The Chicago Bears will battle the 49ers at home to kick off the 2022 season, where the Bears will look to pull off the upset against the favored 49ers.
This matchup marks the second consecutive year these two teams will meet. San Francisco leads the all-time series 35-32-1 and is looking to extend its one-game win streak. Chicago will look to play near-flawless football as they begin the Matt Eberflus era with second-year quarterback Justin Fields leading the offense.
From Trey Lance’s debut to opportunities for players on defense, here are five things to watch in the Bears’ week one matchup — and a final prediction!
Can the Bears defense put a damper on the Trey Lance era?
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It’s the start of the Trey Lance era. Unfortunately, he’s not the prototypical Shanahan offense quarterback. He isn’t Matt Ryan or Jimmy Garoppolo, but more Donovan McNabb. At his best, he’s a playmaker. But at his worst, he’s an inaccurate passer that takes too many sacks.
The Bears have a chance to confuse Lance early and force him to scramble and make mistakes with the football. Lance didn’t throw the ball much in college. Will he struggle with the complexity and timing of the Shanahan offense?
Will this be the beginning of the Justin Fields era?
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It’s officially the Justin Fields era. The second-year quarterback is the undisputed starter and isn’t looking over his shoulder. But there are questions if this season is the start of the Fields era or some form of football purgatory.
This year, Fields has a patchwork offensive line and a lack of star power at wide receiver as a quarterback. Everyone knows the Bears will have cap space and draft picks next year, but can first-year offensive coordinator Luke Getsy call a game that allows Fields to flourish against the 49ers’ defense?
Bears OL vs. 49ers DL
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The 49ers had the third best defense in the NFL last year. San Francisco has a balanced defense that excels against the run and the pass. While they don’t force many turnovers, they prevent teams from scoring and have one of the NFL’s best pass rush win rates.
The Bears have reshuffled their offensive line, and everyone knows rookie Braxton Jones is taking on Nick Bosa, but many overlook defensive tackles Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw. The duo will pressure the combination of Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick/Teven Jenkins.
Bears LB vs. 49ers RB
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I’ve mentioned the Bears’ lack of depth at linebacker, and the zone running scheme depends on offensive linemen getting to the second level and blocking linebackers.
The Bears starting linebackers will have their work cut out for them as Elijah Mitchell looks to repeat his 137 yards, one touchdown performance. And behind Mitchell is another strong zone runner in Jeff Wilson.
Chicago looked to upgrade their linebacking corps by adding speed. However, San Francisco will put their speed to the test on Sunday.
Deebo Samuel vs. Bears' defense
AP Photo/David Banks
Last year, Deebo Samuel had six receptions for 171 yards in a 33-22 win. During his offseason negotiations, he asked for fewer rushing attempts, but if Trey Lance struggles, could we see Deebo return to his “wide back” hybrid role?
Prediction: 49ers 26, Bears 17
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While this meeting will be closer than last year’s, the Bears will lose again. As often happens, there’s too much focus on the 49er’s offense and not enough on their defense.
San Francisco is bringing back one of the best defenses in the NFL, and the Bears have put together an offensive line with one proven player – Cody Whitehair. However, the defense will be the deciding factor in this game.
The Bears will likely move the pocket for Fields if he’s getting pressured early. While it helps the offense, it’s equally advantageous to the defense, which now only has to defend half the field.
Lance will struggle, but the 49ers can lean on the run in crucial moments. Right now, I don’t think the Bears defense doesn’t have the depth on the defensive line to hang against a power-run attack.