Haugh: Bears-Rams Preview

(670 The Score) The Bears (4-5) visit the Rams (5-4) on Sunday evening. Kickoff comes at 7:20 p.m., and the game can be heard on WBBM Newsradio 780.

Here's a breakdown:

Bears 100:

In what amounts to an elimination game for the NFC playoffs, the Bears play the Rams in a matchup much different than the last time these two teams met 11 months ago. This isn’t a marquee battle between two NFC darlings. This isn’t Mitchell Trubisky vs. Jared Goff or even Matt Nagy vs. Sean McVay. This is a battle between two of the NFC’s most disappointing teams trying to figure out why their offensive lines can’t block and why the quarterbacks can’t play consistently. This feels like a defensive football game decided by which star – Khalil Mack or Aaron Donald – makes his presence felt more. As a result, the score should stay in the teens or low 20s. The winner maintains slim hope in the NFC playoff race. The loser returns to work Monday dreading a winter of discontent.

Most intriguing matchup: Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson vs. Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey

Trubisky targets Robinson 27 percent of the time. The Rams traded for Ramsey to eliminate the threat of No. 1 wide receivers like Robinson. As former teammates, Robinson and Ramsey know each other’s tendencies well. As the Bears’ biggest playmaking threat, Robinson needs to make an impact. Get your popcorn ready.

Most intriguing matchup II: Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp vs. Bears secondary

The Steelers used two defenders much of the game to shut out Kupp, who had zero yards last week after going for 220 against the Bengals. The Rams will want to get Kupp involved more, especially with wide receiver Brandin Cooks out with a concussion. If Kupp lines up mostly in the slot, will Bears nickel back Buster Skrine face the biggest challenge or will it be a shared responsibility? Kupp is the key to the Rams' passing game.

Most intriguing matchup III: Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald vs. Bears interior of center Cody Whitehair and guards James Daniels and Rashaad Coward

Donald can wreck the Bears' game plan and stop the running game, making the offense more one-dimensional than Nagy wants. Donald also poses a problem on passing downs, so he could require constant double-teaming.


"I’ve got to do a better job of putting those guys in position to take advantage of those matchups. Mack is garnering a lot of attention and you talk about blueprints, I think everybody is watching the tape and saying 'OK.' ... It falls squarely on my shoulders to put them in position to make those plays."

-- Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano

Quoting II:

"He lightly rolled his ankle."

-- Nagy on Montgomery, who injured himself in practice Wednesday

Stat of the week:

In Goff’s last 16 games, he has thrown 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions with a passer rating of 79.2. He has 16 fumbles. He’s too shaky to trust.

Stat of the week II:

The Rams rank fifth in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing an average of 90.8 yards per game. With Montgomery nursing a "lightly rolled ankle," the Bears risk having their running game compromised but can’t abandon it completely with another seven-carry effort. Finding balance against a good run defense should be Nagy’s priority.

The difference:

With the Rams losing the war of attrition – especially on the offensive line – the Bears can win the battle Sunday. Expect Mack to remind Bears fans why he’s an elite pass rusher and America to discover Nick Williams, the defensive tackle who leads the team in sacks with six. It won’t be easy for the Bears to neutralize Donald and edge rusher Dante Fowler or to neutralize the impact of Ramsey, but in a low-scoring defensive game, the Bears have a legitimate shot to get back to .500. Neither team is predictable. Neither team has been consistent. But – admittedly based on instinct more than evidence – this just feels like a good chance for the Bears to put everything that has been missing together and show up ready for this primetime opportunity.

Prediction: Bears 23, Rams 20
David Haugh is the co-host of the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Listen to the show here. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidHaugh and email him at david.haugh@entercom.com.