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Bears vs Bengals: Week 2 NFL preview

Matt Fitzgerald

Andy Dalton was the Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback for a long time, but the Chicago Bears signal-caller gets to take on his former team and No. 1 overall pick successor Joe Burrow in one of Sunday’s best Week 2 games.

Will the Red Rifle get some vengeance on his former teammates, or will Burrow get the Bengals off to a shocking 2-0 start in the Windy City? Keep reading for our full preview, as Dalton’s starting tenure feels like it could end any day with rookie Justin Fields waiting in the wings.

Chicago Bears vs Cincinnati Bengals: What you need to know

Find out where the Bears and Bengals stand in our NFL Week 2 power rankings

Bears secondary vs Bengals receiving corps

Chicago Bears vs Cincinnati Bengals: What you need to know
Sep 12, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (1) reacts after making a catch against the Minnesota Vikings in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s worth noting that Chicago, despite its sound defensive reputation, got exposed a little bit in their season-opening 34-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. That Bears secondary got roasted for multiple big plays against LA’s deep stable of pass-catchers, and something similar could be in store Sunday.

Bear in mind that Bengals coach Zac Taylor is from Sean McVay’s coaching tree. He has rookie phenom Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd at his disposal. That trio if Cincinnati wideouts could really give Chicago headaches, particularly since Taylor can learn from what worked so well for McVay and adapt it to his own game plan.

Advantage: Cincinnati Bengals

Bears defensive front vs Joe Burrow

Bears vs Bengals: Week 2 NFL preview
Dec 6, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) practices before the game against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

OK, so here’s the rub with Cincinnati: Great as Burrow looked in Week 1 versus the Minnesota Vikings off that major knee injury, he got hit a lot by a defense that doesn’t have near the firepower Chicago does in the trenches.

Burrow got sacked five times, and Minnesota logged seven QB hits. That’s not sustainable over a 17-game season, no matter how tough Burrow is. Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and Akiem Hicks among others will be coming in full force, and it seems doubtful that the Bengals have the personnel to withstand the pocket onslaught.

See where the Bears stack up in our latest NFL defense rankings

  • Battered Burrow: Exciting as Chase’s first NFL action was, not to mention his reunion with Burrow, Cincinnati ultimately didn’t do enough this offseason to protect its face of the franchise. Even a predominantly quick passing game is leading to a myriad of hits. The Bengals really need to be careful here.
  • Mack Attack: Coming off an extremely quiet season opener, you can bet Mack is ready to get after it. He should feast on stunts to the inside, and benefit from the Bears dialing up pressure to try to rattle Burrow in front of the Chicago-friendly crowd.

Advantage: Chicago Bears

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Matt Nagy vs Zac Taylor

Bears vs Bengals: Week 2 NFL preview
Sep 12, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor celebrates following the overtime win against the Minnesota Vikings at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

These two coaches are believed to be offensive geniuses. When you consider that Taylor constantly puts Burrow in harm’s way and Nagy refuses to start Justin Fields at QB, though, each man merits any and all criticism.

Maybe neither is on the hot seat per say, but a 0-2 start for Nagy would be a bad look, and Taylor badly needs any win he can get in the midst of an AFC North division that could have three playoff teams outside of Cincinnati.

  • Taylor’s Tell: If no one else in the Bengals organization wants to move forward with 21st century football, maybe Taylor does. That’s to say, he showed an ability to adapt that was previously lacking by giving Joe Mixon 29 carries in Week 1. Establishing the run more took some pressure off Burrow, but we’ve never really seen how Taylor handles success because of his awful record to date. Until we do, it’s hard to endorse Cincinnati on the road.

Advantage: Chicago Bears

The bottom line: This may be the last-gasp effort Dalton has to prove he deserves to continue starting over Fields. He’ll be extra fired up to perform against the Bengals, and Chicago’s defense will be eager to put Week 1’s embarrassment behind them by taking some frustration out on Cincinnati’s outmatched o-line.

Find out if the Bengals or Bears make the postseason cut in our post-Week 1 NFL playoff predictions