The Chicago Bears went through a considerable shift over the past week. Two more defensive stalwarts are gone, traded for 2023 draft picks. At the same time, GM Ryan Poles sought to shift the team’s identity to one in full support of quarterback Justin Fields. That involved sending a 2nd round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for wide receiver Chase Claypool. It marks the first time any Bears executive has done something like it before.
Ryan Pace vowed to do the same but always invested most of his resources on defense. The same went for Jerry Angelo and almost every GM the Bears have employed. Poles understands this modern NFL is about the quarterbacks. He’s ready to change the landscape. Fans will get their first look at this vision on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Can the team pull off a win despite losing so much leadership?
New-look Chicago Bears face another stiff test.
A tale of two teams at different stages of a rebuild. It took Miami a long time to get its roster to where it is now. The past several months have been them putting the finishing touches on that process. Now they’re a competitor in the AFC, with a young QB enjoying his best season thanks to some electric weapons. Justin Fields and Chicago hope to reach a similar point in the future. However, that doesn’t mean the Bears plan to lay down for the Dolphins. Fields is playing his best football lately and is no doubt eager to show it’s not all about Tua Tagovailoa.
Terron Armstead (Toe/Achilles) – Miami sank lots of cash into the former Pro Bowl left tackle this off-season despite knowing he has a long history of injury problems. So seeing him ailing isn’t a huge surprise. After missing Wednesday’s practice, he was limited on Thursday. The odds are he’ll play. It is unclear whether he’ll be 100%. Either way, the Chicago Bears must find a way past him if they want to slow down Tagovailoa.
Larry Borom (Concussion) – This feels more relevant after the news broke that Miami had traded for star pass rusher Bradley Chubb. Borom already missed last week’s game in Dallas. Now, it appears he’ll be out again after not practicing on Wednesday or Thursday. That means veteran Riley Reiff must continue to hold down the fort. The veteran held up well enough against the Cowboys, but it’s unclear if that trend will continue.
Tyreek Hill vs. Jaylon Johnson – Hill is on pace to become the first wide receiver in NFL history to cross the 2,000-yard mark. That is how unstoppable he has been for most of the season, averaging 120.1 yards per game. Johnson is the Bears’ best quarterback and will face the tall order of covering the All-Pro. How he fares may determine whether Chicago can make this a competitive game.
Teven Jenkins vs. Zach Sieler – Miami’s defense isn’t the best right now. They’ve struggled to stop teams through the air. However, their saving grace has been a run defense that ranks 6th in the NFL. Sieler is a big part of that, thanks to his strong presence on the interior of their defensive line. Jenkins has become the tone-setter for the Bears’ league-leading rushing attack. He must impose his will on Sieler to make a difference.
Bradley Chubb – This shouldn’t be a surprise. The Dolphins’ pass rush has relied heavily on the blitz all seasons, thanks to an average defensive line. They obviously hope adding the former Pro Bowler from Denver will change their fortunes. Chubb has played really well this season with 5.5 sacks. The Chicago Bears have faced an array of great pass rushers this year. It will be interesting to see how they approach him.
Cole Kmet – Miami has the 26th-ranked pass defense in the NFL. One problem they’ve had, especially in recent weeks, is containing opposing tight ends. They’ve allowed 155 yards combined in the past two games alone. That presents a significant opportunity for Kmet, who seems to have found some confidence in recent games, even if the numbers aren’t flashy. With lots of focus on stopping Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool, Kmet will have opportunities.
Prediction: Dolphins win 35-27
This is a simple case of the Chicago Bears not having the horses to match Miami, especially on defense. Losing Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith to trades was understandable in the long term, but it makes the unit significantly weaker in the present. The Bears can’t rush the passer. If Tua gets time, he will find Hill and Jaylen Waddle all day long. Fields and the offense should play well, but they aren’t equipped yet to win shootouts.
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