Oct 9, 2021

Bears vs. Raiders: Three things to know about the trip out to Vegas

Khalil Mack Chicago Bears Las Vegas Raiders
(USA Today Sports)

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Can you feel the excitement in the air? The Chicago Bears are officially Justin Fields' team going forward, beginning on Sunday with the Las Vegas Raiders. The euphoria that poured out from fans via social media after Matt Nagy made the announcement this week was unbelievable, from local fans and national media alike. It just felt different than Fields getting the nod two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns.

That game was like first getting your license and borrowing your parents' car for the weekend. It's exciting, but it's not really your style and you know you still have to give it back. But now, they bought you your own car, customized to your liking, and it's time to hit the road.

I'm over the moon to see Fields after what he did against the Lions last weekend and I'm predicting a big game. But there's more to this game than just him.

Here are my three things to know ahead of today's 3:00 pm kickoff.

1. The Bears offensive line will be tested again

It seems we conveniently forgot about the whooping the offensive line got just two weeks ago in Cleveland when they allowed nine sacks on the day. That tends to happen when they respond with just one the next week. But now they're facing another tough test with the Raiders defensive line.

Maxx Crosby (2.0) and Yannick Ngakoue (0) may not have the sack totals like other defensive ends, but they're punishing offensive lines so far in 2021. Add in rotational players like Carl Nassib (1.5) and Solomon Thomas (2.5) and this group could make life tough for Fields. The Raiders have nine sacks through four weeks of the season. They may not be the production of the Bears front seven so far, but they're capable of doing damage.

2. We could see a repeat of week one with the Bears secondary

Remember on Sunday Night Football when Matthew Stafford completely embarrassed the entire Bears secondary with long bombs to the Rams wide receivers in the 34-14 blowout loss? That may happen again with Derek Carr and the Raiders weapons. Through four weeks of the season, Carr led the league in passing with 1,399 yards, throwing eight touchdowns and three interceptions. With pass catchers like Darren Waller over the middle and Henry Ruggs deep, the Bears corners and safeties need to be on high alert to prevent any big plays downfield.

Things have looked better for the back end of the defense in recent weeks, though. Opposing offenses are still moving the ball, but aren't getting the big plays as much as we've seen before. Still, defensive coordinator Sean Desai needs to be on alert for players taking the top off. We've already seen how one play can change not only the game, but the mindset going forward. In other words, Eddie Jackson better be ready for what's coming.

3. Playing against the Raiders still means something to Khalil Mack

Two years ago, Khalil Mack faced his old team, still known as the Oakland Raiders, across the pond in London for the first time since the blockbuster trade went down in 2018. In an emotional game, Mack was effectively neutralized as Jon Gruden did everything he could to take No. 52 out of the game in the Bears' 21-24 loss. But if you thought Mack got it all out of his system then, you're gravely mistaken.

Mack still says facing the Raiders is "different" and notes that he's ready for anything they throw at him this year. Though the former All-Pro is dealing with an injury and is officially questionable for the game, you're crazy if you think he would miss this one. He was already listed as a captain on Friday, a nod to just what this game means to him.

Mack is also quietly having one of his best years, already compiling 4.0 sacks on the season and should have more production this time around against a battered Raiders offensive line. And if Gruden keeps the play away from him again, it just means Robert Quinn will have a chance to feast and I say that with zero sarcasm.

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