Week 14 Preview: Bears at Bengals - December 10, 2017

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Week 14 Preview: Bears at Bengals – December 10, 2017

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears have only three wins this season, but two have come against AFC North opponents.

Earlier in the season, Chicago beat the Pittsburgh Steelers despite starting Mike Glennon at quarterback and watching Marcus Cooper literally leaving a touchdown at the 1-yard-line. Then, the Bears also defeated the Baltimore Ravens in overtime on a Connor Barth field goal in Mitch Trubisky’s first road start.

The Ravens and Steelers play on Sunday for the right to claim to be the better team that lost a game to the Bears this season. As for what’s happening in Cincinnati on Sunday …

“Never Tell Me The Odds:”

No need to worry about John Fox’s winless record as a favorite since 2015. Chicago enters Sunday’s game as a 6.5-point underdog with the over-under set at 38.5, according to Bovada.

Series History:

The Bears are 4-6 all-time against the Bengals. Chicago has lost two of the last three matchups, but won the most recent showdown in 2013. The last time Cincinnati played host to the Bears, the home-standing Bengals rolled to a 45-10 win behind 189 rushing yards and a touchdown from ex-Bear Cedric Benson.

Seriously, that happened.

Game Time, Broadcast Info, Officiating Crew:

Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

Broadcast Info: Noon, FOX-TV (Sam Rosen, Brady Quinn, Jenny Taft), WBBM-AM 780, WCFS-FM 105.9 (Jeff Joniak, Tom Thayer, Zach Zaidman)

Referee: John Parry

Expected Starters and Lineups:

Bears Offense Expected Starters:

  • QB Mitch Trubisky
  • RB Jordan Howard
  • FB Michael Burton
  • WR Dontrelle Inman
  • WR Josh Bellamy
  • TE Adam Shaheen
  • LT Charles Leno Jr.
  • LG Tom Compton
  • C Cody Whitehair
  • RG Josh Sitton
  • RT Bobby Massie

Bears Defense Expected Starters:

  • DE Akiem Hicks
  • NT Eddie Goldman
  • DE Jonathan Bullard
  • OLB Sam Acho
  • ILB Christian Jones
  • ILB Danny Trevathan
  • OLB Pernell McPhee
  • CB Kyle Fuller
  • CB Prince Amukamara
  • FS Eddie Jackson
  • SS Chris Prosinski

Bears Specialists: 

  • Mike Nugent (kicker), Pat O’Donnell (punter, holder), Andrew DePaola (long snapper), Benny Cunningham, Tarik Cohen (kick returners), Tarik Cohen (punt returner)

Bengals Offense Expected Starters:

  • QB Andy Dalton
  • RB Giovani Bernard
  • TE Tyler Kroft
  • WR A.J. Green
  • WR Brandon LaFell
  • WR Josh Malone
  • LT Cedric Ogbuehi
  • LG Clint Boling
  • C Russell Bodine
  • RG Trey Hopkins
  • RT Andre Smith

Bengals Defense Expected Starters:

  • LE Carlos Dunlap
  • NT Andrew Billings
  • DT Geno Atkins
  • RE Michael Johnson
  • SLB Nick Vigil
  • MLB Kevin Winter
  • WLB Jordan Evans
  • LCB Dre Kirkpatrick
  • RCB Adam Jones
  • FS George Iloka
  • SS Clayton Fejedelem

Bengals Specialists:

  • Randy Bullock (kicker), Kevin Huber (punter, holder), Clark Harris (long snapper), Alex Erickson (kick returns, punt returns)

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Bears – Offense

The left side of the Bears’ offensive line will need to work in tandem in order to slow down a solid Bengals defensive line.

Guard Josh Sitton is coming off a week in which he earned a spot on Pro Football Focus’ Team of the Week despite the Bears’ loss. If Trubisky is going to get something going in the air, Sitton will need to play to an 81.7 pass blocking grade that ranks 11th among 74 qualifying guards at PFF.

Tackle Charles Leno Jr. owns an 82.3 run blocking grade, and considering Kyle Long’s absence and Bobby Massie’s struggles, the Bears might be best served running behind their two best linemen.

Running back Jordan Howard is slumping, but Cincinnati’s defense has allowed opposing running backs to register double figures in fantasy points in four its last six games. And in the two games opposing RB1 types were held under 10 points, Frank Gore (Week 8) and Devontae Booker (Week 11) each scored nine points. Sunday would be a great day for a slump-buster.

Chicago Bears – Defense

Defensive end Jonathan Bullard played 89 snaps in the last two weeks and has made the most of his playing time this season by posting a respectable 76.8 grade in 303 snaps. As a point of comparison, Bullard played to a 46.6 grade in 297 snaps as a rookie in 2016. The improvement has shown up in spurts. He picked up a sack, a tackle for loss, and two quarterback hits in Week 12, then added four tackles and a tackle-for-loss a week later. Bullard is slated to start in place for Mitch Unrein, who went on injured reserve earlier in the week.

Prince Amukamara lines up as the right cornerback on 97 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps, but the Bengals do a good job in splitting A.J. Green’s time between the left (41%), right (43%), and slot (15%). It will take a group effort from Kyle Fuller, Cre’von LeBlanc, Bryce Callahan, and maybe even Marcus Cooper to limit Green’s production. Shadow coverage hasn’t been all that effective in stopping Green. There have been five games in which Green has received the shadow treatment and his numbers in those games are pretty solid. He has caught 62.5 percent of passes thrown his way and Andy Dalton has posted a 112.3 rating on 24 targets.

Cincinnati Bengals – Offense

Let’s talk more Green, who is on pace for his sixth 1,000-yard campaign in seven years even though his 73.8 yards per game is his lowest output since 2011 and his 56.1 percent catch rate represents his lowest number since 2014. Still, Green is as dangerous as they come. However, Dalton’s 89.5 passer rating when targeting Green is down from 110.6 in 2016 and his lowest number since 2014.

Tyler Kroft has the eighth-highest receiving grade among tight ends, according to Pro Football Focus. Kroft’s 76.3 grade is better than that of Jimmy Graham (74.0), Jared Cook (73.6), and Zach Miller (69.9) among others. Dalton has succeeded when targeting Kroft, completing 74.4 percent of his passes, posting a 135.9 rating, and throwing five touchdowns without tossing an interception. However, a matchup against Danny Trevathan and his 85.9 coverage grade could be problematic for Kroft.

Cincinnati Bengals – Defense

With five Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pro nominations under his belt, Geno Atkins has long been one of the best defensive tackles in football. He’ll line up against a group of Bears interior linemen missing starting right guard Kyle Long. Atkins has seven sacks and Pro Football Focus’ third best pass rush grade among players at his position. Tom Compton played 21 snaps in place of Long in Week 13 and will have his work cut out for him as he is expected to take over for the rest of the season.

Bears Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains revealed a little something when he noted the team placed Dontrelle Inman as the team’s “X” receiver because it was the easiest position to learn in the offense. Inman has played 52 percent of his snaps in that position. If that trend continues, it means Cincinnati’s highest-graded cornerback will be lined up against him more often than not. William Jackson lines up as the right cornerback on 76 percent of defensive snaps and has an 84.6 grade via PFF, which is the 16th best among players at his position.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.