching decision to watch

Will Sean McVay take his chances with Nick Foles and company and dare the Bears to run the football?

While neither facet of the Bears offense has scared anyone this season, because the run game has been so poor opponents have dared the Bears to run the ball and geared their scheme around taking away Allen Robinson.

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While the Rams defense has played extremely well they are a bit softer vs. the run than the pass.

If McVay sells out to not let Foles beat him, the Bears could have some success on the ground, and if he decides to shadow Robinson everywhere with Jalen Ramsey, it could create some big opportunities for David Montgomery, Anthony Miller and Darnell Mooney.

Player(s) to watch

Rams RB Darrel Henderson Jr. and WR Josh Reynolds

Henderson was selected three picks ahead of David Montgomery in last year's draft and the Rams traded up with the Bucs from 94 to 70 to get him.

Everybody knew the Bears were in the running back market and they proved it three picks later, so whether or not the Rams made the move to keep Henderson from being a Bear we'll never know.

What we do know is he's off to a much better start this year than Montgomery, averaging 4.8 yards a pop on the ground.

Reynolds is the Rams No. 3 receiver, but with all eyes on Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, he's become their top big-play guy, averaging 16.1 yards a catch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The X-factor

Leonard Floyd

He is having a typical Leonard Floyd season, which projects to about 40 tackles, five sacks, and five tackles for loss and he has yet to cause a takeaway.

But you have to know he'll be extra motivated facing the Bears. With all the attention they will have to pay to Donald and Michael Brockers, it wouldn't be stunning to see Floyd flash a couple times.

The Bears will have to be sure it isn't more than that.

Wild-card player(s) who could surprise

Rams RB Malcolm Brown and Bears RB Cordarrelle Patterson

With defenses as good as these two the offense that pulls off the most chunk plays will probably win.

No one in the league is more explosive than Patterson if he sees any daylight at all, and Brown is one of the most underrated No. 2 backs in the game.

He is a much bigger and very different style runner than Henderson, and if the Bears let him get rolling, the Rams will ride him while Henderson takes a seat.

Key stats

The Rams are the better offensive team but not by a wide margin and are averaging 25.3 points a game while the Bears average 21.3.

These are two great defenses with the Rams a bit more impressive between the 20s, but the Bears the superior team on third down and in the red zone. The Rams are fifth in the league allowing, 19.0 points per game, while the Bears are seventh, giving up 19.3.

The final word

Rams 19, Bears 16

The Bears have played the tougher schedule and accomplished a bit more at 5-1 while both clubs have had some luck, but until the offense does enough for 60 minutes to show they can play with a team like this on the road, I can't offer a solid analytical reason to pick the Bears.

Twitter: @ Hub_Arkush

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