BEARS at 49ers: Week 16 Preview - December 23, 2018

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BEARS at 49ers: Week 16 Preview – December 23, 2018

Chicago Bears

During baseball season, the game after the division clincher is one I take with a major grain of salt. Often, teams will throw out a lineup full of backups to give their regulars a (much-deserved) day off after a night of celebration. But because football games are spaced out the way they are, that isn’t necessarily a concern. Unless you spend too much time thinking about it during idle hours like I have.

This has the feel of one of those dreaded trap games. The Bears are fresh off the emotional high of clinching a playoff berth and knocking off their arch rivals and facing the down-and-out 49ers who haven’t been the same since Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a season-ending knee injury. But that doesn’t mean San Francisco isn’t a threat.

The 49ers are at home (where they have a 4-3 record), have a quarterback (Nick Mullens) who plays within himself, a Pro Bowl tight end (George Kittle), a budding star right tackle (Mike McGlinchey), a Pro Bowl snub on the defensive line (DeForest Buckner), and a head coach (Kyle Shanahan) who was a trendy offensive-minded hire right before that became a thing. It would be a mistake to take this team lightly.

Never Tell Me The Odds:”

The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has the Bears as 4-point favorites with an over/under set at 42.5. That number doesn’t show much faith in a 10-win Bears team going up against a 10-loss 49ers squad, but it shows the value of home-field advantage (3 points) on the spread.

Series History:

The Bears and 49ers have played to a 31-31-1 record in 63 regular season meetings. Chicago and San Francisco have split the last four (fittingly enough) but the Bears won the most recent game played out at Levi’s Stadium.

Game Time, Broadcast Info, Officiating Crew:

Location: Levi’s Stadium

Broadcast Info: Sunday, December 23 at 3:05 CT on FOX (Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Shannon Spake), WBBM-AM 780, WCFS-FM 105.9

Referee: Alex Kemp

Expected Starters and Lineups:

Bears Offense Expected Starters:

  • QB Mitch Trubisky
  • RB Jordan Howard
  • RB Tarik Cohen
  • WR Allen Robinson
  • WR Taylor Gabriel
  • TE Trey Burton
  • LT Charles Leno Jr.
  • LG James Daniels
  • C Cody Whitehair
  • RG Bryan Witzmann
  • RT Bobby Massie

Bears Defense Expected Starters:

  • DT Akiem Hicks
  • NT Eddie Goldman
  • DE Bilal Nichols
  • OLB Khalil Mack
  • ILB Danny Trevathan
  • ILB Roquan Smith
  • OLB Leonard Floyd
  • CB Kyle Fuller
  • CB Prince Amukamara
  • FS Deon Bush
  • SS Adrian Amos

Bears Specialists: 

  • Cody Parkey (kicker), Pat O’Donnell (punter, holder), Patrick Scales (long snapper), Anthony Miller (kick returner), Tarik Cohen (punt returner)

49ers Offense Expected Starters:

  • QB Nick Mullens
  • RB Jeff Wilson Jr.
  • WR Marquise Goodwin
  • WR Dante Pettis
  • WR Trent Taylor
  • TE George Kittle
  • LT Joe Staley
  • LG Laken Tomlinson
  • C Weston Richburg
  • RG Mike Person
  • RT Mike McGlinchey

49ers Defense Expected Starters:

  • LDE Solomon Thomas
  • LDT Earl Mitchell
  • RDT DeForest Buckner
  • RDE Arik Armstead
  • SLB Mark Nzeocha
  • MLB Fred Warner
  • WLB Malcolm Smith
  • LCB Richard Sherman
  • RCB Tarvarius Moore
  • FS Antone Exum Jr.
  • SS Jaquiski Tartt

49ers Specialists:

  • Robbie Gould (kicker), Bradley Pinion (punter, holder), Colin Holba (long snapper) Dante Pettis (punt returns), Richie James (kick returns)

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Bears – Offense

Mitch Trubisky has been a more productive player at home than he has been on the road. Trubisky has completed a higher percentage of passes away from Soldier Field, but his yards per attempt, yards per game, and passer rating take a tumble in road games – as do his touchdown and interception percentages. Perhaps going up against a pass defense that has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in 11 of 14 games this year will get Trubisky on the right track.

You expect Patrick Mahomes (314 yards, 3 TD), Philip Rivers (250 yards, 3 TD), and Aaron Rodgers (425 yards, 2 TD) to torch San Francisco’s defense. HOWEVER, Josh Rosen (252 yards, 2 TD in Week 8), Eli Manning (188 yards, 3 TD in Week 10), and Jameis Winston (312 yards, 2 TD in Week 12) all have multiple-touchdown performances against the 49ers. There’s really no excuse for Trubisky not to join that group.

Chicago Bears – Defense

Prince Amukamara isn’t facing the most daunting task in covering an underwhelming group of 49ers wide receivers, but a strong performance by him is critical if the Bears are going to win. With Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson expected to miss Sunday’s game, Amukamara will need to play sticky coverage on Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, or whoever the San Francisco throws out wide in his direction. Strong cornerback play will go a long way toward Deon Bush and Adrian Amos keeping everything in front of them on Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers – Offense

George Kittle is monster at tight end, the biggest offensive playmaker the 49ers have, and the one guy whose appearance at the top of a scouting report should have everyone on notice. Kittle has 72 catches, 1,154 receiving yards, and four touchdowns, which is why he was named to his first Pro Bowl in just his second season as a pro. He has three 100-yard receiving games, highlighted by a 7-catch, 210-yard performance two weeks ago against the Broncos. He also has five games in which he has caught at least 70 yards worth of passes. The Bears’ linebackers and defensive backs will have their hands full trying to contain Kittle. If they can’t, it’s going to be a long afternoon.

San Francisco 49ers – Defense

Solomon Thomas was the guy the 49ers wanted all along in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he has yet to play to his potential. Thomas’ sophomore season in San Francisco has been anything but successful. He has just one sack, three tackles-for-loss, and six quarterback hits in 14 games. And it’s not as if he is suffering from not being on the field. Thomas has played on 555 defensive snaps, which is the second most among the team’s defensive linemen. We’ll see what he has in store for the Bears, if anything.

Author: Luis Medina

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