The Cincinnati Bengals get a rare chance to play the Chicago Bears this week. It has been a few years since these teams have met, so it seemed like a good time to catch up with Patti Curl aka Dr. Opinion Bear from Windy City Gridiron to get their perspective on Sunday’s matchup.
Patrick Judis: Have to start with and Andy Dalton question. How long do you think he holds onto the job and opinion of how he has looked in Chicago?
Patti Curl: Let’s start with part two. Andy Dalton has looked about as good as I could have hoped in Chicago. He’s been able to execute the game plan, make the right decision most of the time, and deliver mostly accurate balls on uninspired throws. If the Bears defense was still playing at its 2018 peak and the O line was playing at a league average level, I’d feel comfortable with Dalton as the Bears QB. The problem is, the team around Dalton is not good enough to make a playoff run with him under center, and the Bears have a much more exciting, higher ceiling, presumable-future-of-the-franchise rookie waiting on the sideline.
So how long does Dalton hold onto the job? That’s going to be up to what Nagy and the Bears think is best for Fields’ development. And I honestly believe that’s something they are still figuring out. My guess is Fields continue to play increasing snaps. I’ll say he finally takes over in Week 5 after their first bye Lions week.
PJ: The Bears faced the Rams last week. It seemed like Chicago had some issues slowing them down. I don’t know if you happened to hear but Zac Taylor kind of knew Sean McVay, so their offenses are kind of similar in concept. What were some of the things that gave the Bears’ defense issues?
PC: The Bears issues came down to giving up three huge passing plays (two for touchdowns) in what looked like a combination of blown coverages and good execution. One of the blown coverages looked like a play where Marqui Christian (a roster-depth surprise start at nickel corner) was expected to cover Cooper Kupp one on one as deep as he went. So it was kind of the perfect play call against a bad matchup as well. And on the simplest level, the Bears weakness is their secondary, and the Rams took advantage of that.
The Bears are back to playing a derivative of Vic Fangio’s defense. Sean McVay has been obsessed with this defense since the Bears completely shut him down with it in 2018 and then the Patriots effectively followed the blueprint to shut him down again in the Super Bowl. So McVay hired Brandon Staley (a Fangio disciple) to install a version of that defense for the Rams, not just because it was good, but so he would be better equipped to beat it.
So I guess the question is whether the Bengals scheme is going to look like the 2018 Rams that the Bears managed to smother or look like the 2021 Rams that walked all over us?
PJ: We saw that Chicago clearly has an offensive package in mind for Justin Fields. How did he look in limited play?
PC: He looked great in the two plays he was asked to do anything. One was an RPO where he made the correct decision and threw a 9 yard completion. The other was a goal line run where he showed his impressive athleticism plus good vision and decision-making to slip through a small hole for his first touchdown. One of the criticisms with Justin Fields has been that he can hold on to the ball for too long. He wasn’t given the opportunity to do that with the plays he was given, so I’m interested to see how that goes as he’s given more opportunities.
PJ: Who is someone offensively and defensively that you think will play a part in the game on Sunday that Bengals fans may not be aware of?
PC: For offense, I’ll go with #85 Cole Kmet. He’s a second year tight end who has clearly stepped into the number one role. Week 1, he had 7 targets, and on an additional infamous 4th-down play, Dalton had him wide open but threw a contested incomplete to Allen Robinson instead. He’s a do-it-all tight end with good receiving ability and decent speed that should be a big part of their offensive game plan.
For defense, I’ll go with #98 Bilal Nichols. He’s a 4th year defensive end who’s improved every year and has flashed big play ability. If the Bengals focus their attention on stopping Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, he should have the chance to feast in the backfield.
PJ: What is your prediction for the game?
PC: The Bears weaknesses are the offensive line and secondary, which is similar to the other NFC North team you just beat. So I think the Bengals can take advantage of that and keep this close. I already predicted 5 Dalton TDs in the questions I sent you, and obviously Fields will get one, and let’s give Santos a boot-in for 3. So 45 Bears and 39 for the Bengals, who have the ball with a chance to win, but Akiem Hicks seals the Bears victory with a game-ending sack.
Thanks again to Patti Curl aka Dr. Opinion Bear for taking the time out to answer our questions. If you’d like to check out more of their work or Bears’ coverage ahead of Sunday, head over to Windy City Gridiron.