By Bryan Dietzler
The 1-4 Chicago Bears will travel to the East Coast to take on the 3-2 Baltimore Ravens this Sunday at noon. As we will find out, the Ravens are one of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL but are above .500 which is difficult to do in the NFL this season.
The following is an abbreviated look at the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens from a statistical perspective. How do they match up? Who has the edge and ultimately, who will win?
Let’s find out.
The Mitchell Trubisky era has begun, and it began with some promise on Monday night. Had it not been for a fumble and an interception, the Bears may have won that game. But chock the loss up to the fact that the Bears are now comfortably in rebuilding mode and are trying to look further ahead. But they need to keep in mind that to build, they need to play the games that are immediately in front of them.
This game against Baltimore is another stepping stone for Trubisky.
I won’t throw out any of the Bears’ passing numbers here because Trubisky hasn’t had enough time to develop any kind contribution to the passing game yet. I can tell you that last week he threw for 128 yards on 12 of 25 throws for a completion percentage of 48. He had one touchdown, one interception and was sacked once. He rushed three times for 22 yards and had one fumble.
Trubisky and his passing game crew will face a Ravens defense that is ranked 9th in the NFL allowing just 205.2 passing yards per game. This does not bode well for the Bears, but then again, right now, they aren’t entirely capable of putting that many yards as it is so this could be about right. But anything is possible.
The Bears pass receivers were rocked by another injury that will keep one of their own out for a while. Markus Wheaton has a groin injury and right now will miss about six to eight weeks. He never really “got off the ground” anyway and wasn’t that much of a factor. The Bears have Tanner Gentry coming up and he will play Sunday. Deonte Thompson is no longer with Chicago as Gentry has taken his place.
I often talk about the tight ends as being a factor in the passing game. Dowell Loggains needs to call some plays to get them involved more in the offense. Dion Sims and Zach Miller can be weapons but they just have to be utilized, need to be in the right place at the right time and they must catch the ball. That’s been a struggle not only for the tight ends but also for the receivers. They must get their hands on more passes and help move the ball down the field. If Trubisky needs to find a reliable receiver, and he does, he will find it in his tight end group.
It cannot be mentioned enough just how important the running backs are to the Bears. The Bears won their game against the Steelers in Week Four thanks to a powerful running game and it will be important that they try to get that going against a Ravens’ defense that is allowing 123.4 yards on the ground per game. That makes them the 23rd ranked rush defense in the NFL. Chicago rushing offense is putting up 117 yards which is ranked 12th. If they can get Jordan Howard and company going in this one, they could make it a close contest.
I wanted to reiterate that the Bears had found some success throwing to the running backs prior to Trubisky taking over as the starter. In their game against the Vikings, the Bears had just one catch by a running back (Tarik Cohen for -6 yards). They must get the ball out to their running backs early and often Sunday.
Finally, I wanted to touch on sacks. Sacks play a huge role in any game and it’s vital that the Bears’ offensive line keep Trubisky as clean and upright as possible. The Ravens come into this game having registered 12 sacks this season while the Bears have allowed nine. Granted, that’s not terrible but two of those sacks were sack-strip-fumbles. Consider those points left on the field and points going to opponents.
Those must stop.
The Bears’ defense hasn’t been that bad at all. They looked good against Minnesota and had it not been for mistakes made by the offense; they might have held the Vikings back enough to win. But with the offense putting them in tough positions the defense hasn’t done as well as it could do.
When you look at points allowed, the Bear’s defense is allowing 24.8 points per game which is 25th. The Ravens are scoring an average of 18 points per game so the Bears can hold them. The question is, can their offense not commit the turnovers that they have before to keep their defense from having to defend the short field to try not to allow a score.
The Ravens rely on quarterback Joe Flacco to move the ball down the field through the air. Since signing a contract extension back in 2016, Flacco has stumbled with performance and injury issues. His passer rating, this year, is 71.0 and this is the lowest in his career (the season is not over yet of course). This number is being dragged down by a rare 12 percent completion percentage against the Jaguars, so his percentage is a little deceiving.
Chicago is allowing teams to pass for an average of 204.8 yards per game which is 8th in the NFL. The Ravens are 31st in the NFL with just 158.4 yards passing per game. The Bears have an opportunity here. If they can keep the Ravens from throwing the ball all over them, they could keep this game close and the may even win.
The Ravens leading wide receiver in catches is Javiours Allen with 20 but the leader in yards Mike Wallace with 209. Wallace can stretch the field turning short gains into long ones so the Bears secondary needs to keep him contained. Hopefully, they are completely healthy and ready to keep this passing attack in check. They need to be ready because the Bears have a great chance to win this game and they cannot let the normally sluggish Ravens passing explode and carry the day.
The Ravens’ rushing attack is gaining an average of 130.4 yards per game, good for sixth in the NFL. The Bears will have to watch out for Allen and Alex Collins who lead the team in rushes and yards respectively. Chicago’s defense holds opponents to 100.2 yards per game so something might give here.
Hopefully, it’s not the Bears’ defense.
Chicago needs to clamp down on the Ravens’ rushing attack and not let them control the ball and the clock. The Bears also need to possess the ball the way the Ravens’ will try to do to win this game.
The Bears increased their sack total by four last week and now have 13 sacks. The Ravens have only allowed nine through five games but the Bears have had success getting to the quarterback. The Vikings offensive line was supposed to be stout but the Bears still got four sacks. They can get to Flacco on Sunday.
They must get to him to make this a winnable game.
In looking at the Bears’ injuries, they have Marcus Cooper returning to full practice after suffering from back problems. That will help the secondary out. Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski is questionable with a chest injury but the Bears need him to play because John Timu is out with an ankle/knee injury.
Guard Kyle long is ready to go after resting his ankle and fellow offensive lineman Hroniss Grasu is questionable with a hand injury.
Wheaton will be out with a groin tear.
Hopefully, Kwiatkoski will be able to play. Having him out has been a burden on the defense so it would be great if he were back.
The Ravens have a long list of injuries for this game. So far, they have ruled starting right guard Matt Skura and running back Terrance West out. The Bears should be able to take advantage of Skura being out and get to Flacco through the right guard position. But will they?
Baltimore is listing two players as doubtful. Starting defensive tackle Brandon Williams may not play because of a foot injury while third-string outside linebacker Tim Williams should miss the game because of a thigh issue. Not having Brandon Williams in the lineup should help the Bears in the run and passing games should he not be able to play.
Superstar outside linebacker and pass rush specialist Terrell Suggs didn’t practice on Friday but that was due to a non-injury related issue. He will be ready for this game.
The Ravens then have seven players listed as questionable. Wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman are on the report. Maclin has a shoulder issue and Perriman has a knee problem. Starting right cornerback Jimmy Smith has been hampered with an Achilles issue while his backup, Jaylen Hill, has had thigh problems. Defensive tackle Carl Davis, a starter has a thigh issue and did not practice most of the week while backup edge rusher Anthony Levine Sr. was limited with a thigh injury.
Finally, Maxx Williams, a special teamer, is questionable with an ankle injury.
I have said this before and I will say it again, this will be a close game. If the Bears can limit their mistakes on offense and not hand the ball over to the Ravens then they have a great chance of winning. Their defense will have to play very well to keep them in the game, not let it get out of control and they can do that if the offense doesn’t make mistakes.
We all know the Bears problems on the road. That will factor into this game. However, if Chicago can play inspired football, they have a shot at beating the Ravens. I am even going to go out on a limb and say that they will win this game.
As Bears fans, we hope they do.
Score Prediction: Chicago 21 Baltimore 20
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