Overview: This is a somewhat important game for both teams in terms of establishing credibility. The Bears are 5-1, but aside from a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that they easily could have lost, they haven't exactly played a "murderers row" of NFL contenders. Suggest the same for the Rams, who are 4-0 against the worst division in football [the NFC East], 0-2 otherwise. The Rams are also coming off a subpar performance against a banged-up San Francisco 49ers team who they frankly should have beaten.
The Rams even can't afford to lose many more games if they are to have any chance of catching the Seattle Seahawks for the division title. However, they conceivably can get closer as the Seahawks were upset last night against the Arizona Cardinals 37-34 in overtime.
Both teams need and want to make a "statement game" on Monday night. The contest isn't a 'must-win" for either team to make the playoffs, but whoever loses will face questions about their contender status in the NFC.
Coaching: Sean McVay has a well-deserved reputation as an offensive genius. Every so often, as in last week's game against the 49ers, he seems to have an off week. That probably won't happen two weeks in a row.
His counterpart, Bears head man Matt Nagy, is likewise an innovative offensive mind, but he doesn't have the tools to work with on that side of the ball that McVay does.
On defense, the Bears have the edge in experience, with longtime NFL coach Chuck Pagano as their DC versus the Rams newbie Brandon Staley, who as the Bears outside linebacker coach in 2018. But Staley has done an excellent job so far and still has an element of surprise in his corner due to having a poor track record.
Rams Offense vs. Bears Defense: Some things never seem to change in the NFL. For example, when the Chicago Bears are good, they feature a nasty defense. It was right in the days of Dick Butkus, it was right in 1985, and it's true today. If there is anyone in the NFL who may be as good as Aaron Donald as a defensive player (and we don't think there is), it's Khalil Mack. Mack is to edge rushers what Donald is to inside pass rushers—a disruptive playmaker you always have to account for, a guy who can take over a game and wreck an offense.
The task of containing Mack will mostly fall to Rams tackle Rob Havenstein, who needs to bring his A-game on Monday night. Havenstein was injured last season when the Rams defeated the Bears, but Los Angeles gave his replacement, Bobby Evans, plenty of help, and Mack didn't do much. The Rams' problem is that the Bears have since added sack master Robert Quinn (the former Ram) to their defensive arsenal.
Defensive tackle Akeem Hicks, who was out last year with an injury, will (probably) be back for the Bears. That means the Rams will have less flexibility in double-teaming Mack, which could be a problem if Havenstein can't at least hold his own.
Mack did miss practice on Friday with what the Bears say was a back issue, and Hicks missed practice time with a "non-COVID-19 illness". Both Hicks and Mack will play on Monday night, but that could be a big deal if either or both doesn't.
Speaking of injuries, three Rams offensive players missed practice this past week. But Coach Sean McVay seemed confident that all three—receiver Robert Woods, running back Darrell Henderson, and tight-end Tyler Higbee—would be ready for Monday night. If you are a Rams fan, let's hope so.
Woods will likely see much of Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller in one of the more significant matchups on this side of the ball. Meanwhile, the Rams Cooper Kupp, who did not play well against the Niners, will be trying to bounce back to his usual playmaking self. The Bears secondary is pretty good, and when you team that up with Mack and company upfront, you can see why this defense presents challenges.
Expect the Rams to counter with a run-heavy offense, their MO this season, and a key to their success. Henderson was one of the few Rams to play well against the Niners on Sunday, rushing for 81 yards and hitting his stride in the second half. But running back Cam Akers mysteriously disappeared, logging only one snap and no carries. The third running back in the Rams' three-headed monster, Malcolm Brown, really didn't do much on Sunday either, although he did get a few touches. Henderson seems to be emerging as the Rams feature back, but either Brown and Akers' immense contribution would be helpful. One way or another, the Rams need to run the ball effectively. When they go into "Mike Martz" mode and become a one-dimensional passing offense, it almost always does not end well.
