Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) at Chicago Bears (0-1)
Kickoff: Noon, Soldier Field, Chicago
The Line: Bears by 2 1/2 (Over/Under 45); SI Betting Info and trends on game.
BearDigest Pick: Bears 24, Bengals 17
BearDigest Record to date: 1-0 (1-0 vs. spread)
TV: Fox (Kevin Kugler, Mark Sanchez, Laura Okmin)
TV Streaming: Fox on fuboTV
Radio: WBBM-AM 780, FM-105.9 (Jeff Joniak, Tom Thayer, Mark Grote)
The Series: 12th meeting between the teams, Cincinnati leads 6-5. The Bears won the last two games, including 33-7 at Cincinnati in 2017 as Mitchell Trubisky threw for 271 yards on 25 of 32 with a TD to beat Andy Dalton (14 of 29, 141 yars, 1 TD, 1 INT).
The Coaches: Bengals coach Zac Taylor is 7-25-1 in his third season. Bears coach Matt Nagy is 28-21 in his fourth season, 0-2 in the playoffs. The coaches have never faced each other.
Last Week: The Bears lost on the road to the Los Angeles Rams 34-14. The Cincinnati Benfals won at home over the Minnesota Vikings 27-24 in overtime.
Injuries: Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman is doubtful (knee). They have placed backup left tackle Larry Borom on IR and have flexed defensive lineman Margus Hunt and tackle Alex Taylor from the practice squad to the active roster.
What to Watch: Former Bengals QB Andy Dalton faces his old team as Bears starter after beating them last year in his first game against them 30-7 while starting for Dallas. The game pits the top two rushers in the NFL after the season's first week, Bears running back David Montgomery (108 yards) and Bengals running back Joe Mixon (129 yards). The Bears continue to shuttle rookie quarterback into the game on occasion for spot plays, and he had his first career TD run, a 3-yarder, last week. It made him the first Bears rookie quarterback to rush for a TD in the opener.
Cincinnati is trying for its second road win under Taylor. His teams were 1-14-1 on the road in his first two years, the only win coming in their last road game last year at Houston. Joe Burrow led last week's win by going 20 of 27 for 261 yards with two TDs after coming off last year's ACL surgery.
Matching Up: The Bengals rank 21st on offense, seventh in rushing and 23rd passing. They rank 20th on defense, sixth against the run and 29th against the pass.
The Bears rank 25th on offense, 10th in rushing and 26th passing. They rank 16th on defense, eighth against the run and 25th passing.
Notable: The Bears have won 67, lost 30 and tied four home openers, the most home-opening wins of any franchise. ... Dalton is Cincinnati's all-time leader in starting wins by a QB (70), passer rating (87.5), 300-yard passing games (28), TDs (204), completions (2,257) and winning percentage (.533). ... Montgomery has a streak of seven straight games with TDs. ... Cincinnati kicker Evan McPherson became the youngest kicker (22 years, 53 days) ever to kick a game-winning overtime field goal last week. ... The 128.8 passer rating by Joe Burrow last week against Minnesota was a career high. His 74.1% completions and 9.6 yards per attempt also were career highs. ... La'Marr Chase became the first Bengals receiver to score a TD in his debut since A.J. Green caught a TD pass from Dalton in 2011. ... Cincinnati last week benefited from 12 Viking penalties for 116 yards.
Key Individual Matchups:
Bears OLB Khalil Mack vs. Bengals T Riley Reiff
Reiff is very familiar with Mack but was playing left tackle for the Vikings from 2018-20. So he and Mack only did battle when the Bears swung their star pass rusher to the opposite side of the line. This was always a tactic the Bears could use when Vic Fangio was defensive coordinator and before the Bears signed Robert Quinn. But Quinn's aversion to the left side of the defensive line makes this difficult for the Bears to do unless he's substituted for on a play or series. Now Reiff is on the right side. Mack always had an edge against Minnesota. In games when Reiff was playing from 2018-2020, Mack had three sacks. Reiff is built more like a left tackle, which is where he played almost all of his career. Right tackles are usually a bit heavier and more powerful than Reiff, who is fundamentally sound as a blocker and has had solid PFF blocking grades. Mack had a quiet first game and was graded poorly by PFF for his standards, a 61 overall. He usually bounces back from quiet games and he hasn't been on the injury report this week with the groin injury that was bothering him last week when he missed practice time.
