Week 9 of the 2022 NFL season brings the Miami Dolphins a second-straight NFC North matchup and a second-straight road game. Last week, Miami beat the Detroit Lions. Can they back it up with a win over the Chicago Bears and extend their winning streak to three games? Will the Bears be able to pull off an upset victory over the Dolphins and thrust themselves into the NFC playoff picture?
The Dolphins do not face the Bears in the regular season often, with just 13 all-time meetings. This also marks just the sixth time the Dolphins have played in Soldier Field during the regular season. This is a rare matchup against an opponent Dolphins fans may not know that well.
This brings us to our weekly discussion with a writer covering the Dolphins’ upcoming opponents. In this week’s edition, I had a chance to speak with Patti Curl from Windy City Gridiron. Our conversation started with the Bears adjusting the gameplan to take advantage of quarterback Justin Fields’ skillset, then turned to the trades the Bears made at the trade deadline including acquiring wide receiver Chase Claypool, then turned to how to be effective against the Bears’ defense, and the point spread for tomorrow’s game.
The Bears appear to have allowed Justin Fields more freedom to improvise and make plays with his legs. How much does he run and how effective is he when he elects to pull down the ball and take off?
Not only are the Bears allowing Justin to scramble, they’ve incorporated designed runs for him into the game plan for the last two games. He’s been effective, and it also has helped him get more confidence and get the offense into a rhythm by replacing some short passing plays that weren’t working well. Fields is averaging over 5.5 yards per run this season, and that’s with multiple 30+ yard runs being called back on blocks that didn’t affect the play. His legs are a legitimate threat, and really the only thing that has made this offense difficult to defend so far this season.
Chicago seemed to be in a selling mode leading up to the trade deadline, especially on defense where Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith were both shipped off. Then they added wide receiver Chase Claypool, picking up a potential offensive weapon. Why were the defensive players shipped off, why was Claypool added, and how are fans feeling about the deals?
I would say the Bears are, and have been, in future-focused mode. That usually means selling at the trade deadline, and it definitely explains trading Quinn (who was not going to be on the team next year) and Roquan (who wanted a trade and would have been difficult to keep long term). Bears fans are understandably upset about losing Roquan, who was a homegrown talent and maybe the best player on the roster, but most of us understand the logic behind it and that he wasn’t the best fit for Eberflus’ defense. Trading for Claypool makes sense to me for two reasons: 1. Justin Fields needs more help if he’s going to develop and learn to trust his receivers when appropriate, and 2. the free agency pool of wide receivers this offseason is dismal. I like the trade more than most. I don’t think the Bears would be likely to get a receiver as good as Claypool with their second round pick: Claypool is what you hope a 2nd round pick turns into. Rather than taking a risk drafting a 2nd round rookie, the Bears are essentially getting a sure thing at the cost of only 1.5 cheap rookie-deal years instead of four. The Bears can afford that cap cost. They can’t afford to swing and miss at receiver during Fields’ low-cost years.
If you were designing an offense to attack the Bears’ defense, what would you do?
The Bears are tragically weak at defensive line and linebacker, despite D line being the most bear-like position in football and a long history of great Bears linebackers. I’d run the ball until the Bears are forced to stack the box, then take advantage of mismatches in the passing game.
The Bears are not a team Dolphins fans often see. Who is an offensive player we may not know but will have an impact on this game? Defensive player?
On offense, second year running back Khalil Herbert has earned an even carry split with David Montgomery and scampered his way to be the Bears leading rusher. He’s a decisive and explosive runner with good instincts who has thrived in the Bears frequent zone runs, though he’s not as valuable in short yardage or the passing game as Montgomery.
On defense, I’m hoping one of the Bears young edge rushers, Trevis Gipson or rookie Dominique Robinson, manages to have an impact in Robert Quinn’s absence. If they don’t, I suspect the Bears defense will have trouble getting off the field.
The opening line for this game was set with the Dolphins as 4.5-point favorites and has now shifted to Miami by 5-points, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Do you think this is an accurate line? [Author’s note: The line as of Saturday morning had moved back to listing Miami as a four-point favorite.]
Let’s say I think it’s a fair line given where both teams are at. To say it’s accurate would imply that I think the Bears are going to lose and I refuse to ever think the Bears are going to lose. I choose to believe they will find a way to win even if Staley himself has to come in to stuff the run and the ghost of George Halas has to spook your speedy receivers into dropping uncontested go balls.