LAKE FOREST — Contrary to what people may think, the Bears and the Cardinals is the NFL’s oldest rivalry dating back to 1920. Of course they both played in Chicago from 1921-1959 and they are the only two remaining NFL charter franchises.
The Bears and Packers have met more often than any other two NFL teams (Packers joined the NFL in 1921), and Bears and Lions is the longest continuous rivalry with the two having met every season since 1930.
Ironically while the Bears are one of the league’s most storied and successful franchises and the Cardinals are in the race for most dysfunctional, Arizona enters this game as the NFL’s best team alone at 9-2 while the Bears are struggling near the bottom of the standings.
The Bears are 7 ½ point underdogs and the over/under is 44 ½
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
OT’s vs. ER’s and Bears ground game vs. ‘Zona Run ‘D.’
The Bears come in No. 1 in the league rushing the passer and Arizona is 3rd, but the Cardinals are 21st in QB sacks allowed and the Bears are 32nd.
Assuming Andy Dalton is at QB the ball will come out quicker but he’s also less likely than Justin Fields to keep plays alive if they break down quickly.
The Bears will not compete here without a big day from their eighth-ranked rushing game and Arizona is 17th defending the run and 30th in average gain per rush allowed.
COACHING DECISION(S) TO WATCH
What to do about Kyler Murray
Murray is one of the league’s top two double threats along with Lamar Jackson. The goal with Jackson is to keep him in the pocket but with Murray, are you better off making him move when you consider his 110.4 passer rating, the Cardinals are best in the league at average gain per pass play and he has been consciously running less this year with just 49 rushes for a 3.0 average?
Pick your poison.
PLAYER(S) TO WATCH
Murray, James Conner, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Christian Kirk , Chandler Jones and Isaiah Simmons
Hopkins and Green speak for themselves and along with Kirk they are the top wideout trio in the league.
Conner is the workhorse on the ground and has 12 TDs, but just a 3.8 yards per carry average.
Jones is one of the best edge rushers in the league but had a nasty battle with Covid that sat him down for three weeks and he’s been slow to bounce back, while Simmons at 6-foot-4, 238 pounds is one of the best athletes in the league and can make plays all over the field from his linebacker spot.
Cardinals TE Zach Ertz and LB Marcus Golden
After losing starting tight end Maxx Williams for the season the Cards moved quickly to trade for Pro Bowler Zach Ertz and he has not disappointed, although he and Murray are still developing chemistry with Murray out quite a bit since Ertz arrived.
Golden in his second go-around with the Cards at 30 is having his best season as a pro leading the team with 10 QB sacks and 8 tackles for loss.
Injuries are no excuse but the Bears list speaks for itself.
WILD-CARD PLAYER(S) WHO COULD SURPRISE
Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds and WR Rondale Moore
Bears TE’s Jimmy Graham and Jesse James
Edmonds is the Cards No. 2 running back, the third down choice with 30 catches for a 7.0 average and on the ground he has a 5.7 average.
Moore is the rookie out of Purdue drafted to be an explosion waiting to happen out of the slot. He has one 77-yard catch among his 47 receptions, just two fewer than team leader Christian Kirk, but only an 8.8 average to date.
With Allen Robinson and Marquise Goodwin out, if Graham and James don’t step up what chance do the Bears have?
Cardinals 5th Points scored (28.2), 4th Points allowed (18.4)
Bears 18th Points allowed (23.1), 29th Points scored (16.3)
THE FINAL WORD
Cardinals 30, Bears 19
To win the Bears have to rush for at least a buck seventy-five, own the clock, win the QB sack battle, win the turnover battle and avoid all dumb penalties.
Again, injuries are no excuse but with most of their best players limited or missing altogether, how do they get that done?