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I don't know about you, but this week has felt like a month. Maybe that's what happens when you're way too excited about seeing Justin Fields make his first career start. Ever since Matt Nagy announced on Wednesday that the rookie would be getting the nod against the Cleveland Browns, time seemed to slow down. I haven't been this giddy about a game in Cleveland since the 2016 World Series!
But at last, we've arrived hopefully the beginning of a long and successful era and now it's time to see what the kid can do.
Fields, along with Nagy, are both going to be under the microscope all game long, but there's more to this matchup than just those two. Here are my three things to know ahead of today's game.
1. History isn't on Fields' side for his debut
While doing research for a piece on the Bears' last five rookie quarterback debuts, I came to a strange realization. Since 1950, a Bears rookie quarterback making his first start on the road hasn't won a game in modern NFL history. Granted, most rookie quarterbacks made their first start at home. But players like Kyle Orton and Bobby Douglass made their debuts on the road and lost.
Can Fields break the trend?
Conversely, Fields hasn't lost a game in the state of Ohio, which happens to include the city of Cleveland. One streak is going to end today and hopefully it's the former.
2. The Bears can feast on a banged-up Browns offensive line
Last week, the Bears front seven made life miserable for Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals, registering five sacks on the day as they pushed around their offensive line. It was exactly what that unit needed after getting embarrassed in week one. Now they have a chance to build on their success against a banged-up Browns offensive line.
Tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., and center J.C. Tretter are both listed as questionable, but are likely to suit up to play. Still, 40 percent of their offensive line is banged up and with the Bears getting back defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., and possibly nose tackle Eddie Goldman, they might find themselves in the Browns backfield more often than not. Look for them to take advantage of a few hobbled players on the edge and up front.
3. Stopping the run and making Baker throw is the key to victory
Don't look now but Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has quietly had a very efficient start to the season. He currently leads the league in completion percentage with 81 percent and has a 101.9 quarterback rating. He's only thrown 1 touchdown along with two interceptions, but he's making his throws count within the gameplan while relying on a dangerous running game.
The Browns have funneled their offense through running back Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, rushing for 154 yards per game. Their passing is secondary as Mayfield's attempting 25 passes per game on average. But when he does throw, he's finding his targets regularly. Stopping the run and forcing Mayfield to throw more often, getting the Browns out of rhythm, should be a key to victory. His timing could be off too considering Jarvis Landry is out and he'll be trying to work in Odell Beckham Jr., playing in his first game since tearing his ACL last season.
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