Two of the NFC's top teams clash on Sunday night
NFC division leaders are set to face off when the Los Angeles Rams take on the Chicago Bears on "Sunday Night Football." A few weeks ago the NFL decided to flex this game at Soldier Field from a 1 p.m. ET kickoff to primetime and football fans are happy they did. The Rams (11-1) have already wrapped up the NFC West and currently hold the No. 1 seed while the Bears (8-4) are in first place in the NFC North.
Chicago comes into this game looking to rebound from last week's mistake-filled road loss to the Giants that ended a five-game winning streak. Los Angeles has won three in a row since losing in New Orleans in Week 9. Both of these teams fared well the last they were in the primetime spotlight. In Week 11, the Bears beat the Vikings 25-20 at home on "Sunday Night Football" to seize control of the NFC North. The following night, the Rams outlasted the Chiefs 54-51 in the highest-scoring game in "Monday Night Football" history.
Los Angeles at Chicago
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 9 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Spread: Rams -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Welcome back Mitchell Trubisky
After sitting out the last two weeks with a shoulder injury, all signs point towards the Bears having their starting quarterback at the helm for this critical matchup. And it couldn’t have come at a better time as backup Chase Daniel started the last two games with mixed results. After throwing for 230 yards and two touchdowns against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, he wasn't able to replicate that success last Sunday against the Giants. Daniel finished the game in New York with 285 passing yards and a touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown), was sacked five times and had four fumbles (didn't lose any), as Chicago fell 30-27 in overtime.
If he is able to play, Trubisky's mobility in and outside of the pocket will be needed to keep the Rams' pass rush at bay. Los Angeles has 33 sacks on the season, half of those belonging to reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.
2. The Tarik Cohen show
Last week, Cohen showed why he is a favorite of Bears head coach Matt Nagy in this offense. The second-year running back totaled 186 yards from scrimmage, as he led the team with 156 receiving yards on 12 catches. He also threw a one-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Anthony Miller on the final play of regulation that helped send the game into overtime.
On the season, Cohen has more receiving yards (659) and touchdowns (four) compared to what he has done as a runner (315, 2). His versatility and big-play ability are key parts to Chicago's game plan each week and is something that will definitely be needed to move the chains and put points on the scoreboard against a Rams defense that has talent across all three levels, but especially up front and in the secondary.
3. Rams' offense vs. Bears' defense
Simply put, this is strength vs. strength. Los Angeles is second in the NFL in both yards (439.9) and points (34.9, tied with New Orleans) per game. Head coach Sean McVay's impact on this side of the ball is obvious as the Rams have had just one game in which they have scored fewer than 30 points this season. Los Angeles' collection of skill talent, headlined by quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Brandin Cooks will make this Chicago's biggest defensive challenge yet.
The Bears enter Week 14 third in the league in total defense (317.9 ypg) and fifth in scoring defense (20.1 ppg). They stubbed their toe a little last week against the Giants, but three turnovers (one returned for a TD) can be somewhat blamed. Chicago will try and slow down the Rams by pressuring Goff (has been sacked 26 times) and coming up with some turnovers (league-leading 30 takeaways). The Bears probably don't want to get into a shootout with Los Angeles similar to what happened in that epic Monday night game against Kansas City, so it will be up to Khalil Mack and company to at least try and slow down the Rams' high-powered attack.
Chicago has been near perfect at home (5-1), but Los Angeles is the best team that has come to Soldier Field this season. Even better than New England, who handed the Bears their lone home loss back in Week 7. No team has yet to really slow down the Rams, who scored 35 points in their lone loss at New Orleans in Week 9 and are averaging nearly 39 points per game over their last four. Los Angeles is 3-0 against the NFC North and will complete the season sweep on Sunday night, although the Bears will make them earn the "W" on their home field.
Prediction: Rams 34, Bears 27
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.