Chicago Bears vs. Cleveland Browns preview: Who has the advantage in Week 3?

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The Chicago Bears (1-1) will face the Cleveland Browns (1-1) on Sunday, where Chicago will be looking for their second straight win. It will also mark rookie quarterback Justin Fields’ first NFL start following injury to Andy Dalton.

When it comes to determining who wins football games, there are a number of factors that contribute to a victory. Solid quarterback play, winning the line of scrimmage, protecting the football and taking it away, controlling important situations and overcoming or taking advantage of an injury situation.

In our weekly preview series, Alyssa Barbieri from Bears Wire and Jared Mueller from Browns Wire went deep into the matchup to determine who has the advantage at the five key factors for winning football games in the NFL.

Quarterback play

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Bears Wire: With Andy Dalton considered week-to-week with a bone bruise on his knee, it’ll be the rookie Justin Fields who will make his first NFL start against the Browns. While Fields had his share of rookie mistakes stepping in for an injured Dalton midway through last week’s game, Fields should benefit from a full week of preparing as a starter and with a game plan suited for his skillset. Fields has the ability to make something out of nothing, and his mobility will certainly put the Browns defense on notice. But it’s also Fields’ first NFL start, where we can also expect to see growing pains. Browns Wire: At a very base level, Baker Mayfield has been elite through two weeks of the 2021 NFL season. While that is a very small sample size, Mayfield's play in the second half of the 2020 season was also high level. His ball placement has been excellent leading to completing 81.6% of his passes despite pushing the ball downfield regularly. His two interceptions have explanations that make them easily understandable. Using a variety of weapons since Odell Beckham J.r was injured, Mayfield gets his best weapon back in Week 3 against Chicago. Advantage: Browns

Line of scrimmage

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Bears Wire: The Bears defensive line remains a strength of their team, and they’ll need a strong outing against the Browns if they’re looking to upset Cleveland. Chicago’s defensive line should be getting back a key defensive lineman, rotational lineman Mario Edwards Jr., who was serving a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman will miss the game. The Bears offensive line remains a big question mark, especially given the importance of protecting Fields in his first start and opening up holes for running back David Montgomery, which would also help take pressure off Fields. Browns Wire: For the Browns, the line of scrimmage is a tale of opposites. Their offensive line is one of the best in the game. Through two games, Cleveland's line is the only one graded in the top three, according to Pro Football Focus. There are injury concerns across the line, except for Wyatt Teller, that could create some limitations this week against the good Bears defensive line. The Browns defensive line is full of big names that are talented but haven't produced early in the season. Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Takk McKinley and Malik Jackson form a foundation on the line but they haven't produced enough pressure on the quarterback or enough push in the run game. Advantage: Push

Turnovers

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Bears Wire: The Bears have a turnover differential of +1, which is encouraging considering where they started in Week 1. Chicago’s defense forced four turnovers against the Bengals last week, including three straight interceptions thrown by Joe Burrow and a fumble recovery. Last week, Fields had a costly interception that kept Cincinnati in the game. He also had a fumble, which he recovered, but Fields is going to have to take better job at taking care of the football – as is the entire team – if they hope to keep up with the Browns. Browns Wire: Mayfield's first interception came late in Week 1 when a defender grabbed his foot as he was throwing away the ball while his Week 2 interception happened when his rookie receiver stopped on a route. Nick Chubb rarely fumbles but lost one already this year. The defense, playing mostly zone to try to create turnovers, has not been able to do so. Malcolm Smith had a diving interception last week but that is the lone turnover that side of the ball has forced. Advantage: Bears

Situational

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Bears Wire: Despite the opening drive of the game, where Chicago scored on their first possession, the Bears offense struggled against the Bengals, which had some to do with timing issues and miscommunication with Fields getting in the game. After all, he didn’t get reps with the starters during training camp or preseason. The Bears converted 6-of-11 third downs (40%), and they went 0-for-1 on fourth down conversions. There were some red zone struggles, unlike last week when they scored two touchdowns in the red zone. Chicago’s only offensive touchdown was an 11-yard touchdown from Andy Dalton to Allen Robinson. The Bears need to focus on sustaining drives, red-zone efficiency and scoring more points if they hope to pull off the upset. Browns Wire: As true in the other areas, the Browns offense has been good in most situational football while the defense has struggled greatly. While the offense has only converted 38% of their third down attempts, they have converted three of their four fourth down attempts. They are also converting in the red zone at a high clip (six of seven red zone trips ending with a touchdown) primarily with a great rushing attack. On the other side of the ball, opponents are converting on 63% of their third downs and have scored five touchdowns on seven red zone attempts. The defense has struggled making plays in the big moments. Advantage: Browns

Injuries

Kena Krutsinger-USA TODAY Sports

Bears Wire: The Bears could be without two key defensive starters against the Browns as safety Tashaun Gipson (hamstring) is doubtful after suffering a hamstring injury during practice this week. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who missed the previous two games, has been ruled out with a knee injury. Dalton has already been declared out of Sunday’s game, which paves the way for Fields to make his first NFL start. There are a handful of players questionable, including defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, wide receiver Darnell Mooney and outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, but they’re all expected to suit up Sunday against the Browns. Browns Wire: Cleveland has had a number of important injuries early this season. Besides the banged up offensive line, who should all play, the team will be without starting receiver Jarvis Landry and linebacker Anthony Walker. Walker was the team's defensive play caller prior to the injury. Sione Takitaki, the team's starting strong side linebacker, will also miss the game while the team's top backup offensive lineman, Chris Hubbard, will also be out for the game. Beckham returns from injury but will likely be on a limited snap count. Grant Delpit made his NFL debut last week and could, like Beckham, could continue to be limited in Week 3. Advantage: Push

Verdict: Advantage Browns

Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

While this game is certainly winnable for the Bears, the Browns have an advantage in several areas that will ultimately decide the game. While Fields should certainly improve in his first NFL start, with a week to prepare and a game plan suited for him, there will certainly be some growing pains for the rookie, and there's not a lot of faith in Matt Nagy to call a good game. Cleveland's offense is solid both in the air and on the ground, as the Browns are averaging 154 rushing yards per game and Baker Mayfield is the most accurate quarterback in the league right now. If the Bears play mistake-free football, they should be able to keep things close. But the margin for error is small. [listicle id=482383] [listicle id=482317]

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