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Bears vs Rams: Week 1 NFL preview

The Chicago Bears battle the Los Angeles Rams in NFL Week 1, with both teams welcoming new quarterbacks as Matthew Stafford and Andy Dalton make their regular-season debuts.

There are plenty of intriguing matchups that will shape this Bears vs Rams game and our preview examines game info, odds and predicts the outcome for Sunday Night Football.

Discover where the Bears and Rams land in our Week 1 NFL power rankings

Bears vs Rams: What you need to know

Let’s dive into our Bears vs Rams matchup preview.

Andy Dalton vs Rams’ defense

Bears vs Rams
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago is sticking by its decision to start Andy Dalton. Maybe that’s because Matt Nagy really believes he is the best option and the veteran won the starting job this summer. Far more likely, Dalton is being thrown out on the field in Week 1 to get hit by the Rams’ defense.

Find out where the Rams and Bears land in our NFL defense rankings

On the other side, don’t expect Los Angeles to dominate quite as much as we saw in 2020. Brandon Staley is gone and that will have a negative impact on this defense. But the far bigger blows come in the secondary, a group that lost Troy Hill and John Johnson III.

  • Clock is Ticking: The fans want Justin Fields at quarterback and it might not be long before the locker room starts calling for a switch. Chicago’s best quarterback during the preseason was its rookie and it wasn’t especially close. If Dalton throws multiple interceptions, it might be his last NFL start.
  • Facelift: Raheem Morris has done very good work calling defensive plays and it seems players in Los Angeles are already rallying around him. It will be interesting to see how the Rams’ new defensive coordinator uses the pieces around Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.

Advantage: Los Angeles Rams

Sean McVay vs Sean Desai

Bears vs Rams, Sean McVay
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone is familiar with McVay at this point. Hired out of the blue by the Rams in 2017, he’s proven to be one of the brightest minds in the NFL. At times, he made Jared Goff look like an MVP-caliber quarterback. With Stafford now leading this aerial attack, the Rams’ offense should be far more explosive than we saw the previous two seasons.

Desai is getting his first big opportunity as a coach. He joined the NFL in 2013, joining the Bears as a defensive quality control coach and held that role through 2018. Recognizing he had an eye for defense, the Bears promoted him to safeties coach and after two seasons, this regime is confident they have someone special.

  • Go Deep: The Rams’ offense will look quite different in Week 1. Consider that Goff attempted a 20-plus yard throw on just 7.8% of his pass attempts last season, per PFF, one of the lowest marks among starting quarterbacks. For comparison, Stafford went deep on 12.7% of his attempts and he was wildly more effective.
  • Bear Down: The Rams are going to see plenty of blitzes and pressure from the Bears’ front. But if Stafford gets time in the pocket, Chicago is in a heap of trouble. Jaylon Johnson (106.2 passer rating allowed in coverage) and 2020 fifth-round pick Kindle Vildor are the Bears’ top cornerbacks. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods will eat in this Bears vs Rams matchup.
  • Injuries: Chicago is likely without defensive tackle Eddie Goldman in this game. With the run-stuffing tackle sidelined, expect the Rams to feed Sony Michel and that will set up the play action.

Advantage: Sean McVay

Bears’ offensive line vs Rams’ pass rush

NFL: New England Patriots at Los Angeles Rams
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

This is the Bears vs Lions matchup that swings a one-score game into a potential blowout. Chicago’s offensive line is strong at guard, those two spots are anchored by Cody Whitehair and James Daniels. But any pressure coming off the edge or aimed directly at center Sam Mustipher, that spells trouble for the Bears’ offense.

Related: NFL QB Rankings – Check our top-20 quarterbacks, find out why Josh Allen is No. 1

  • Blindsided: With Teven Jenkins sidelined by back surgery, Chicago needed an immediate replacement at left tackle. Jason Peters is better than the Bears’ backup options, but this is also a 39-year-old who allowed eight sacks last season. Even if he holds up, Germain Ifedi may get spun like a top at right tackle.
  • GOAT: We’re watching one of the best players in NFL history. While it’s been a few years since Donald’s 20.5-sack season, he still generated 98 total pressures last season (PFF). If he lines up against the Bears’ center, it will get ugly.

Advantage: Los Angeles Rams

The bottom line: There’s a great case to be made for Justin Fields to start in Week 1. But it’s possible Chicago is trying to protect him, because this is a one-sided matchup that should be dominated by the Rams. After Dalton gets run over by a pack of Rams’ defenders, maybe a quarterback change happens for Week 2.