The Las Vegas Raiders’ Week 7 matchup against the Chicago Bears is an interesting one, but not because these are two teams who are expected to meet again for the Lombardi trophy in February. Instead, this game is unique because we will likely see two backup quarterbacks duke it out and, potentially, two rookies at that.
Q: It sounds like Justin Fields will be out for the game so what can you tell us about Tyson Bagent, besides the fact that his dad is literally the best arm wrestler in the world?
A: Bagent’s story is a fascinating one. This is a UDFA rookie who had very few expectations coming into this season and why would he? He was the quarterback at Division II Shepherd University. Don’t get me wrong, Bagent put up excellent numbers, but they were against Division II competition. Bagent made the most of his preseason opportunities and the Bears decided he was worth keeping on the 53-man roster, presumably to protect him from being poached by another team off waivers or off their practice squad. After a few weeks he was elevated to QB2 and Nathan Peterman was demoted to QB3.
A lot of Bears fans are excited to see what Bagent can do, but personally, expectations should be limited. Yes, he’s a fantastic story, but he’s still a UDFA rookie who turned the ball over twice in one half of football in his debut. He’s efficient with the football. He progresses through his reads quickly and gets the ball out quickly. But he lacks arm strength and that was evident on multiple throws against Minnesota. He won’t be able to beat teams with a lot of explosive plays, but he should be able to move the chains and string together some drives with a good utilization of the quick game.
Q: I know Chicago’s offensive line as a whole has been bad so far this season, but it seems like rookie Darnell Wright is playing well so far. What have you seen from Wright, and do you think he’s ready for a tough challenge going against Maxx Crosby?
A: It should be really fun to watch Wright and Crosby square off on Sunday. I know Crosby rarely moves around and largely lines up over right tackle so that should give us plenty of plays to see them square off. Wright certainly has had some rookie bumps along the way and his game against Minnesota might have been the weakest game of the season, but that doesn’t mean it was bad. Wright has been better than expected as a rookie right tackle.
He shows tremendous strength and is able to keep his hands engaged on defenders and now allow them to get into his pads. His footwork has been pretty good and he’s shown some plays in the run game where he’s flat-out manhandled some guys.
I think Wright has shown enough to be confident that he’s going to be no worse than a solid right tackle in this league for several years with the potential to be even better. He will absolutely be able to handle Crosby on multiple plays, but he’s a rookie and he’s going to make mistakes and someone like Crosby is too good to not take advantage of those. This should be fun to watch with each player winning some reps and it should make for a good chess match over three hours.
Q: With Tremaine Edmunds signing a big contract with the Bears in the offseason, I feel like T.J. Edwards was more of an under-the-radar free-agent addition and Edwards has been playing well to start the season. What has he brought to the defense?
A: Edwards has definitely outplayed Edmunds to this point and he probably had his best game of the season on Sunday against Minnesota. He had 8 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble and almost had a fumble recovery but he was ruled out of bounds and even some Minnesota reporters thought the Vikings had gotten away with that one. On the season Edwards is leading the team in tackles and is actually tied for the lead with quarterback sacks as well.
Edwards is a smart player who uses his instincts but has been able to combine speed with power and disrupt offenses at times. The Bears' defense overall hasn’t been great and Edwards certainly hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been one of the few guys on the defensive side of the ball that has shown he’s capable of making a big play from time to time.
The linebacker's biggest issue has been that of poor defensive line play that hasn’t been giving them clean running lanes. If the defensive line can improve their play, Edwards should be able to have an even bigger impact on the field.
Q: Davante Adams terrorized Chicago’s secondary for years with Green Bay, but that also was with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball and Las Vegas will likely be rolling with a backup quarterback on Sunday. So, how confident are you that the Bears’ secondary can keep Adams in check?
A: If Adams had a great thrower of the football working with him on Sunday, no I don’t think they would keep him in check. Jaylon Johnson is healthy again and he’s a strong corner, but not at the skill level that Adams brings. But with a rookie making his second start, and Adams frustrated that he’s not getting the ball enough, that gives me enough hope that Adams won’t dominate the Bears simply by the situation and not because of some great defense by Chicago.
There’s no reason to think Adams won’t get some opportunities to shine, but the Bears secondary does have some solid players so he shouldn’t just be running free. The biggest issue is that the Bears pass rush is dreadful. If O’Connell can have patience in the backfield and trust his protection, if you give Adams enough time, he’s going to shake his defender and break free, he’s just too good not to do it.
Q: Building on that, this game features the lowest total points line on DraftKings Sportsbook at 37.5. Do you think there’s any chance the over hits, and how do you feel about the Raiders being a field goal favorite on the road?
A: With a matchup that looks like Aidan O’Connell against Tyson Bagent, I certainly don’t think this one is going to be a high-scoring affair. Just the idea of two rookie QBs starting and one of them being his first career start as a UDFA, this one is going to be low-scoring.
Could the final be 21-17 and the over hits? Sure, but if you are going to bet the point total in this one, the play has to be under.
As for the Bears being underdogs, they should be. As far as I can tell, this Raiders team has some holes, but they also have managed to win football games, something this Bears team struggles with. Even with this being in Chicago, I think Vegas is the smart play. On my podcast earlier this week, I predicted the outcome to be Raiders 16, Bears 12.