Bears DE Akiem Hicks vs. Bengals G Xavier Su'a-Filo
Hicks got off to a solid start with half a sack and helped the run defense limit the Rams to 74 yards last week. Hicks is coming in much lighter this year at 335 pounds, and doesn't appear to have slowed down at 31. Su'a-Filo has been plagued by injuries through recent years and in only one of his seasons did Pro Football Focus give him an overall blocking grade above 65.0. The Bengals offensive line is probably the biggest question on their side of the ball heading into this game
Bears WR Allen Robinson vs. Bengals CB Chidobe Awuzie
Robinson was held in check, as usual, by the Rams secondary and former Jaguars teammate Jalen Ramsey but the matchup is less challenging this week. Robinson managed six catches last week but for only 35 yards. Getting downfield on the outside might be a bit easier against a Bengals defense playing mostly man-to-man coverage with a single high safety. Then again, they'll blitz more and the Bears offensive line will need to provide more time for Andy Dalton to throw than he had against the Rams, who didn't blitz. According to Sportradar, official stat partner of the NFL, Awuzie gave up six receptions in seven targets last week. Last year with Dallas, he allowed a 103.5 passer rating against. Robinson has a 2-inch reach advangage and a 5-inch better vertical leap than Awuzie, who had a vertical of 34 inches.
Bears CB Marqui Christian vs. Bengals WR Tee Higgins
The Bengals bring Higgins into the slot and a 6-foot-4, 218-pound receiver who can run is a mismatch against any slot cornerback in the league. Higgins produced four catches for 58 yards last week. Bengals wide receivers were also vital in the run game with blocking to help spring Mixon past the line of scrimmage. Higgins had a strong rookie season with 67 catches for 908 yards and a 75.9 Pro Football Focus grade, then started out just above this level against the Vikings. It's not just Higgins' speed opponents need to watch for but his ability to run routes and use his size. Christian may not even get the second chance to play slot cornerback. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai chose him over Duke Shelley, who finished at the position last year. A series of gaffes in Bears pass coverage let Matthew Stafford pick apart the defense and Christian was part of the mistake that let Cooper Kupp go completely uncovered for a 56-yard TD catch. It's possible the Bears would go back to Shelley but Christian is a bigger slot corner who might match up better size-wise against Higgins.
Bears OLB Robert Quinn vs. Bengals LT Jonah Williams
Williams was one of the big Bengals acquisitions in 2019 but injury troubles each of his first two years—a shoulder in 2019 and neck/knee injuries last year—have held down his snap totals. When Williams plays, he has done so with great effectiveness. Pro Football Focus labeled him one of five offensive linemen set for breakout years in 2021. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder moves well and is a strong technician. Bears right edge Robert Quinn had a solid start to his season, grading out best according to PFF among all Bears on defense and he split a sack with Akiem Hicks. Quinn has been plagued by a back problem and came into the game questionable because of it. The Bears need to have constant pressure on Burrow because he showed last week he could still pick apart a defense even when he's sacked five times, and Quinn is going to need to be more consistent with his pass rush win rate.
Bears RT Germain Ifedi vs. Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson
The biggest Bengals defensive acquisition of the offseason was the New Orleans pass rusher who produced a sack against Minnesota. He had a sack in the Bears' 26-23 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints last year but not going against Ifedi, who was a right guard at the time. Hendrickson didn't face the Bears in the playoff game New Orleans won due to an injury. He is a technique pass rusher more than a speed rusher and has traditional defensive size at 6-4, 270. Hendrickson is an effort rusher who doesn't give up the rush if a first move fails and frequently gets his sacks after a quarterback has had to move in or out of the pocket. Ifedi enjoyed a solid game blocking for the run and didn't allow a sack against the Rams. He missed most of training camp and preseason with a hip-flexor injury but appears fine now and has more closely resembled the player who was a pleasant surprise last year as a low-cost free agent signing. Ifedi's game is strength and power. His problems happen when he doesn't stay square and with Hendrickson's knack for beating the rush on extended plays, there's always the possibility Ifedi's fundamentals can break down in this matchup. The real problem for the Bears is Hendrickson can line up on either side of the formation, which means he could be going against fourth left tackle Elijah Wilkinson if neither Larry Borom nor Jason Peters can play in the game.