The Los Angeles Rams have a chance to clinch a first-round playoff bye when they visit the Chicago Bears on Sunday night at Soldier Field.
Los Angeles (11-1) clinched the NFC West title for the second straight season. A win this weekend would give the Rams their first playoff bye since the 2003 season, when Mike Martz coached the team in St. Louis.
“It’s crazy right now, the energy and what’s going on,” Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said this week to the Los Angeles Times. “It’s just amazing — crazy in a good way. And we’ve got to keep it going.”
A difficult challenge awaits against Chicago (8-4), which also has sights on the postseason in its first season under head coach Matt Nagy. The Bears won five games in a row before losing in overtime to the New York Giants.
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has sat out the past two games because of a shoulder injury but will return for the prime-time matchup, Nagy confirmed. He has passed for 2,469 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season, while backup Chase Daniel has passed for 515 yards, three touchdowns and two picks in two starts.
“He put together three really good days in practice,” Nagy said. “The velocity on his throws was good. His decision-making, just getting in and out of the huddle, that part was easy.
“The main thing was really seeing, conditioning-wise, can he hold up? And he did well.”
Both teams boast high-caliber offenses to go along with defenses that are hungry for takeaways.
The Rams are averaging 34.9 points per game thanks to a dynamic attack that includes, among others, Jared Goff at quarterback and MVP candidate Todd Gurley at running back. Gurley already has 1,649 yards from scrimmage (1,175 rushing, 474 receiving) and 19 total touchdowns (15 rushing, four receiving).
The Bears are not too far behind, averaging 28.7 points per contest. Anthony Miller and Tarik Cohen have scored six touchdowns apiece, while Trey Burton and Jordan Howard have five touchdowns apiece.
On defense, the Bears rank first in the NFL with a plus-30 takeaway margin. The Rams (plus-22) are tied for fourth.
Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack has thrived since Chicago acquired him from the Oakland Raiders before the start of the season. In 10 games, he has nine sacks, five forced fumbles and an interception return for a score.
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald has 16.5 sacks to lead the league. He has a shot at former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record of 22.5.
“I’m just playing football,” Donald said to NFL Network last week. “Whatever happens, happens.”
—Field Level Media