Bears @ Rams – Week: 12

The Chicago Bears head to the Gateway to the West as they take on the 4-6 Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. The Bears are coming off one of their best wins of the season last week and will be looking to continue their playoff push against a very beatable team.  Likewise, St. Louis is coming off their most impressive win of the season against the Colts on the road, where rookie Tavon Austin went for nearly 300 all-purpose yards with three touchdowns in a rout. The Rams are without QB Sam Bradford who’s been out for the season with a knee injury.  Kellen Clemens will get the start.

The Rams are led by long-term Titans NFL head coach Jeff Fisher. who has given the franchise a sense of hope after several disappointing years. Fisher was key in trading the number-two pick to Washington for the rights to draft RGIII, which seems to have worked out for the best even with the Bradford injury. The Rams play hard and have a strong defense led by Ky Long’s brother Chris Long, who’s got 6.5 sacks on the year. St. Louis is currently the only team in its division with a sub-five-hundred record, which speaks to the level of competition they face.

The Bears’ depleted defense has been getting by notwithstanding all the injuries to their front seven.  The recent play of Julius Peppers has allowed the Bears to mask some of those deficiencies.  Against the Ravens the Bears played in some horrendous conditions, but that won’t be the case under the Rams’ dome.  The indoor setting caters to speed on the outside, so Austin and others will certainly put stress on the Bears’ defense in ways that the Ravens were unable to do.  Last week the Rams showed what kind of offensive explosion they can generate when things fall right for them. The Special Teams game will be important for both teams as their punt and kickoff return units will be key to deciding the game.

Like the Bears, the Rams have a game manager at the QB position. Last week Clemens had two touchdown passes against the Colts with no turnovers. which accounted for the thirty-point winning differential.  Chicago will be looking to keep the gameplan very simple with McCown again taking the snaps.  Matt Forte will be huge if the Bears want to improve to 7-4. This road game will go a long way to provide clarity for Chicago’s playoff prospects.  A 7-4 record will be so much better than 6-5.  A one-game swing into the loss column could spell disaster for Chicago as it heads down the stretch.

This game is especially important because it’s an NFC game that is significant in tiebreaker scenarios. Look for McCown to keep the ball moving and to maximize time of possession, while taking shots when the down and distance seem appropriate.  In Cutler’s absence, Kromer hasn’t been asking McCown to do too much. The Bears certainly have the weapons to put up a lot of points, but in  game like this keeping the game close and the turnovers down will explain the result. Chicago goes into the game as a one-point underdog, which isn’t too surprising after the Rams performance last weekend on the road.  The NFC West is a much stronger division than the North, which could also play a role in the spread.

This game will be difficult, but one that Chicago should and needs to win.  Trestman needs to show his sense of urgency now that we’re down to the short strokes, especially since being two games over five hundred will not get the Bears into the playoffs.  New Orleans’ win last night doesn’t help the Bears because it simply creates more separation among the division leaders and the Wild Card teams.  The Bears face must-win games for the entirety of the remainder of their season.  A loss – any loss – will doom post-season play.