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Not Much Going for Bears, Including Home Field

As if the Bears don't have to worry about enough facing the team with the NFL's best record, they also have to put up with the chance their fans will turn on them.

Matt Nagy had to give the Alamo talk to his team this week, except on a far lesser scale.

No lives are on the line and the only things the Bears are protecting these days are their mathematical chance at the playoffs and Justin Fields. And this week they won't be protecting their rookie quarterback, who is the sole reason for watching these games.

The Arizona Cardinals bring the best record in the NFL to Soldier Field after the Bears beat the worst team in the NFL.

So what does the Alamo talk sound like in the NFL?

When a coach invokes parity, it usually means they don't have a prayer of winning and Nagy trotted this word out when describing the situation going against Kliff Kingsbury's high-flying team.

"I would say this, No. 1, I'm sure that coach Kingsbury is also saying that in the NFL, the parity that there is, the records, you can throw records out," Nagy said. "That said, we understand the type of team that we're going up against. This is a team that is highly explosive on offense, they fly around on defense, they're opportunistic on special teams, they're well coached, and they're coming off a bye. They're getting healthy."

It wasn't exactly the kind of thing the networks like to hear for ratings.

"At the same point in time, I know the respect that our players have for one another in our building, in our side, and I know how they see this and it's a great opportunity," Nagy said. "That's the way we're approaching it is respecting them but at the same point in time making sure that we go out there and fight every single play."

All things being equal, the Bears might stand a chance against even a team as explosive as Arizona when they have both Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn on each edge of the defensive line, Akiem Hicks inside pushing back the pocket and Roquan Smith ready to take out anyone who gets past them. Those players let their secondary get by each week.

When they have Allen Robinson on offense they have the dependable target capable of extending drives. If Fields played, they had another way of extending drives besides his threat as a downfield passer and that's his running ability. They have neither of those working in their favor on Sunday. They will have the threat of David Montgomery but the only time they've run the ball effectively with a pocket passer operating their offense in the last two seasons was the 2021 season opener when the Rams lost interest in stopping the run after piling up a huge lead. In other words, it will be tough sledding for Montgomery.

At least the Bears have home-field edge against a warm-weather team in the cold and possibly rain at Soldier Field. How much that edge means when they fall behind and fans start chanting "fire Nagy" again remains to be seen.

Here's who wins the Bears-Cardinals game on the lakefront Sunday, and why, as if you had to ask.

Bears Running the Ball

Montgomery is overdue for a big effort after returning from a knee injury and the Cardinals are giving up more than 5 yards per run when teams go up the middle or to anywhere on the right side of the offensive line. Arizona is 17th against the run and the only way the Bears pull this off is by running it. As mentioned, they haven't run well without either Fields or Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback in the last two years, occupying the defense's attention as possible alternative run threats. There's no reason to think they understand how to correct this problem now. No Edge.

Bears Passing the Ball

The Bears will be counting on a passing attack with Damiere Byrd and Darnell Mooney as the only real receiving threats, unless return man Jakeem Grant can counted on again. The tight ends will need to contribute heavily but considering the 28 sacks Arizona has and the pressure the Cardinals put on a quarterback with their exotic looks and disguises, Andy Dalton will need his tight ends sticking around in the backfield to pass block. Arizona is fourth in the league in pass defense but has no one in the top 25 in passes defended. The Cardinals run a scheme similar to Pittsburgh's and the Bears passed on the Steelers but did it with Justin Fields' big arm throwing downfield. Arizona's top cornerback at breaking up passes, Byron Murphy Jr., is injured. You don't need your starters in when the pass rush has the opposing QB on his back and the Bears still lead the league in sacks allowed (37). Edge to Cardinals.

Cardinals Passing

Robert Quinn's pass rush and Roquan Smith covering the short areas is this Bears pass defense now. They still allowed 21 of 25 passes to be completed by Detroit, so it's not fixed in the secondary even with Artie Burns and Xavier Crawford playing for Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley. And Smith might not play, or at least play effectively, after his hamstring pull. The concern about Kyler Murray being healthy really is unnecessary. The Cardinals are fully capable of winning easily with Colt McCoy at quarterback with all the passing targets available. Murray just makes it a little easier and with longer passes. Edge to the Cardinals.

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Cardinals Running

While everyone worries about Arizona's explosive passing attack, there are a couple of rushing numbers making it obvious this is a very well-balanced offense. For one, the Cardinals are 10th in rushing. Also, they are fourth in rushing attempts with former Steelers running back James Conner, Chase Edmonds combining for 222 rushing attempts and Murray 147 rushing yards, as well. Arizona can use the horizontal ground game effectively, with explosive Rondale Moore on end-arounds or jet sweeps. The Bears had trouble stopping this facet of the ground attack against Pittsburgh and the Rams. A struggling 22nd-ranked run defense looked better for the Bears on Thanksgiving even with Hicks out and with Smith missing part of the game. Still, that was partly due to knocking running back D'Andre Swift out of the game with an injury. Edge to Cardinals.

Special Teams

Matt Prater is not having a Matt Prater year for the Cardinals (15 of 20) and it's never easy going outdoors in elements when you've spent the season kicking in ideal conditions. But Bears kicker Cairo Santos is in a bit of a funk himself. Moore and Eno Benjamin in the return game have been no more effective than Jakeem Grant for the Bears. And the Cardinals are allowing as much in the return game as they get, if not more. No Edge.

Coaching

Kingsbury has already outcoached Nagy this week by keeping everyone guessing about whether Murray starts or receiver DeAndre Hopkins plays, while the Bears have made it known their QB will be the stationary target and not the mobile one. Kingsbury doesn't have to coach with the possibility of fan wrath looming like Nagy does when the "Fire Nagy" chant and booing begin. One possible Bears edge brought up this week is Dalton has some insight into how to beat the system of Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph because they were together in Cincinnati, but Joseph wasn't even the defensive coordinator then. He was simply the DB coach. Arizona isn't using the Bengals defensive system. Edge to Cardinals.

Final Score

The Line: Cardinals by 7 1/2 (over/under 42 1/2).

BearDigest Record: 10-1 straight up, 8-3 vs. the spread.

Prediction: Cardinals 27, Bears 16

The Bears average 16 points a game whether it's Dalton or Fields at quarterback. Sixteen points can beat teams like Detroit, possibly even a good team without its quarterback like Baltimore was when the Bears lost 16-13. But beating a well-coached team with a well-conceived defensive scheme, a sharp, balanced offense regardless of quarterback, and doing it while your own fans boo you and holler to fire your coach truly is a football version of the Alamo.

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