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Which Team Is Reeling the Least?

The 49ers have lost four straight and the Bears are trying to avoid a third straight defeat, but which one is about ready to call this a season dedicated only to developing a quarterback while forgetting all playoff talk?

The Bears are now facing the potential disaster they went through last year and in 2019.

The possibility of a longer slide that takes them out of competition for a playoff spot looms, although they did rebound from last year's and perhaps a team starting a rookie quarterback shouldn't even ponder such lofty ambitions anyway.

The regular roller-coaster ride of such endeavors normally curtails postseason aspirations.

Toss in the COVID-19 outbreak and the disruption it has caused this week, and it's easy to see why they are 4-point underdogs on their own field to a 49ers team that has lost four straight games.

"I think that although we've had some tough situations and not come out on the side that we wanted to," Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks said. "I think that we still feel strong as a team, you know, that we can push through this season and have some productive games. So we're confident."

The 49ers can say the same, and the loser in this one at five losses would be looking at the possibility of irrelevance the rest of this year.

At the very best, either would be looking at the prospect of a season mainly about developing their rookie passer—as if this wasn't already the case with the Bears.

Here's breaking down Sunday's Bears and 49ers game, who wins and why.

Bears running vs. 49ers run defense

Khalil Herbert hasn't been slowed yet. In fact he seems to be picking up steam and he's running against a banged-up San Francisco defensive front which has dipped to 20th against the run. A major problem for the Bears is what they'll do at right tackle between Elijah Wilkinson or Larry Borom. The player they use could have a huge influence on how well they run against a 49ers run defense which still does have one of the game's most dominant inside linebackers, Fred Warner. No Edge.

Bears passing vs. 49ers pass defense

Largely because of Nick Bosa's pass rush brilliance, the 49ers remain one of the league's better pass defenses despite some obvious flaws. They can't defend deeper passes without committing pass interference penalties and have given up 250 yards in them. They rank next to last in the league with one interception on the year. Justin Fields did not appear last week to handle the blitz well yet but San Francisco is not a big blitzing team. Still, they'll come at the rookie and he has to be better prepared to find hot receivers. No Edge.

49ers running vs. Bears run defense

With tackle Trent Williams healthier than last week and Mike McGlinchey at the other tackle, the 49ers should be able to get their running game going with Elijah Mitchell and Trey Sermon. They'll run Trey Lance occasionally with zone-read plays or bootlegs. The Bears' greatest strength from 2017-2019 was stopping the run but it's been a steady decline to where they are being gashed regularly and rate 23rd now against the run. They need Hicks to help steady this problem badly, but after a month of battling a groin injury he'll still have to prove he can be that dominant presence. Edge to 49ers.

49ers passing vs. Bears pass defense

Jimmy Garoppolo is struggling with turnovers and definitely not in the class of the quarterback the Bears had to face the last two games, but he's still potent enough. And Deebo Samuel poses a threat to defenses whether it's Garoppolo or Lance passing it. Also, a potential threat is wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk in the deep passing game, and the Niners make good use of their tight ends even if they don't have injured George Kittle. Without Khalil Mack, the Bears pass rush can be expected to tail off and it really has been the major factor in holding together a defense which is constantly under pressure because their own offense can't score points. Edge to 49ers.

Special Teams

The 49ers were fortunate to get a kicker with Joey Slye's ability after Robbie Gould went on injured reserve, but he is still no Cairo Santos. The streak now sits at 35 straight for Santos, who is more familiar with the Soldier Field elements at a time of year when this can become a factor. Likewise, Mitch Wishnowsky is a punter averaging 46.4 yards but not as familiar with the difficulties of Soldier Field winds like Pat O'Donnell. He's also the Niners kickoff man. The Bears had a huge boost in returns when Jakeem Grant improved enough to be taken off the injury report after a full practice on Friday following an ankle sprain. The 49ers are among the league's best at covering punts and the Bears are the league's worst. But the Bears are among the league's best at covering kicks and the 49ers among the league's worst. Edge to Bears.

Coaching

As much as Matt Nagy detractors would like to think his absence from Sunday's game would benefit the Bears, it won't. It's already been a disruptive week of preparation and one more bit of disruption is no help. The national media and football in general throws rose petals at the feet of Kyle Shananan and he has had one winning season, one playoff berth and owns a 31-39 record in five seasons. Meanwhile, Nagy has the same number of division titles, a pair of playoff berths, the same number of wins and a better record (31-24) in only four seasons. And Nagy is the one on the hot seat? Some people in San Francisco need to wake up. If Nagy is coaching for his job, someone needs to put heat on Shananan, not to mention 49ers GM John Lynch. No Edge.

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Prediction

The line: 49ers by 4 (over/under 39 1/2).

BearDigest record to date: 6-1 straight up, 7-0 vs. the spread.

Final Score: 49ers 20, Bears 13.

The bottom line is San Francisco has lost four in a row but has lost to and been close to beating some very good teams during their stretch of losses. The Bears have beaten two teams who might be respectable in Cincinnati and Las Vegas, but no one is sure of this regarding those teams. In games when pitted against even better, established opponents, the Bears have wilted. The 49ers are a struggling team within their own division, but compared to the rest of the league they are anything but poor. They are a cut above the Bears, especially with Mack injured and with Williams possibly returning to the 49ers offense.

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