The St. Louis Rams (1-1) will travel to the windy city to take on Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears (1-1) Sunday at Soldier Field. The Rams are coming off the dramatic home win against the Redskins while the Bears are hoping to recover from a humiliating loss at the hands of their most hated rival last thursday night. The Bears are a hard team to figure out after their first two games. In the opening week they destroyed the Indianapolis Colts and Andrew Luck, then the debacle on primetime television last thursday has every analyst wondering which team is the “real” Chicago Bears. The Bears didn’t just play poorly on national television but Jay Cutler also did what Cutler always does when faced with adversity, he acted like a spoiled 3 year old who didn’t get his way. He was hanging his head, yelling at his teammates and even shoving his left tackle while the camera was on him. Of course the media coverage over Cutlers antics and the so called rift he may or may not have created in the Bears locker room is overstated. The Rams winning or losing on sunday will have nothing to do with how much Cutler’s teammates like him. Soldier Field is one of the more difficult places in the NFL to get a win, the Rams will need to execute better than they did against the Redskins if they hope to secure the win. They need to be able to execute well in all three phases so lets take a look at what each unit will need to do to secure the victory.
Offense. The offense needs to be able to continue making strides against an always tough Bears defense. The Bears defense isn’t as daunting as it has been in the past, but it still has top tier talent at every level. The offensive line needs to be able to open holes in the running game and keep Bradford upright in this game so the offense can develop a rhythm. While it would be nice to have Steven Jackson 100% healthy to set the tone for the offense, his questionable health makes it more likely that the gameplan will rely heavily on Sam Bradford. If Sam can continue to play mostly mistake free football the Rams offense should have success this weekend. Hopefully the return of Austin Pettis will provide a spark on 3rd downs and in the red zone. The St. Louis Rams need to have success on the early downs to make 3rd downs manageable and avoid opening Bradford up to big hits from Idonije and Peppers.
Defense. The defense has another tall task ahead of them in the form of wide receiver Brandon Marshall. While I don’t consider Cutler-Marshall quite as dangerous as Stafford-Johnson they are still a formidable duo. If the Rams can limit Marshall’s production much like they did against Calvin Johnson they should have a great shot at winning this football game. The Bears offensive line isn’t an elite unit, Robert Quinn and Chris Long need to take advantage of their opportunities and register a few sacks on Cutler. If the Packers could sack Cutler 7 times I would hope that Quinn and Long would get at least one sack apiece. Cutler will take some risks and try to thread the needle so to speak, the Rams need to be able to capitalize and come up with those interceptions. The defense may need to generate points on its own given that the offense has had trouble scoring touchdowns after turnovers instead of field goals. With Matt Forte being ruled out of the game the defense has a huge opportunity to get after Cutler without worrying as much about the screen game, Michael Bush is a quality back but he isn’t nearly as dynamic as Forte.
Special Teams. While not quite as lethal as he used to be Devin Hester is still a very dangerous return man. The Rams rookie kickers have been spectacular so far and the coverage units will need to be just as good this weekend to avoid giving up the big play. The Rams are a team that is capable of winning the field position game and generating points with its kicking game. It wasn’t that long ago that the Chicago Bears went to the Superbowl because of great defense and special teams so for the Rams to win the special teams battle will take almost perfect execution.
The Bears are somehow a 7 point favorite after opening the week as a 10 point favorite. I am not sure how that line makes any sense, I can only assume that the odds makers haven’t watched the Rams play yet this season. The Rams folded late against the heavily favored Lions in week 1 before breaking through against the Redskins last weekend. The confidence gained from that comeback win against the Redskins combined with the knowledge that they were one play away from beating the Lions should have the Rams going into Chicago believing they can win. The Rams should find themselves in another slug fest this weekend that goes right down to the wire. Either team could win this game with a 50 yard field goal as time expires, but since I’m a Rams fan I will go with Greg the Leg nailing his first game winner Rams win 20-17.