Week 10 NFL Game Preview: Chicago Bears At St. Louis Rams

Week 10 NFL Game Preview: Chicago Bears At St. Louis Rams
Chicago Bears' fan Chris Beykirch of Aurora carries a team flag outside the Edward Jones Dome before the Bears play Rams in St. Louis, Missouri on Sunday. — Scott Strazzante / Chicago Tribune, Nov. 22, 2013

Prior to the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the Bears and the Rams played often in the old Western Conference when they were in Los Angeles.

The Rams could be headed back to Los Angeles in the near future, but right now they are not fun to play against in St. Louis. After dropping their first two games of the year against Washington and Pittsburgh, St. Louis has gone 4-2 over their last six.

The Bears are 2-2 over their last four and will face a stingy Rams defense that has kept them alive in most games this season.

Since moving to St. Louis prior to the 1995 season, the Bears are just 3-4 in trips there against the Rams.

The last meeting between these two NFC teams came in 2013 when the Rams bullied the Bears in a 42-21 victory at the Edward Jones Dome. Josh McCown was the man under center for the Bears while Kellen Clemens was the quarterback for St. Louis. A lot has changed this time around.

In Week 9, the Bears earned a close 23-20 victory and the Rams fell to Minnesota 21-18 in overtime. Minnesota has beaten both of these teams and you have to think that the Bears can play St. Louis just as tough as they did Minnesota two weeks ago.

The Bears lead the all-time series 52-36-3. The first meeting came back in 1937 when the Rams were originally in Cleveland. They played there until 1945 when they officially made the move to Los Angeles.

Here’s a breakdown of what both teams are thinking heading into Sunday’s 92nd all-time meeting.

What the Rams are thinking

Similar to Minnesota’s offensive strategy, this Rams team is built around the run. Rookie first round running back Todd Gurley is healthy and it’s paying dividends for his squad. He has 664 rushing yards and four touchdowns in six games since making his NFL debut in Week 3.

Gurley has four touchdowns over the last three games and has topped the 100-yard mark on the ground in four of the last five. He’s averaging 22.4 carries per game and 5.6 yards per carry. He is the focal point of the Rams offense and they’ll keep feeding him the rock until someone proves they can slow him down.

Perhaps the biggest weapon on the Rams side is wide receiver Tavon Austin. It’s hard to call him a prototypical receiver as he’s combined for 507 total yards and a team-high six touchdowns. Austin has 28 catches for 300 yards and four scores and his 207 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns aren’t too shabby. He’s accounted for 27 first downs tied for the team-high with Gurley.

Gurley and Austin are two of the most dynamic playmakers in the league right now which makes life a whole lot easier on quarterback Nick Foles, who has a 79.7 passer rating in his first season in St. Louis.

On defense, the Rams have been close to elite this year. They’ve allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards (219.8), fifth-fewest total yards (323.8) and sixth-fewest points per game (18.3). St. Louis has forced 14 turnovers (8 fumbles, six interceptions) placing them seventh with a +4 turnover ratio.

Sacks have come in bunches for a Rams defense that ranks second to only Denver with 27 sacks on the year. A player the Bears missed by one pick in the 2013 draft (No. 13 overall), defensive tackle Aaron Donald leads St. Louis with 23 quarterback hurries and 11 tackles for a loss as he’s second in sacks with five.

The Rams could have to play without both of their starting defensive ends with Chris Long and Robert Quinn iffy to play with knee injuries. Quinn leads his defense with five sacks and is questionable while Long has two sacks and is doubtful to go up against his brother Kyle. William Hayes will start in Long’s place while Eugene Sims will also see playing time.

What the Bears are thinking

Stick to the gameplan. Win the time of possession battle, run hard and restrict their mistakes offensively and the Bears should have a chance.

The Bears rank fifth in time of possession (31:38) and the third-down play has been on point for them as well as they are ninth at 43.8 percent. Under offensive coordinator Adam Gase, he’s given a fresh lift to this offense while helping limit turnovers and being smart with his play calls.

Rookie running back Jeremy Langford is looking to build off his 142-yard, one touchdown performance in his first career start last Monday. Langford had 70 rushing yards in Week 9 and is going to be the starter once again with Forte likely out again with an MCL sprain. The Bears are averaging 106.8 yards on the ground, 16th-best in the league.

Wide receiver has been a position of great concern for the Bears all season long. Alshon Jeffery suffered a groin tweak in Wednesday’s practice and sat out Thursday, but then got in a limited session on Friday. He should be able to fight through pain and the Bears really need him out there as he gives them a huge boost in the passing game.

Eddie Royal will miss his second straight start with a knee injury meaning Marquess Wilson will be a starter. Also, Marc Mariani will see plenty of snaps out of the slot. To say tight end Martellus Bennett is important is an understatement right now.

On the flip side of things, the Bears boast the No. 9 defense in the league in terms of yards surrendered per game (341.9). Vic Fangio’s pass defense ranks fifth overall, allowing 220.3 yards through the air. However, the Bears’ defense has given up some big plays which places them 19th in yards per play given up (5.72).

Up against a Rams offense line that doesn’t give up many sacks, the Bears defensive line will have their hands full. St. Louis has allowed just 12 sacks of Foles which is the sixth-fewest mark. The Bears have 14 sacks on the year ranking near the bottom at 25th.

Sack leaders Pernell McPhee has generated 17 of the Bears’ 45 quarterback hurries. McPhee has a team-high five sacks and has been battling a knee issue the past few weeks in practice, but he’ll start barring a setback.

Despite the Rams offensive line being an ungenerous unit, they’ve allowed the ninth-most quarterback hurries this season (51). There’s some room for the Bears to make plays.

They’ll have to do all they can to pull off the upset win, but don’t rule out John Fox’s group this Sunday just yet.

Injury Report

Bears – OUT: Wide receiver Eddie Royal (knee)

QUESTIONABLE: Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (shoulder), running back Matt Forte (knee), guard Hroniss Grasu (neck), wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (groin), linebacker Shea McClellin (knee), linebacker Pernell McPhee (knee), cornerback Tracy Porter (hip), safety Antrel Rolle (ankle)

PROBABLE: Defensive tackle Mitch Unrein (illness)

Rams – DOUBTFUL: Defensive end Chris Long (knee)

QUESTIONABLE: Tackle Rob Havenstein (ankle), safety T.J. McDonald (foot), defensive end Robert Quinn (knee)

PROBABLE: Linebacker Akeem Ayers (illness), running back Todd Gurley (not football related), running back Chase Reynolds (thigh)

Final Score Prediction

Bears 24, Rams 17

The Rams are as tough as they come especially defensively. They’ve allowed eight points per game in three home games going 2-1 win this season in the dome.

Despite all that, I like the Bears’ chances in this road matchup as they’ve won three of their last five games overall with the two losses coming by a total of six points. Cutler should be able to prove himself plenty in this one.

Season predictions: (4-4)

What’s to come?

The Bears return home to host Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Week 11.

Read up on the five Bears players you should keep an eye on in Sunday’s game at St. Louis, here.

Thoughts on the Bears-Rams Week 10 matchup? Make sure to weigh in on the comment section below.

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