The Los Angeles Rams are finally set to kick off the Matthew Stafford era and also welcome fans at SoFi Stadium for the first official game of the 2021 NFL season when they host the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football
The Rams will need to make a statement in Week 1 if they hope to start lending some credence to their potential as Super Bowl contenders. A favorable matchup against a rebounding Bears team should make for an ideal opportunity to get the season started on the right foot.
Rams Offense vs. Bears Defense
Stafford was the team’s big acquisition of the offseason and his arrival has helped generate some championship hype. He will be squaring off against a Bears’ defense that he is already quite familiar with after spending 12 seasons as a member of the NFC North.
With the loss of Cam Akers for the season, head coach Sean McVay has made it clear that while Sony Michel and Jake Funk will have their opportunities, he expects Darrell Henderson to lead the backfield committee.
The offensive line could have its work cut out against this formidable pass rush in Chicago led by Khalil Mack and former Ram Robert Quinn. They will look for ways to put pressure on Stafford in an effort to help out a middling secondary that parted ways with Kyle Fuller this offseason.
Rams Defense vs. Bears Offense
The Bears also made headlines under center by taking Justin Fields with the No. 11 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Although they have been adamant about Andy Dalton’s status as the starter, that did not prevent the Rams from preparing for both quarterbacks just in case.
Either quarterback will have the benefit of throwing to wide receiver Allen Robinson as their No. 1 option in the passing game. Fortunately, L.A. has good reason to be optimistic since it is a safe bet that he will be shadowed by the league’s premier shutdown corner in Jalen Ramsey.
Robinson may not have very much time to get open with three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald leading the way on defense. The Rams finished second in sacks last season and will be looking to follow it up against a Bears o-line that struggled in pass protection.
Three Keys to Victory
1. Quell Run Game Early On
Aside from Robinson, running back David Montgomery was one of the few bright spots on offense in Chicago during the 2020 campaign after tying as the league’s fifth-leading rusher with 1,070 yards and eight touchdowns. The former third-round pick also flexed his chops in the passing game with 54 receptions for 438 yards and two touchdowns.
Montgomery remains an integral part of their approach and the Bears will look to establish their balanced attack around his skill set. The Rams must disrupt their rhythm by shutting down their ground game like they did last season when they gave up the third-fewest rushing yards per game (91.3).
2. Set Pace On Offense
McVay made it no secret that this team needed to find a way to bring back an explosive element to this offense. While there is optimism that will change with the arrival of Stafford, it is safe to assume that the offense is going to be a work in progress to start the year.
While these next few weeks are the time for McVay to experiment with what works around Stafford, this is a good chance to start establishing their identity, which they largely failed to do all of last season.
3. Protect Matthew Stafford
Despite the loss of Akers, the Rams still have all the weapons for success through a healthy mix of run and pass. However, their top priority will be making sure that the changes along the interior of their offensive line do not allow for any drop-off from last year when they gave up the sixth-fewest sacks in the league.
Regardless of any struggles they may have on offense early on, it is imperative that they avoid any potential setbacks by keeping Stafford as healthy as possible. A showdown versus one of the NFL’s top edge rushers in Khalil Mack should make for an ideal test.
How to Watch
Time: 5:20 p.m. PT
Location: SoFi Stadium