(670 The Score) There’s nothing spookier than two mediocre football teams squaring off at noon, so it’s fitting that we’ve got the 49ers (2-4) and the Bears (3-4) going head-to-head on Halloween. The 49ers come into Sunday on a four-game losing streak, with quarterback concerns and a head coach who’s facing an increasingly hot seat – and the Bears come in with a lot of questions about, you know, theoretically, what it’s like to build a new stadium an hour into the suburbs. Let’s get into the key matchups to watch.
The poor Bears soul at right tackle vs. 49ers DE Arik Armstead
For the moment, Pro Football Focus (PFF) lists Lachavious Simmons as the Bears’ starting right tackle for Sunday, which feels like an awwwwwfully big assumption based on what we saw happen in Tampa Bay. But maybe! Isn’t that fun? Earlier this week, Bears coach Matt Nagy was asked if tackle Larry Borom, who was recently taken off injured reserve, could realistically be ready to start Sunday, and Nagy certainly didn’t deny it. Given how desperate it is for the Bears over there right now, I don’t think anyone would be surprised if he does. Whoever it is, he's going to have their hands full with Armstead, who’s currently the ninth-best edge rusher in the NFL this season, according to PFF. Armstead’s traditional sack numbers are lagging behind, but as a unit, the 49ers rank seventh in ESPN’s pass rush win rate (45%). The good news for whoever is blocking Armstead? It could be worse: They could have left tackle Jason Peter’s assignment.
Bears WR Darnell Mooney vs. 49ers S Jimmie Ward
Mooney is the Bears’ No. 1 receiver right now, whether that was entirely the plan or not. It’s clear that rookie quarterback Justin Fields and veteran receiver Allen Robinson just aren’t on the same page yet, mostly because both of them have said as much several times now. Ward is playing well right now – he’s PFF’s 10th-best safety and while he doesn’t have an interception, he has only allowed 105 yards and seven receptions in 216 coverage snaps this season. The Fields-to-Mooney deep ball kind of seems like the only tool this Bears passing offense, so expect to see Ward and Mooney both go up for one on more than one occasion.
Bears OLB Trevis Gipson vs. 49ers OTs Trent Williams/Jaylon Moore
It doesn’t sound like Bears star edge rusher Khalil Mack is playing Sunday, and the team isn't revealing much about Robert Quinn’s status on the COVID-19 reserve list. Getting Quinn back would obviously alleviate a lot of anxiety, but it seems pretty likely that it’s going to be Gipson’s show Sunday. Gipson has impressed some as a complementary pass rusher this season, and the Bears’ excitement about him goes way farther back than that. The good news for him is that he may be avoiding a date with the All-Pro left tackle Williams, who’s day-to-day with an ankle injury. Either way, it’ll be the first time in Gipson’s professional career that he’s expected to at least co-anchor a pass rush, which feels like a matchup worth watching.
Cam Ellis is a writer for 670 The Score and Audacy Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KingsleyEllis.