Bears vs. Rams, Week 1: Who has the edge at each position?

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Chicago Bears football returns September 12 in primetime in the first Sunday Night Football matchup of the season against a familiar foe, Matthew Stafford, and the Los Angeles Rams.

The Bears will start Andy Dalton at quarterback despite the national outcry for Justin Fields, and while the quarterback drama has been the primary headline entering Week 1, it’ll be what happens between the lines that actually matters now.

Chicago’s questionable offensive line will face its toughest test of the season against Aaron Donald — not an ideal start — and the Bears’ secondary, which features Jaylon Johnson and a collection of Day-3 picks at cornerback, has almost as tough of a challenge slowing Stafford and in Rams coach Sean McVay’s offense.

The odds seem stacked against the Bears. When breaking down which team is stronger at each position, those odds seem even worse.

Quarterback: Rams

Easy call here. There's no comparison between Stafford and Dalton, and even if rookie Justin Fields enters the game at some point, the edge still belongs to the Rams -- in a big way. Remember: Stafford torched the Bears for over 400 yards and three touchdowns in the Lions' Week 13 victory over Chicago at Soldier Field. Armed with better wide receivers and an offensive genius calling plays, combined with a questionable Bears secondary, the ceiling on Stafford's potential output in Week 1 is very -- very -- high.

Running Back: Bears

David Montgomery gets the nod over Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel. Montgomery proved during the second half of last season that he is a true three-down feature back who's capable of putting an offense on his shoulders. Had Cam Akers been healthy for this one, there would've been at least some debate. But Montgomery is a full tier above Henderson and Michel at this point in their careers.

Wide Receiver: Rams

The Bears will field the best wide receiver Sunday night -- Allen Robinson -- but the Rams have the better all-around wide receiver group. Robert Woods remains one of the NFL's most underrated wideouts and Cooper Kupp is a tactician with production to match. And while an argument can be made that Darnell Mooney pairs with A-Rob to be just as formidable of a tandem as Woods and Kupp, DeSean Jackson at WR3 gives Los Angeles the clear edge. He's a far superior player than anyone Chicago can line up.

Tight End: Bears

Jimmy Graham and Cole Kmet have the potential to emerge as one of the NFL's better 1-2 punches at tight end this year, and they combine to offer the Bears more upside at the position than the Rams, who will live or die by the production provided from Tyler Higbee. Kmet is a breakout candidate in 2021 who has the receiving chops to challenge Higbee's year-end stats.

Offensive Line: Rams

Again, not even close. The Bears are entering Week 1 with one of the worst offensive line configurations in the league. The interior positions are solid with Cody Whitehair, Sam Mustipher, and James Daniels, but there may not be a worse pair of starting offensive tackles in the NFL than Jason Peters and Germain Ifedi. Peters is a likely Hall of Famer, but he's also 39 and his age is evident on tape.

Defensive Front Seven: Rams

This one's close. Both the Bears and Rams have generational talent in their defensive fronts -- Khalil Mack and Donald -- and the complementary players are relatively similar too. But Leonard Floyd's breakout season in 2020 gives Los Angeles more pass-rushing upside (for now) than anything we've seen from Robert Quinn and company. Roquan Smith will be the best inside linebacker on the field, so this is a really, really narrow gap if not a push. When in doubt, go with Donald.

Secondary: Rams

Jalen Ramsey is widely considered the best cornerback in the NFL, and while Jaylon Johnson is an up-and-comer who could emerge as a top-five player at the position in the NFC this year, he's nowhere near Ramsey at this point. When factoring Kindle Vildor as Chicago's other starter, it doesn't matter how much better Eddie Jackson is than the Rams' safeties. The Bears cornerback group needs to prove it's legit before this secondary can be considered better than even average opponents.

Special teams: Rams

Cairo Santos had a better season than Matt Gay last year, so Chicago has the edge at kicker. But the return game remains a mystery for the Bears while the Rams have an established elite returner in Jackson (although Kupp is listed as the team's punt returner) as well as the jets of 2021 second-rounder Tutu Atwell. Chicago struggled covering kicks in the preseason, making the Rams return game versus the Bears' coverage unit a quietly critical aspect of Week 1.

Coach: Rams

Even the biggest Matt Nagy fan can't deny the mismatch in coaches in Week 1. McVay remains the NFL's top offensive mind and has proven he can put up big numbers with limited quarterback talent. Now he has Stafford, and it's scary how good the Rams' offense can be. Nagy was hired to be Chicago's version of McVay, but he's been middling at best as an offensive guru.

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