Rams vs. Chicago Bears: Who has the edge?

RAMS (11-1) at BEARS (8-4)

When: Sunday, 5:20 p.m.

Where: Soldier Field

Line: Rams by 3

TV/radio: NBC Ch. 4; 710-AM, 93.1-FM, 1330-AM (Spanish)

RAMS OFFENSE vs. BEARS DEFENSEWhen the Rams fail to move the ball and a lightning-quick pace, it raises some eyebrows. What other team could score 30 points and have people ask, “What’s wrong?” Yet quarterback Jared Goff certainly looked off last week against Detroit, and now the Rams face a Chicago defense that leads the NFL this season with 21 interceptions, and also has a fierce pass rush that includes Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks. All of that, coupled with expected frigid temperatures, mean the Rams likely will attempt to run the ball, but the Bears have allowed only 3.7 yards per rush this season. Still, the Bears haven’t faced very many stellar offensive units this season, and it’s tough to see Goff having two subpar games in a row. EDGE: RAMS

BEARS OFFENSE vs. RAMS DEFENSEChicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is expected to return after a two-game absence with a shoulder injury, which will be interesting. The Bears need to throw the ball to have success, but they would be putting Trubisky into the lineup a week after Rams defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh combined to put on a clinic against the Lions. Not an ideal return. The Bears likely will try to exploit matchups and get running back Tarik Cohen on a Rams linebacker. Cohen has had only a negligible impact on the Bears’ offense as a runner, but last week, he had 156 receiving yards. The Rams should benefit from increased playing time for cornerback Aqib Talib, who was limited in his return to action last week. EDGE: BEARS

SPECIAL TEAMSKickers typically only attract attention in negative ways, and Chicago’s Cody Parkey had quite a day in the Bears’ Nov. 11 game against Detroit, when Parkey hit a goal post four times on kick attempts. It was such a story that, a few days later, a Chicago television station had a helicopter over Soldier Field to film Parkey practicing kicks. Parkey has bounced back in his last three games and has made all six of his field-goal attempts and all five of his extra-point attempts. Bears punter Pat O’Donnell has dropped 19 of his 46 attempts inside the opponent’s 20. All is still well with the Rams’ stellar special teams. EDGE: RAMS

COACHINGThe trend, in this coming offseason, might be for teams with head-coach openings to find “the next Sean McVay.” That’s dangerous, because it’s impossible to clone any coach or exactly replicate his style, but the Bears might have been one year ahead of the curve, and might have made a great hire in Matt Nagy. The Bears failed to have a winning record or make the playoffs in five seasons under Marc Trestman and John Fox, but in his first year, Nagy has them on the verge of their first NFC North title since 2010. Still, McVay probably is underrated this year, given his ability to keep the Rams on top in the NFC. EDGE: RAMS

INTANGIBLESThe Rams’ offense wasn’t at its best last week, and the Bears’ defensive scheme contains some similarities to that of Detroit’s system. That could cause some problems for Goff, but what might be more important is the weather. The kickoff temperature is expected to be in the mid-20s, similar to what it was in Denver in October, when the Rams scored a season-low 24 points and Goff didn’t look entirely comfortable while wearing gloves. Goff said this week that he would make a game-time decision about whether to put the gloves back on this week, in front of what should be a raucous Soldier Field crowd. EDGE: BEARS

MATCHUP TO WATCHRams right tackle Rob Havenstein vs. Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack. No surprise here. Any time Mack is on the field – and he’s almost always on the field – the Rams will have to account for him, likely with extra blocking. That’s not easy, because while Mack’s natural position is to line up on the left side, the Bears also move him around, which means he could be matched up against Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth. The Rams have confidence in both of their tackles, and Havenstein in particular has had a breakthrough season, but the Bears love to get pressure on the outside, which has helped lead to their NFL-high 21 interceptions.

PREDICTION: RAMS 24, BEARS 21If they played this game at the Coliseum, it probably wouldn’t be close. Perhaps that’s giving too much attention to the weather, but it’s worth noting that in their two coldest games in the past 12 months, the Rams failed to top 27 points. Of course, they won both games. This one comes down to Goff’s ability to avoid mistakes and the Rams’ ability to get Todd Gurley going. Given what is at stake – the Rams can clinch a first-round bye with a victory – count on McVay to dial up his best for the offense. It’s probably going to be a tight game in the fourth quarter and, if so, Trubisky better keep an extra-close eye on Donald.

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