Arkush: How much can Bears expect from Fields in first outing as QB1?
Are the Cleveland Browns and Bears as evenly matched as their 1-1 records, or is the sample size not enough to gauge?
The Browns fell at Kansas City as the Bears did visiting the Rams although the Browns were more competitive in defeat, and the Browns' win over the Texans and Bears stopping the Bengals did little to separate the two.
The game will offer strength against strength, weakness against weakness matchups as the Browns offense is 6th in the league averaging 406 yards a game and third scoring with 30 points a game, but the Browns defense is just 23rd vs. the pass and 25th in scoring, allowing 27 points a game.
All eyes will be on Justin Fields in his first NFL start.
The Bears are 7-point underdogs and the over/under is 46.
Matchups to watch
Browns RBs vs. Bears run 'D'
Almost everything the Browns and coach Kevin Stefanski do revolves around their run game, and Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the best two-headed monster in the league.
Like Matt Nagy, Stefanski was the NFL Coach of the Year as a rookie.
After two weeks the Browns are third in the NFL averaging 154.5 yards a game on the ground, 5.15 per carry (5th) and the Bears defense is 5th stopping the run allowing just 71.5 yards a game, 3.33 per carry (5th).
Coach decision to watch
How conservative/aggressive will Nagy be with Fields?
It is well past the time to lose the ridiculous notion Nagy has different offenses for Fields and Andy Dalton. The Bears scheme will not change, but the plays Nagy chooses to trust Fields the most with will matter.
The big question will come with trying to open up or take the top off the Browns defense. Going for it leaves the rookie open to holding the ball too long, taking sacks and possibly forcing mistakes.
But not doing it will allow the Browns to stack the box, bring their safeties down and have a greater ability to take away the run from Bears backs and Fields.
Players to watch
Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr., ER's Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney and Bears Eddie Goldman, Deon Bush and Germain Ifedi.
OBJ will make his first start of the year coming of ACL surgery. Garrett and Clowney are big time playmakers that haven't made a lot of plays this season and how much they can pressure Fields and then react to his escapability when they do could be the difference in the game.
Getting Goldman back, which seemed unlikely Friday would be huge in dealing with Chubb and Hunt.
Bush will most likely have to step in for Tashaun Gipson and matched against Garrett most of the afternoon, Ifedi will get his first real test at right tackle.
Browns TE's David Njoku, Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant; Bears WR's Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd
The three tight ends are Mayfield's security blanket and favorite targets with five, eight and five catches respectively and Njoku's 18.8 average, and Mayfield has just 1 TD pass to RB Demetric Felton. Take the tight ends away and the Browns passing game can grind to a halt.
If Goodwin and/or Byrd take the top off Browns 'D' early, Cleveland could need to rework its defensive plan on the fly.
3rd down efficiency defense
Browns 32nd/62.96%; Bears 29th/50.0%
3rd down efficiency offense
Browns 21st/37.50%; Bears 12th/42.31%
Browns 23, Bears 16
This game should come down to which team runs the ball better, produces the most chunk plays and takes better care of the football. Both run games are formidable but the Browns are 3rd/7.19 in average gain/offensive play (chunk plays) and the Bears are 31st/4.06, while the Bears are +1/9th in TO/TA (turnover/take-away) ratio with 4 TA's (4th) and the Browns are -2/26th and have turned over the ball four times.
• Twitter: @Hub_Arkush