Bears vs. Dolphins: 5 things to watch (and a prediction) for Week 9 matchup

The Chicago Bears will host the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field and are looking to rebound from an embarrassing road loss to Dallas. Unfortunately, while the offense continues to improve, the defense has been lackluster.

This trend seems likely to continue as the Bears will have a new look on Sunday, trading away star linebacker Roquan Smith to Baltimore and trading for a high-potential wide receiver in Chase Claypool.

It will be a tough week for the Bears at home as the Dolphins are coming to Chicago with one of the most accurate quarterbacks and two superstar wide receivers.

Here are five things to watch in their Week 9 matchup — and a final prediction.

How many snaps will Chase Claypool play?

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Matt Eberflus said the Bears’ new wide receiver would play between 10-35 snaps. That’s a pretty wide range, considering the Bears offense averages 60 plays per game. Since 2020, Claypool played 63% of offensive snaps, growing to 86% this year before getting traded. 

Given that it’s the season’s mid-point, the Bears will hopefully get Claypool on the field for 50+ snaps per game sooner than later. 

The addition of Claypool’s 32 receptions for 311 yards and one touchdown would make him the Bears’ leader in receptions, second-leading receiver in yards, and tied for second-most touchdowns. 

First game for the defense without Roquan Smith

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For the first time in 69 games, the Bears defense is taking the field without their 2018 first-round linebacker. Smith is in Baltimore and spending the rest of his season as a Raven. 

Now the Bears defense will look to plug in journeyman A.J. Klein and undrafted rookies Jack Sanborn and Sterling Weatherford in his place. Chicago is losing 83 tackles, 2.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, and two interceptions – a big hole to fill.

The return of OL Cody Whitehair

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Chicago has activated Cody Whitehair off injured reserve after spending four weeks sidelined with a knee injury. His return is excellent news for the Bears as they return their best offensive lineman. Since being drafted in 2016, Whitehair has played 99 games and was a Pro Bowler in 2018.

As the Bears look to face a revamped Dolphins pass rush, the addition of Whitehair should help quarterback Justin Fields feel more confident in the pocket.

The impact of Bradley Chubb on the Dolphins' pass rush

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The former Bronco instantly upgrades the Dolphins’ pass rush. After giving up a 2023 first-round pick, a 2024 fourth-round pick, and running back Chase Edmonds for Chubb, Miami expects him to contribute immediately. 

The fifth-year veteran is on pace for a 12-sack season and has the third-best pass-rush win rate in the NFL. He immediately improves the Dolphins’ pressure rate from 28th to 15th and will look to disrupt Fields’ and the Bears’ passing offense. 

Handling the dynamic duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle

AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

The Bears are one of the NFL’s worst passing defenses, allowing quarterbacks to complete more than 65% of their passes. However, this year three quarterbacks have completed more than 75% of their passes against this defense – Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, and Dak Prescott. 

This year, Tua Tagovailoa is completing nearly 70%, and his star receivers, Hill and Waddle, are combining for 14 receptions, 211 yards, and one touchdown per game. So it will be challenging for the Bears to contain all three – Tagovailoa, Hill, and Waddle. 

Final Prediction: Dolphins 23, Bears 21

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears will fall short of the Dolphins. After trading away Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith, the defense lacks the horses to keep up with the Dolphins’ athletes.

Hopefully, Chicago keeps their momentum on offense. If they do, expect the team to continue to score more than their season average of 19 points per game – but more is needed to win.

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Story originally appeared on Bears Wire