5 things to watch coming out of the bye week vs. Ravens

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) scrambles away from San Francisco 49ers' defenders during the first half of a game on Oct. 31, 2021, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) scrambles away from San Francisco 49ers' defenders during the first half of a game on Oct. 31, 2021, in Chicago. Associated Press

 
By Sean Hammond
shammond@shawmedia.com
Updated 11/21/2021 7:48 AM

Here are two remarkable facts.

First, Lamar Jackson is 12-0 lifetime against NFC teams. Second, the Bears will be the 28th team Jackson has faced since entering the league in 2018, and he is 25-2 when facing a team for the first time. He lost only to the Chiefs in the 2018 regular season and the Titans in the 2019 playoffs.

 

The Bears and the Baltimore Ravens will square off at noon Sunday at Soldier Field. History suggests Jackson will have the upper hand facing a Bears team that has never played against him.

But the Bears have their own mobile quarterback who is coming off the best game of his rookie season. Both teams are coming off losses. In the Bears' case, they're trying to snap a four-game losing streak.

Here are five things to watch in Sunday's matchup.

1. Lamar Jackson vs. Justin Fields

Let's not make the mistake of thinking that all mobile quarterbacks are the same. Justin Fields is an inch taller and some 20 pounds heavier than Jackson. Despite his tantalizing athleticism, Fields is probably never going to run for 1,000 yards. Only two quarterbacks ever have: Jackson and Michael Vick.

Fields and Jackson are different quarterbacks, but that doesn't mean they can't make for a fun matchup.

The question will be if Fields and the Bears offense can keep up with the Ravens, who rank second in the NFL in yards per game, and first in rushing.

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2. Containing Jackson

Jackson might be the toughest quarterback in the NFL to plan for. The Miami Dolphins provided a blueprint when they blitzed repeatedly, often blitzing defensive backs, against the Ravens in Week 10. The Dolphins shocked the Ravens in a 22-10 victory, holding Jackson to 39 rushing yards and making life difficult on him as a passer.

Here's the thing, though: The Dolphins rank second among NFL defenses with a 38.2% blitz rate. The Bears? They rank 31st with a 16.2% blitz rate.

The Bears' defense is built, when healthy, to succeed while rushing only four. The Bears rarely play Cover-0 in the secondary -- meaning man-to-man with no safety help -- like Miami did. While Miami's method worked to perfection, the Bears simply aren't going to try to replicate it. At least, not to the extent the Dolphins did.

3. Bye week offensive adjustments?

The Bears spent the offseason catering their offense to Andy Dalton. They spent the offseason operating under the assumption that Matt Nagy would be calling plays.

Neither of those things is true anymore.

Fields is running the show and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is calling plays. The Bears have done a nice job adjusting the offense to a rookie quarterback. The bye week is the time to adjust it further and cater it not only to a rookie QB, but to Fields specifically.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

NFL coaches talk about self-scouting during the bye week. Usually it comes off as coach speak. In this instance, given all that has changed over the course of the season, the Bears would be foolish not to take a look in the mirror and make some adjustments.

4. Fields' continued development as a passer

In a similar vein, Fields is coming off his best game as a passer. His second half against Pittsburgh was his best yet. Now he will face a defense that ranks dead last in the NFL against the pass (283.3 passing yards per game). The Ravens defense is in the bottom third when it comes to interception rate and sack rate.

If ever there was a time to let Fields air it out more, it's now -- against this defense and coming off his best performance. Fields showed he can make big-time throws in big moments. So let him try it a little more throughout the game.

If Fields can put together another stellar passing performance, the vibe around Chicago is going to feel really good, regardless of if the Bears win the game.

5. The injury issues

Without Khalil Mack, who is having season-ending foot surgery, the Bears are going to have a tough time generating a pass rush the remainder of the season.

Once again, the Bears will be without defensive tackle Akiem Hicks on Sunday. Safety Eddie Jackson is questionable and receiver Allen Robinson is doubtful -- both with hamstring injuries. Losing Mack is bad enough, it's hard to see the Bears competing in this game if those three other former Pro Bowlers are unable to play.

The offense, in particular, is going to be tested if Robinson doesn't play. The depth at the wide receiver position is pretty much absent after Robinson and Darnell Mooney.

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