Rams-Bears will tell a lot
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not a Bears fan.
If that and the knowledge that I support the Bengals hasn’t prompted you to stop reading at this point and question my already suspect credibility, thank you, sincerely.
Those things said, I’m looking forward to Sunday night’s spotlight game when the one-loss Rams come to Soldier Field to face the new-era Monsters of the Midway. I’d be biased if I didn’t admit this is a fun team to watch. They’re winning and they’re having a good time doing it and if you go back to ’85 like I do, you know that group was the same way — and then some.
It’s been a perfect storm for the Bears. The addition of Khalil Mack (good thinking, Jon Gruden) energized a defense that was already trending upward and the offense, while not prolific, is markedly improved. That coupled with the sudden decline of the Packers, the underachievement of the Vikings and the continued comedy that is the Lions have vaulted the Bears to NFC Central supremacy and talk of playoff fortune.
While Super Bowl hype is grandiose at this point, that could all change with a win Sunday night. Heck, it could be deemed rational conversation if the game is simply competitive.
The Rams are the best team the Bears will play, and that’s a list that includes the Patriots. They’re not great defensively, but they have the only player who may mean more to a unit than Mack does to the Bears in Aaron Donald.
The offense, in turn, is tied with the Saints for the most points scored in the NFC. Just as the Bears D isn’t on par with the ’85 juggernaut, quite arguably the best of all time, the Rams offense isn’t the equivalent of The Greatest Show on Turf from the St. Louis days with Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce, but this is a finely-tuned machine tuned to precision by young mastermind Sean McVay. It features great balance between the running game of Todd Gurley and the passing game of Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods.
The clash of the irresistible force and the immovable object will be a fun one to watch. It’s expected to be cold but dry that night in Chicago, so weather won’t be a major hindrance.
We’re working off the premise here that Mitch Trubisky will be back behind center for the Bears. While Chase Daniel has been serviceable the last two weeks, it’s painfully obvious by the results — a narrow win over said Lions and a bad loss to the Giants — that the Bears have to have No. 10 running the show if they’re going to have a legitimate shot to beat the Rams.
Right now, Chicago (8-4) is holding off surging Dallas (7-5) for the No. 3 seed in the NFC. The likelihood of them moving up is a longshot and they could slip to four. Either way, a home Wild Card game seems all but a sure thing with anything beyond that — probably a trip to L.A. or New Orleans — to be played on the road, indoors or in warm temperatures.
From a neutral perspective, the margin between the top two teams and everybody else in the NFC seems significant. Yes, I know Dallas silenced Drew Brees (Boiler Up!) and the Saints last week, but they’re a different animal playing in the Superdome.
Oddsmakers have the Rams as a modest (and tempting) three-point pick in this game, though a Bears win would be more significant in shaking up the landscape than that short spread would suggest. Sure, they’d have to travel for a possible postseason rematch, but the very idea that they can beat L.A. would send the fan frenzy into hyper drive.
January football is back in The Windy City. The John Fox era (ugh) sure seems like a distant memory.