The Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins will face off on Sunday afternoon.
Coming off their bye week, the Bears will be fresh heading into this game. As for the Dolphins, they are trying to rebound from an ugly loss against the Cincinnati Bengals in which they led 17-0.
There will be several familiar faces on Sunday, including Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains. Both served as offensive coordinators during the John Fox era. At 3-1 and a game against the New England Patriots looming, the Bears need to care of business against the Dolphins.
Here are some things to keep an eye on Sunday.
1st Down: Home Cooking
The Dolphins have been excellent at home since the start of the 2016 season. During that span, they are 12-6 in the Flordia heat. It will be hot and humid on Sunday. The Bears are going to need to be prepared for it. The problem is you cannot really simulate that kind of atmosphere in practice.
Over the years, the heat has given players like Tom Brady issues. He is 7-9 as a starter in Miami. In fact, the New England Patriots have lost four out of their last five games there. That tells you just how real the home field advantage is.
The crowd, on the other hand, should be 60-40 in Miami. Expect many Bears fans to be in attendance. Hopefully, that will help a bit.
2nd Down: Underrated Dolphins’ Defense
This something we have talked about all week at The Loop Sports and it shouldn’t be overlooked heading into Sunday. The Dolphins’ defense is good, not great, but good.
Players like CB Xavien Howard, S Minkah Fitzpatrick, S Reshad Jones, and LB Kiko Alonso are all having good seasons. While they are 23rd in total team defense, but they rank fifth in DVOA. What is DVOA? Glad you asked.
(Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) calculates a team’s success based on the down-and-distance of each play during the season, then calculates how much more or less successful each team is compared to the league average.
Basically, it’s the best way to see how just good a defense is. The Bears rank No. 1 in the NFL, so as you can tell, it’s accurate. The Dolphins have also made big strides in 2018 to improve the defense, which was awful a year ago.
Largest increases in overall defensive DVOA rank from 2017 to 2018
1. Dolphins: 28 to 5
2. Browns: 16 to 2
3. Colts: 27 to 13
4. Bears: 14 to 1
5. Texans: 23 to 10
1. Vikings: 2 to T26
2. Panthers: 7 to T26
3. Saints: 8 to 25
4. Redskins: 11 to 23
5. Broncos: 10 to 22
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 11, 2018
Miami’s defense ranks No. 1 against opposing team’s top wide receiver. This is largely due to the play of Howard, who has been fantastic. They rank 7th and 13th against other receivers and tight ends.
The way to beat the Dolphins is in the middle of the field, but even more so on the ground. That brings me to my next thing to watch for.
3rd Down: Ground and Pound
The Dolphins’ defense ranks 23rd in terms of DVOA against RBs. Against a team with an above average secondary, head coach Matt Nagy and the rest of the offense should run the football early and often.
At the very least, staying committed to the ground game will open up play action and easier throws for QB Mitch Trubisky. I know everyone wants to anoint him as a king after his performance two weeks ago, but he still has a lot of growing to do as an NFL QB.
Run. The. Ball.
4th Down: Final Thoughts/Prediction
If the Bears want to take the “next step” they will have to continue to beat teams that they are supposed to. They should beat the Dolphins on Sunday, but they play the games for a reason. It’s not going to be easy on the road, in the heat.
Still, if they attack the Dolphins’ defense on the ground they should be successful on Sunday. We already know how good the defense is, and they should make life for QB Ryan Tannehill on Sunday hell.
Especially because he’s missing three starters on the offensive line.
Bears 28 Dolphins 13
Season Record: 4-0
BONUS – Bears will be wearing their orange jerseys and Trubisky will be wearing his arm sleeve. Bears -3.5 lock of the week.
Follow Nick on Twitter–Featured Photo Credit: AP