One of the NFL's most unconventional challenges confronts the Bears in Sunday's game at Soldier Field for the first time.
As such, they're also staring at a number of mismatches.
When a team has a quarterback as its rushing leader, he has almost as many yards as all the running backs on the roster combined but also is passing well enough that Baltimore ranks 10th in the league at passing, it's a unique problem for the defense.
The Ravens rank first in the NFL in rushing because of quarterback Lamar Jackson. Their explosive offense has been able to offset some atypical defensive deficiencies this season as they try to navigate a changing AFC North.
The challenges ahead Sunday for the Bears include these four mismatches.
Bears LG Cody Whitehair vs. Ravens D-Lineman Calais Campbell
Whitehair will not be the only Bears offensive lineman who will face this challenge because the Ravens move the 6-foot-8, 300-pound Campbell up and down the line. Campbell is now 35 years old and has only half a sack on the year but somehow has been a dominant force up front from numerous spots on the line, usually matching up against a guard. Sometimes they'll even put him over the center. What he has done is provide teammates on the line or at linebacker with assistance making plays all year, and he's disrupted so much all year that Pro Football Focus ranks the former Cardinal and Jaguar as the fourth-best interior defensive lineman in the league this season. Only Cameron Heyward, Aaron Donald and Jonathan Allen grade out ahead of him. Campbell's long reach could make it tough on Justin Fields, who has had a few problems with batted passes going for interceptions. Heyward did it to him in the last game. Whitehair had a shaky start according to PFF's blocking grades but has since turned it around like many of the other Bears offensive lineman. PFF grades him No. 27 out of all the league's guards at 66.8, including 68.4 as a run blocker. Whitehair has allowed three sacks this year. That matches a career high, but he still has eight games to avoid adding to the total.
Bears CB Kindle Vildor vs. Ravens WR Marquise Brown
"Hollywood" Brown is having the breakout years many good receivers enjoy in their third season. After making 46 and 58 catches in his first two years, Brown already has 52 catches for 719 yards. His receiving yards per game is 31.8 yards above his career high and he has six TD catches after making 15 in his first two seasons. Brown could challenge 100 catches this year. At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, he's definitely not the big X-receiver type taking a jump ball away along the sidelines. Vildor will have to find a way to match his speed. It won't be only Vildor matching up on him as the Ravens will move him from side to side. They like to throw Brown wide receiver screens when they can't find him downfield, and put their bigger wideouts and their tight ends in front paving the way. Vildor matches up size-wise but can he account for Brown's speed? Vildor remains one of the lower-ranked starting cornerbacks in the league. His completion percentage allowed has begun to drop, now at 72.5%. However he has given up five touchdowns and a 150.3 passer rating when targeted. He also has missed on 14.7% of his tackle attempts, and the Bears can't afford missed tackles in this game.
Bears S Tashaun Gipson vs. Ravens TE Mark Andrews
Finding a way to cover Andrews is a real Bears problem. He is on track for a career-best season as a receiver and has 48 receptions for 623 yards with four TDs, all while posting his best catch percentage at 69.6% of targets. The Bears will need to cover him with a defensive back in man-to-man situations because Roquan Smith will need to be spying on Jackson and their other two inside linebackers are not going to adequately blanket a former Pro Bowl player. Gipson has battled through injuries and played in just six of the nine games, with a passer rating against of 110.6, his worst in the last four seasons, and has given up 77.8% completions when targeted. He also has missed on 14.8% of tackles, another high count in the last four years.
Bears LB Roquan Smith vs. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson
Most of the time quarterbacks will not appear in these matchups because they're throwing the ball all the time and facing entire defenses. But in Jackson's case, his team-high 106 rushing attempts make Smith's biggest job this week spying on the QB. Smith is the best Bears open-field tackler and has great speed, so it's logical to have him tracking a quarterback who runs like the fastest running backs or receivers. Jackson had 21 rushing attempts against Minnesota in Week 9 and has been held to less than 50 rushing yards only twice this season, including last Thursday (39 yards). There are many ways to play Jackson, and Miami did it by blitzing him to limit him to those 39 yards. Being a zone team that rarely blitzes, it's possible the Bears would just stand their ground and let Jackson come to them so they always have eyes on him. They could take their chances by letting him beat them with his arm. If they're playing heavy zone coverage, they need to be more physical than in many games this year.