When the 2019 NFL schedule was released last April this game looked like one for the ages. It was supposed to be a bout between two divisional leaders vying for NFC supremacy. It also had a revenge game vibe to boot. Last season, the Bears showed the league how to stifle the offensive juggernaut. Running a 6-1 scheme they held the Rams to two field goals. The Rams were averaging almost 35 points a game at that point in the season.
With 10 weeks in the books, the Bears and Rams are both desperately clinging to slim playoff chances. Rather than a championship match, it is a loser leaves town contest. If the Rams lose this game their playoff chances drop to 10%, but a win will bounce their chances 10 points to 32%, according to the New York Times Playoff Chances Predictor. There are 3 matchups to watch that will ultimately decide who wins and clings to life in the NFC playoff race.
Rams 3 Key Matchups Against The Bears
Neither will set any records in this game, but whichever gets the most production will propel their team to a win. Statistically, the two are evenly matched. Gurley has 428 yards, 4.1 ypc, 25 first downs, and six TD’s. Montgomery has 466, 3.6 ypc, 26 first downs, and five TD’s. Montgomery has had 25 more touches.
The Bears are forced to rely heavily on Montgomery due to the poor performance of Mitch Trubisky. Carrying an offense is a tall order for any player and even harder for a rookie. Last week, in the waning minutes of the second quarter Matt Nagy put the game in Montgomery’s hands on a 4th and one at the Bears 29. Montgomery was nearly tackled in the backfield for a one-yard loss but was able to regain his footing and get the first down to keep the drive alive. That drive ended with a touchdown. If Montgomery is able to make those kinds of gritty plays, the Bears will win.
Montgomery rolled his ankle in practice and is listed as questionable for the game on Sunday night, further dampening Chicago’s chances to win.
Rams fans have desperately been waiting for Todd Gurley’s dramatic return to form. They will have to wait at least another week. It could even be too late for Sean McVay to try to balance the running game. It is time for something drastic because the same-old-same-old isn’t working.
Whether it’s a bad offensive line or load management for a not-fully-recovered Gurley, Sean McVay isn’t running the ball. Especially when in the shotgun. Last season, the shotgun was the Rams’ secret sauce to victory. This season, when the Rams go into shotgun formations, they throw the ball 96% of the time, according to Sharp Football Stats. In football, predictability kills, and so does Khalil Mack.
Khalil Mack vs. Bobby Evans
The measure of this key matchup skews in another direction. It should be a train wreck. A rookie, making his first NFL start, going up against one of the most feared edge rushers in the whole damn game. On the other hand, Bobby Evans could be the Pele of offensive linemen.
The evidence, however, doesn’t point to Evans being a savant OT: selected in the third round out of Oklahoma. His scouting report touts his strength but questions his speed. Evans doesn’t stand a chance in stopping Mack, but if he is able to mitigate the damages and avoid any self-inflicted wounds it will be a success. Evans’ one saving grace is that Mack is having an average year with only 5.5 sacks. If this is the game when Mack turns it on, Evans and, therefore, Jared Goff will have a very long night.
Jalen Ramsey vs. Mitch Trubisky
This key matchup is similar to the previous one. Mitch Trubisky is bad. With each bad game, his time with the Bears looks to be coming to its end. Rumors are already swirling about the Bears trading for the injured Cam Newton. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the 2015 MVP would “welcome” a trade to Chicago “if they’re in the market for a quarterback” after the 2019 season. Colin Kaepernick has entered the fold as a candidate for Bears QB, as well. The Bears are listed at 10/1 odds to be the franchise to bring Kaepernick back into the league, according to SportsBettingDime.com.
Simply put, Trubisky needs to start playing better in order to keep his job. Last season, Trubisky ran 68 times for 421 yards. Trubisky was the Bears’ most effective rusher, averaging 6.2 yards per rush, and getting a first down on 42% of his rushes. In eight games this season he has rushed 14 times for 54 yards. Matt Nagy isn’t calling his QB’s number for designed runs. His expectation has been that Trubisky should only rely on his legs once he has gone through his progressions. If Trubisky was a veteran he could see opportunities to run and call an audible for a designed run, but Trubisky doesn’t have that kind of confidence or experience to run the offense on his own.
Jalen Ramsey hasn’t made the impact he was expected to make thus far. In his time with the Rams, Ramsey has been targeted 18 times, successfully defending only 4 of those targets. One of the ways the Rams won games last year was through interceptions.
Last year, the Rams ended the season with 18 picks, third-most in the league. Currently, LA is tied for 17th with only six interceptions.
To contrast the Ramsey trade, Minkah Fitzpatrick has made an immediate impact in Pittsburgh snagging a league-leading five interceptions. In order for the Rams to win, Jalen Ramsey needs to make an impact in this game. Mitch Trubisky is an error prone QB, look for Ramsey to capitalize.