1. With Justin Fields officially being named the starter, what should Raider fans expect to see from the Bears’ offense? Also, any word on who is calling plays this week?
I’ll start with the answer to the second question because it really determines the answer to the first. There won’t be word on who is calling plays because Matt Nagy has opted not to answer further questions about that subject, but I believe it will be Bill Lazor. You should see a healthy number of runs from Damien Williams, and I think the Bears' offensive line will be able to move the Raiders' defensive line with enough success that the Bears stick to it.
For the passing game, you’ll see a team trying to find ways to make up for an outmatched pass-blocking line. This will mean a lot of play-action by Bears standards (which may even approach league average!) some extra protection, some quick passes and RPOs. You’ll also see a handful of deep shots. I think the success of the Bears offense this week (and most) will rest on whether those deep shots connect.
2. How do you think the quarterback change will impact the production of Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson? Is one of them a better fit with Fields or will they both get a boost? Also, can you give us an under-the-radar receiving threat for the Bears? It doesn’t have to be an actual wide receiver, just anyone who can impact the passing game
The obvious answer is that Fields will help Darnell Mooney because Mooney is fast and Fields has a good deep ball. But having a real ability to threaten deep helps the Bears in all levels of the passing game, and ultimately I think he helps both of them. I can imagine a game script where a defense focuses on shutting down explosive plays and Allen Robinson ends up feasting in the intermediate and short passing game.
Also, despite his one tragic drop against the Bengals (which I still believe is because ARob was shocked a deep ball actually arrived in the right spot) Robinson isn’t a slough when it comes to threatening deep. He just wins by outmaneuvering and out-positioning the defender rather than raw speed.
3. Chicago’s offensive line took some heat a couple of weeks ago when Fields was sacked nine times. Has that been a consistent issue that Las Vegas might be able to exploit or just a really bad game?
The line is an issue. It’s not consistently a nine sacks-a-game issue, but it’s definitely something Max Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue can take advantage of.
One of the reasons the Browns got so many sacks is that Myles Garrett was able to chase Fields down when he scrambled out of the pocket. I don’t think many edges in the NFL will be able to do that, and I think Fields may have learned to scoot out of town a little quicker because even Garrett wouldn’t have caught Fields if he’d left at full speed.
The other big difference is the Bears (i.e. Bill Lazor) called a lot more play concepts that help a struggling line against the Lions instead of calling plays that help a feasting defensive line as they did against the Browns.
4. The Bears’ defensive line is an absolute juggernaut and has been for a few years now. Can you give us one matchup in the trenches you think the Bears might be able to exploit and another that might tilt in the Raiders’ favor?
I have to pick one? I suppose I’ll go with Alex Leatherwood vs Khalil Mack or Robert Quinn or rotational pass-rusher 2020 5th round pick Trevis Gipson. It sounds like I’m bagging on Leatherwood, and I am. But Trevis Gipson had himself an All-Star performance against the Lions, even embarrassing Penei Sewell, so it’s not really an insult to suggest he might beat your rookie tackle.
If I were to pick a match-up that might tilt in the Raiders' favor, I’ll go with Khalil Mack vs Kolton Miller and Foster Moreau and whatever 6th offensive lineman you choose to put on the field to help block.
5. In your opinion, what’s the best way to attack Chicago’s secondary?
The Bears' secondary is not as intimidating as you might think, especially since the loss of Kyle Fuller this off-season.
In terms of personnel, Jaylon Johnson is really the only one playing above average for his position this season. Nickel corner is the weakest position, currently occupied by Duke Shelley, who’s a developing player that is aggressive and can make some plays but will also get beat a few times again. At some point in this game he’ll line up on Darren Waller and the Bears will be in trouble.
The Bears are also still getting used to Sean Desai’s defensive scheme, which is based on Vic Fangio’s, so it’s a return to form for some, but there has been at least one busted coverage each game so far. I’m hoping that will decrease as everyone gets more comfortable with their assignments, but there should still be an opportunity to take advantage at some point this week.