Chicago Bears Vs. Miami Dolphins: 3 predictions for Sunday’s season-defining matchup
As the Bears and Dolphins matchup for only the 13th time since first meeting in 1971, it will be a contest the can allow the visiting team to solidify their status in the league.
The Chicago Bears are going into their fifth game of the season following a bye week, and it may be the most meaningful game the team has played in the last five seasons.
The Miami Dolphins are coming off one of the most disappointing loses in recent team history and are looking to prove their 3-0 start wasn’t just due to favorable scheduling.
The current record for the cross-conference opponents rests at 8-4 and the Bears will look to inch closer in that series while simultaneously proving to the rest of the league that they are contenders in 2018. Chicago is favored in this game but both teams possess dynamic playmakers that should allow for some interesting storylines to develop throughout the course of the game; here are three that will transpire when the two teams meet on Sunday.
1. Tarik Cohen Will Score on Special Teams
Chicago and Miami come into this contest ranked sixth and fifth respectively in special teams play. Both teams have home run hitters at the return position as the Bears have arguably the most intriguing player on an NFL football field in Tarik Cohen and Miami has the dangerous Jakeem Grant, who has proven that twice this season.
This game will provide the most exciting special teams match-up of the season, as every time the two threats touch the ball, everyone will be holding their breath with anticipation. Grant has had more success this season than Cohen with his two returns for touchdowns already, but Cohen may be allowed more opportunities this week.
Chicago’s defense may force Miami’s punter Matt Haack to see the field more often in this game, which means Tarik will be allowed to do his work with more regularity. The fact that Chicago’s special teams is ranked only one spot behind Grant and Miami’s group is made even more noteworthy because Jakeem does have two returns for touchdowns. Cohen hasn’t taken one to end zone yet, but there have been several big returns and occasions where he’s been one more missed tackle away from pay dirt.
The NFL is already on notice about Tarik Cohen’s return ability and knows it’s only a matter of time before he breaks one loose. The only question about that return will be whether that comes in the form of a kick or punt against Miami on Sunday?
2. Roquan Smith Has His Best Game As a Chicago Bear
Everyone was waiting on 2017’s first round pick to have his breakout game. It’s fair to say that Mitch Trubisky completed this challenge as he tossed six touchdowns a couple of weeks ago against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now the focus shifts a little bit to 2018’s first round pick to have his standout performance. Sunday is the perfect opportunity for this to happen.
Roquan Smith’s contract holdout wasn’t only a major storyline for contractual reasons but for productivity aspects as well. It is no surprise that Smith hasn’t been the rookie DPOY yet as both his conditioning and knowledge of the playbook are catching up after being away for so long.
I was going to use this portion of the article to state the Khalil Mack would have his best game as a Bear, but it’s because of his anticipated production that leads me to an even easier prediction that it will be Roquan Smith who stands out in this one.
Miami invested a lot of capital into improving their offensive line this offseason, but injuries have devastated this unit and they are in for a rough one against Chicago’s front-seven. Mack and Co. are sure to give Ryan Tannehill issues and will open the door for the rookie linebacker to make some big plays. Smith may still be learning how the NFL works but his instincts and speed stand out. With an extra week of rest and intensive film study, Smith should be ready to dominate in week six.
Chicago’s defense doesn’t need any more attention as they are one of the major talking points around the league. However, if Smith were to have a “breakout” game, the defense will be regarded even more highly. The unit would go from undoubtedly a top-three group to arguably the best in all of football.
Expect an interception that comes from another Khalil Mack throw disruption, around eight tackles, and let’s throw in a sack or two for good measure.
3. Mitch Trubisky Takes Another Big Step
Mitch Trubisky doesn’t need to throw for another six touchdowns to prove that he is becoming a franchise quarterback. Trubisky will be, not only for this game but for the rest of the season, the biggest beneficiary of Chicago’s standout defense.
The defense will award Trubisky some more opportunities on offense and this should be another game he’s able to take advantage of it. Against the Buccaneers, Trubisky faced a young, injured, secondary that seemed to serve as a counter argument to the second-year quarterback’s big day. Miami’s secondary is rather young as well but does possess some really intriguing talent. Minkah Fitzpatrick is proving his value as the Alabama product already has 34 tackles and an interception in his first season. Xavien Howard also has had a really good start to the season as he’s recorded three interceptions through five games.
While Fitzpatrick and Howard are showing a lot of promise, they shouldn’t inhibit Trubisky’s ability to improve upon his performance from last game. The young signal caller’s confidence should be through the roof and with an extra week of preparation, this would be the perfect time for a solid follow-up performance.
Currently, the Chicago Bears are ranked eighth in the NFL’s power rankings. Say Trubisky were to throw for around 250 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Not an unimaginable stat line right? Could you imagine how the league would view the Bears if that is how Trubisky performs in a winning endeavor on Sunday? The only thing holding NFL pundits back from going all-in on the Chicago Bears in inconsistent quarterback play, and another promising performance from the 2017 No. 2 overall pick could change the balance of power in the NFC.