Rams Defense vs. Bears Offense: The Bears have made the switch from Mitch Trubisky to Nick Foles at quarterback, and it seems to have changed the nature of their offense. With Trubisky, this was a run-heavy wannabe smash-mouth attack, though it was not always effective in that effort.
With Foles, who is the better NFL quarterback…they have morphed into a heavy pass offense, more like what Head Coach Matt Nagy had with Kansas City Chiefs. Fortunately for the Rams, there is no concern about defending against Patrick Mahomes or Tyreek Hill on the Bears roster. The Bears are also without running back Tarik Cohen, their designated "big play" gadget type player.
However, they do have one of the league's under-appreciated wideouts in Allen Robinson, who comes into this game with over 400 yards in receiving yards. He will likely see a lot of Jalen Ramsey on Monday night. If Ramsey can hold his own in this matchup, the Rams should have a good chance of winning.
The Rams need to do a better job of tackling on Monday night than they did against the 49ers in their last outing. Chicago's David Montgomery is a decent NFL running back, and the Rams inside linebackers need to step it up a notch in dealing with both Montgomery and tight-end Jimmy Graham.
Both Rams starting linebackers, Micah Kiser and Kenny Young and top reserve Troy Reeder have had their moments this season (Kiser was NFC Defensive Player of the week at one point), but they didn't play well at all against San Francisco. They made the Niners Raheem Mostert, a somewhat above average NFL running back, look like Earl Campbell. That needs to change if the Rams see themselves as a Super Bowl contender.
The Rams reportedly will have D-lineman A'Shawn Robinson, a mountain of a man (6'4, 320 pounds) who fits the prototype of a valid 3-4 nose tackle, available on Monday night the first time this season. Robinson was one of the Rams' high-profile free-agent signings in the off-season. Maybe he can help shore up a run defense that has so far been average on its best days. But after only having returned to practice a few days ago, he probably won't start or see a considerable number of snaps.
Foles has been something of a pick-machine so far this season, throwing interceptions in five straight games. Meanwhile, Rams D-lineman Aaron Donald, who looked like a mere mortal last week against the 49ers, will be out to erase the memory of a rare bad game. He was a non-factor on Sunday for the first time this season.
Special Teams: Let's get one piece of bad news for the Rams out of the way up-front. Despite the signing of veteran kicker Kai Forbath, Sam Sloman slated to handle the placekicking duties for Los Angeles this week as Forbath has not cleared the COVID-19 protocol. We had to bash any Rams player, and Sloman is probably a wonderful young man. Sadly he has been less than outstanding as a kicker this season. He added to the damage last week with a missed extra point. He's missed three extra points and two field goals this season. In fairness, one of the missed field goals was a 53-yard attempt into the wind, and two missed field goals in six games is not all that bad. But the first problem is that no NFL placekicker should miss three extra points in six games. Problem number two is that if you watch the game instead of just looking at the stats, he hasn't looked good in general. He tends to have a low trajectory on his kicks, and we are concerned about any game that comes down to his kicking ability. Let's hope that isn't the case on Monday night. There is a reason the Rams signed Forbath, even if he isn't ready to play yet.
The Rams special teams, in general, have not been perfect this year (aside from punter Johnny Hekker).
The Bears have injury issues of their own on special teams. Placekicker Cairo Santos has matched Sloman by missing two field goals, but he is perfect so far on extra points. The loss above Tarik Cohen ribs Chicago of a potential weapon on punt returns, and special teams captain Sherrick McManis is out with a hamstring injury for Chicago. They do have a good kick-returner in Cordarelle Patterson, who can break one at any time.
This area remains a concern for the Rams. Hopefully, they can get through one more week of the Sloman era without losing a game because of a missed kick, but he's not the only issue.
Prediction: This game may tell us a lot. Can either of them beat an actual good team? Indeed, figures to be a statement game for both teams, and it could go either way.
The oddsmakers have the Rams favored by six. We think it could be closer than that, but we still give them a slight edge.
Rams 24, Bears 21