Bears offense vs. Rams defense
St. Louis’ defense is in the bottom third of the league against both the pass and the run, so the Bears’ offense should be able to run whatever it wants. The Bears have the worst rushing offense in the NFL, but something tells me it could jump a few notches after this week. Last week against Seattle, the Rams gave up 130 yards and 2 touchdowns to Justin Forsett — yes, Justin Forsett. While the Bears don’t figure to put up huge numbers on the ground, I expect them to at least match the production that they had against Detroit and Cleveland earlier this season. I also expect big things from Jay Cutler and the passing game. The Rams’ defense has just 18 sacks this year, fourth fewest in the league. They also have just 8 interceptions, good enough for 23rd in the league.
Bears defense vs. Rams offense
The matchup here is simple. Stop Steven Jackson. He’s questionable with a back injury, but assuming he plays, all of the Rams’ offense channels through him. He’s the NFL’s second-leading rusher with 1,120 yards, averaging 101.8 yards per game. He’s one of only three players to average more than 20 carries per game — Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson are the other two. With a quarterback like Kyle Boller engineering the team, it’s no wonder they rely heavily on Jackson. The Bears have nothing to fear from Boller. He’s played in four games this year and has thrown five interceptions and has been sacked 11 times. Not to mention, he’s lost two fumbles. Even without their best defender — Lance Briggs is listed as doubtful — the Bears should be able to stop a Rams offense that is averaging just over 11 points per game.
The Rams’ Josh Brown has missed four field goals this year and has converted on just 73% of his kicks. I’ll take one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history on the other sideline. Not only will I take Robbie Gould, but I’ll take Brad Maynard and the Bears’ punt coverage, too. The duo of Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning has done much better than St. Louis’ Danny Amendola at returning kickoffs. Knox is just behind Minnesota’s Percy Harvin with a 29.4 yards per return average. While showing flashes of what he used to be earlier this season, Devin Hester has fallen off lately as a punt returner. He’s often been swarmed just after catching the ball and has headed for the sideline too quickly on other returns. Still, Hester’s meager 8.6 yards per return average tops Amendola’s 8.1
With playoff hopes in the rear view mirror, the Bears have nothing but pride and, for some, job security on the line when they take the field against the Rams. The Bears are banged up and, assuming Lance Briggs doesn’t play with his knee injury, they’ll be without the three linebackers that started the season opener. That could lead to a big day for Jackson and the Rams’ run game, but I don’t expect St. Louis to put many points on the scoreboard. Home field advantage will play a factor, particularly with a dome team coming to frigid Chicago. I’m looking for the defense to come out and get after Boller early and force him into making mistakes, which he’s been prone to doing not just this year, but throughout his career. I’m looking for an inspired effort from a team that won’t quit on its beleaguered head coach. And I’m looking for a big Bears victory, however little and late it may be.
Final Score: Chicago 24, St. Louis 13