Sep 18, 2021

Bears-Bengals preview: Three things to know about the home opener

Joe Burrow Cincinnati Bengals Chicago Bears
(USA Today Sports)

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Maybe it's because of the sheer amount of football games that are taking place nearly every day now, but the Chicago Bears' loss to the Los Angeles Rams feels like weeks ago already. That's a good thing because I'm sure everyone is chomping at the bit to move onto week two. And we're not the only fanbase either.

I'm spending the weekend in enemy territory (northern Milwaukee) and I couldn't have been more delighted walking into the bar on Friday night, ordering a Spotted Cow, and immediately hearing two Packer fans discuss Aaron Rodgers and his awful performance last week against the Saints. They then admitted they would trade him straight up for Justin Fields, which put a big smile on my face. It will make Fields' first start that much sweeter, whenever it happens.

Anyway, back to the game at hand. There's some good circumstances and juju that favors the Bears in this one. Here are my three things to know before week two's matchup against the Bengals.

I couldn't pick just one trend to highlight for this section. There are a few that favor the Bears in this game and it's almost laughable when you think about it.

Here's what I mean:

  1. The Bears are 8-0 against AFC North opponents since 2013. They have swept the division the last two seasons they met.
  2. Since 2018 when Matt Nagy became the coach, the Bears haven't lost in week 2. They're 3-0, whether they extended a winning streak or got their first victory of the year.
  3. The Bears are 8-3 following a primetime game under Nagy when they play a Sunday day game the next week, including Thanksgiving. The Bears played the Rams last week in primetime so the odds are favorable this Sunday.

Trends can only take you so far, but that's enough to make even the most skeptical fan feel a bit more optimistic about their team's chances.

2. The Bengals secondary is ripe for the picking

You think the Bears have problems at cornerback? The Bengals are right there with them and could be in an even tougher spot when the game kicks off. Head coach Zac Taylor even had to line up and take reps in practice since so many players were out.

Veteran cornerback Trae Waynes was already ruled out due to injury and Darrius Phillips is questionable. Safety Ricardo Allen is still on injured reserve, leaving this position group extremely vulnerable.

Cincinnati does have some playmakers, like Chidobe Awuzie who signed in the offseason. But I expect Andy Dalton (or Justin Fields) to take advantage of some favorable matchups to push the ball downfield. Receivers such as Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, and Marquise Goodwin will have a much easier time than they did against the Rams and I can't imagine the game plan will call for as many routes short of the sticks.

3. The running game is the key to victory

While the passing attack should have more success in Week 2, the Bears need to lean on the rushing attack to ensure a victory. The Bengals surrendered an average of 148 rushing yards per game in 2020, the fourth-highest in the league. After David Montgomery burned the Rams defense in Week 1, he has to be licking his chops with this matchup.

But Montgomery shouldn't be the only beneficiary.

As Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune points out, The Bengals couldn't stop the Baltimore Ravens run game in their two meetings last year. The Ravens had 78 runs for 565 yards, with former league MVP Lamar Jackson being a major factor in their success, rushing 13 times for 100 yards. And it just so happens the Bears have a dual-threat quarterback who should see more playing time this week.

It's almost a guarantee that Justin Fields will play more than he did in week one and as Biggs says, they would be wise to replicate the Ravens' strategy to move the chains. Fields should have chances to not only throw the ball, but run it down Cincinnati's throat. If I'm Matt Nagy, I'm feeding both players as much as possible to secure the win.

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