Game Preview: Buffalo Bills @ Chicago Bears
After an impressive, yet stressful, divisional win against the Miami Dolphins, the Buffalo Bills travel to Chicago for a chance to win their third straight divisional title. This game should be easier for them against a underwhelming and very banged-up Bears team.
The Last Five
Bears 41 Bills 9 (2018)
Bills 23 Bears 20 OT (2014)
Bears 22 Bills 19 (2010)
Bears 40 Bills 7 (2006)
Bills 33 Bears 27 OT (2004)
The Bills and Bears do not play often. In fact, this will only be the 14th game between the two teams. The games over the past two decades mostly fall into two categories: a Bills overtime win or a Bears blowout win. The 2018 game between these two teams featured the last time we would see Nathan Peterman in a Buffalo Bills uniform. The final play of the first half is still mocked by some on social media today. Down 28-0, Peterman decided not to take a shot at the endzone, but instead ran the ball up the right side for a gain of 24 before stepping out of bounds. Yikes.
What To Watch For: Buffalo Bills
Next Step – The Bills know their task. As they have been saying for weeks, “everything we want is in front of us”. While the Bills technically didn’t win the division last weekend, it would require an 0-3 finish and a 3-0 finish by the Dolphins for them to surrender the title. Everyone is focused on the #1 seed, but the team must go through the proper steps first. You don’t have to worry about the team overlooking this game for the AFC’s top spot. It is clear that Sean McDermott has his team very focused this time of year, their message is in lock step. Since their win on Sunday the messaging has been “it was our first step… you can’t win the Super Bowl without making the playoffs”. The division title is the next step, as the team cannot get the #1 seed without a division title.
Run Defense – The run game has been a concern for fans this week after watching Raheem Mostert shred the Bills defense for 10-yard runs at a time. I was listening to One Bills Live this week and the overwhelming consensus is that the Bills were dead set on not getting beat by Hill and Waddle through the air. No matter the success that the Dolphins were having on the ground, Frazier to blink; he refused to switch out of his nickel defense. As soon as the Bills did that, you can bet Tua and the Dolphins offense would have taken the top off of the defense. As the Bills inch closer to the postseason, teams will be watching them for weaknesses. Another woeful performance defending the run like last week could create a blueprint for teams in January.
What To Watch For: Chicago Bears
Justin Fields – Justin Fields is the latest quarterback to take the league by storm with his insane talent as a rusher. Fields has eclipsed the 1,000 rushing yard mark on the season and has been vocal that his goal is to break Lamar Jackson’s single season record (1,206 rushing yards). Fields will be hard to contain, but the Bills have a fantastic track record against rushing quarterbacks during McDermott’s tenure.
The Bills shut down Lamar in the 2020 playoffs and surrendered 73 rushing yards to him back in Week 4. Buffalo also did a nice job of containing Kyler Murray a few years back. And, as we all remember, they did not win that game because Murray ran wild. The Bills have been able to limit the damage from rushing quarterbacks over the past few years. Now, Justin Fields will get his turn.
Just A Tad Chilly – A record-setting cold is hitting the US this weekend, and the Windy City is no exception. As Bills fans know well, weather can be the great equalizer in the game of football. And the Bears need all the equalizing they can get against Josh Allen and the Bills. As of Friday, the wind chill is expected to be 10-15 degrees below zero at kickoff with wind gusts up to 30mph. Tough to throw, tough to kick, and quite frankly, tough to play. The weather continues to be a black cloud over the team the past two years. Will the Christmas freeze prove to be a stumbling block, or just another hurdle the team overcame.
Bills 26 Bears 15 Josh Allen will play his 31st team on Saturday and, with another division title on the line, I expect him to show up in a big way. Everyone is talking about Fields’ rushing ability but I think, given the weather, Allen is just as much of a threat to go over 100 yards tomorrow. I’ll take the Buffalo Bills in a comfortable win on the road. Merry Christmas Bills fans!
Featured Image: AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski