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Unpopular Opinions

Why the Bears have a better shot at the playoffs than the Rams

Listen, I don't try to live my life as a contrarian. That's not true -- I kind of do. I spend a lot of time in public houses and taverns, and I have a two-hour commute that allows me to hear a lot of the sports world's most popular opinions. Sometimes, I think it's best to take a look at the other side.

In this space, I articulate positions that are the opposite of what most people think -- unpopular opinions, if you will -- and explain why, well, my unpopular opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Below, I explain why I like the Bears better than the Rams, both this Sunday and for the rest of this season.

This week's Sunday Night Football matchup between the Bears and Rams in Los Angeles must have seemed like a great showcase for prime time -- back in April. Since then, things have started to go south for both squads.

It's kind of like when you run into a former classmate, and then you connect via Instagram, and you're like, "Oh, yeah, I would love to come to your child's first birthday party." And it seemed like a great idea at around 10:45 p.m. on a Friday night after having a few IPAs while watching late-1990s music videos on YouTube. (For the record, Flagpole Sitta still holds up.) Fast-forward a couple of months, and you're traipsing through BuyBuyBaby (terrible name for a store) looking for a gift, wondering what you agreed to.

I think my point is, the Bears, who finished 12-4 in 2018 and won the NFC North, and the Rams, who finished 13-3 and reached the Super Bowl, probably thought they were going to be headed back to the playoffs in 2019. But as it stands right now, neither team is among the top six in the NFC.

I do feel like one of these two squads has a good chance of getting back into the mix -- and it's not the Rams.

(Before you come accusing me of being a homer from Schaumburg, Illinois, remember that I spent the majority of my life in Corona, California, mere minutes from where the Rams 1.0 played for many years.)

Let's start with the Bears. I don't want to act like Mitchell Trubisky's three-touchdown performance against the Lions in Week 10 was the breakout we've been looking for, especially when you consider that Trubisky also had three touchdowns against the Lionsat home last year. Chicago looked miserable for the first 28 minutes of this game, falling behind a Matthew Stafford-less Detroit team 6-0. Still, Trubisky did finish with three touchdowns and a 131.0 passer rating, which is nothing to ignore. And anyway, Trubisky's numbers were actually less important to me than the moment in the second half when Trubisky ran down the field, actually pumped his fist and pointed following his touchdown strike to Taylor Gabriel. That's the first time I recall seeing some genuine emotion from him in a number of weeks, if at all this season (although Monday night in Washington was pretty sweet).

I'm also encouraged by what we've seen out of the offense in recent weeks. The Bears have committed to running the football more with rookie David Montgomery, who I love, and he was wildly successful the previous two weeks, racking up 223 scrimmage yards in Weeks 8 and 9. While he didn't have the fantasy numbers many of us would have liked against the Lions, Montgomery still carried the rock 17 times, which showed Matt Nagy (who faced criticism for not running enough earlier this year) was committed to running the football.

The Lions, meanwhile, were all, "Hey, we're going to make Trubisky beat us" -- and he actually did.

That's what we want from Trubisky: Can you play at the Mark Sanchez line? Don't lose the game for the Bears and, when called upon, find a way to throw it to the open receiver. It's worth noting that his touchdown throws were dimes.

The Rams, meanwhile, are off to their worst start through nine games since 2016, when they started 4-5 and finished 4-12. While I don't see them getting that low in 2019, things haven't been the same since they jumped out to a 3-0 record. They've lost four games despite being outgained only once in 2019. The biggest reason for their struggles, from I can tell, is that West Coast Trubisky (Jared Goff) hasn't been great on third down, with the Rams converting just 1 of 14 third-down chances in their Week 10 loss to the Steelers, a game in which he also posted season lows in passer rating (51.2) and completion percentage (53.7). Goff has attempted 40-plus passes in three games this season, posting a 3:6 TD-to-INT ratio and an 0-3 record in those games.

Say what you will about the real Trubisky, but unlike Goff, he didn't recently become one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league. And at this rate, he likely won't demand the kind of extension that would hamper the Bears' fiscal flexibility to keep their Super Bowl window open for years.

Goff's struggles are becoming a problem for the Rams, because they don't run the football. In their first three wins this season, the Rams averaged 123.7 rushing yards per game; that figure has dropped to 82.5 in the six games since. And they absolutely ignored Todd Gurley in the fourth quarter, something he said that he's starting to get used to. I know there were likely concerns about managing Gurley's workload after he dealt with a knee injury last season, but it's not good when a key piece of your offense essentially disappears. The Rams have been held under 100 rushing yards in six of nine games this season.

You could argue that the Rams' offensive difficulties can be traced all the way back to their visit to Soldier Field last season, when one of the highest-scoring teams in the league was held to six points in a loss to the Bears. (Fine, Lions fans, maybe it was the weekend before in Detroit.) Either way, the Rams looked absolutely lost against the Steelers in Week 10, and it should have served as a wakeup call for coach Sean McVay. Of particular concern is the fact that receiver Cooper Kupp was held without a catch. While most fantasy people feel like it was a one-game blip, the underlying cause of Kupp's slowdown might be the absence of injured receiver Brandin Cooks (who has already been ruled out for Week 11) and Cooks' ability to stretch the defense.

The winner of this week's game could get back into the NFC playoff mix, albeit having only an outside shot at this point, with the Vikings and Seahawks playing so well while trailing the Packers in the NFC North and the Niners in the NFC West, respectively. The loser is going to have an awful lot of questions to answer. Ultimately, I feel like the Bears match up well with the Rams because L.A. does not appear to be in position to exploit the difficulty Chicago has had stopping the run since losing Akiem Hicks in October. The Bears, meanwhile, should be able to move the ball against the Rams and their 17th-ranked pass defense, for whom trade acquisition Jalen Ramsey is not playing as well as ex-Ram Marcus Peters, who was shipped from L.A. to Baltimore.

And, of course, I've already bought the ticket to be there -- even though it looked like a much better proposition when I purchased it in April.

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank.

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