Niner Noise’s Chris Wilson goes behind enemy lines with Mike “Boomer” Burzawa of FanSided’s Bear Goggles On to preview the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 16 matchup with the Chicago Bears.
In advance of the San Francisco 49ers’ upcoming game against the playoff-bound Chicago Bears, Niner Noise’s Chris Wilson and Bear Goggles On‘s Mike “Boomer” Burzawa discussed the two teams, and what to expect during the Week 16 showdown.
You can check out Chris’ answers to Mike’s questions about Sunday’s matchup, the 49ers’ future, the two teams’ 2017 draft-day trade and more in Mike’s article.
The Bears head into Week 16 after securing a playoff berth and a division title with a victory over the Green Bay Packers in Week 15. Chicago has the NFL’s top defensive unit — led by former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio — and improved offensive play to thank for their improvement in 2018.
Like the Niners, the Bears are currently riding high on a two-game winning streak. But with the playoffs around the corner, will Chicago be caught looking ahead toward the future, or will they come to play on Sunday?
Here’s Niner Noise’s Q&A exclusive with Mike “Boomer” Burzawa of Bear Goggles On:
CW: The Bears have certainly exceeded preseason expectations, as they’ve already doubled their win total from 2017. Does Chicago have what it takes to go on a Super Bowl run?
"MB: You’re right, the Bears have far exceeded preseason expectations. Most Bears fans expected improvement over last season, maybe getting to a .500 season if things broke their way. They’ve hit ten wins and won their division and an outside shot at a first-round bye with two games to go, completing a worst-to-first turnaround that fans have been dreaming about.Things started off great for the Bears with probably their best half of football in their Week 1 showdown with the Packers. That all became a blur as Aaron Rodgers rallied the Packers to a comeback win and Bears fans were left to think, “not again!” But things started turning around with a Week 2 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football. That’s when the Bears started establishing a dominant home field advantage that propelled them to a 7-1 record at Soldier Field.The Bears really established themselves as a legitimate Super Bowl contender in a pair of flexed prime time games against the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams. Winning both of those games put them squarely into Super Bowl contender conversations, especially the dominant win over the Rams.The Bears have already assured themselves a home game at Soldier Field, so I like their chances in a Wild Card round game. Things get dicey for the Bears if they have to go to Los Angeles or New Orleans and try to win a road game where they’ve been average at best. Maybe with a little help or some breaks to go their way, there’s no reason why this Bears team, anchored by a strong and opportunistic defense, can’t make a Super Bowl run."
CW: How large of an impact has the addition of EDGE Khalil Mack made on the Bears’ defense in 2018?
"MB: Mack has been a game changer. When Ryan Pace pulled off that trade, it signaled that the front office felt like this team was close to being serious contenders. Mack has made everyone on the defense better. The pass rush is crisper and getting home more. The secondary can take a few more chances as the ball is coming out quicker. The Bears already had a top 10 defense, Mack has made them a top 3 unit.For Sunday’s game, look for Mack to be moved around along the line. He and Leonard Floyd have been working some stunts that have been helping to free one up to go after the quarterback. Mack will also drop into coverage to mix things up. Vic Fangio has been doing a great job disguising coverages and mixing things up to keep opponents off balance. I look forward to the chess match between Fangio and Shanahan."
CW: What do the 49ers need to do on Sunday in order to come away with a victory in Week 16?
"MB: No disrespect intended, but the Bears have sometimes played down to their competition, especially on the road where they’ve only posted a 3-3 record. Overtime losses to the Dolphins and Giants are glaring, especially when you consider where the Bears are vying for a first-round bye. I think that the Bears defense should be able to hold their own, despite likely missing free safety Eddie Jackson due to an ankle injury. George Kittle scares me a little against a depleted secondary, so if he goes off, that could spell trouble for the Bears.This game will turn when Mitch Trubisky and the offense are on the field. If they can take care of the football and try to establish the running game, they’ll do their part. If the Bears offense turns the ball over, the 49ers suddenly get an edge.Even though Matt Nagy has stated that the Bears won’t rest anyone, something tells me the Bears might dial it back a bit. Maybe they save a couple of gadget plays or maybe they limit snap count for some veterans. That could help the Niners pull off the upset."
CW: QB Mitchell Trubisky has made great strides in his second NFL season, but he’s yet to develop into a franchise quarterback. Do Bears fans believe Trubisky is the long-term answer at the position?
"MB: I think the Bears believe that Trubisky is the long-term answer at the position. Ryan Pace wouldn’t have traded up to get him and wouldn’t have devoted the resources to surround him with weapons and coaches if he didn’t believe Trubisky wasn’t the answer.Trubisky has definitely shown flashes of what the Bears saw in him coming out of North Carolina. He has the misfortune of being in the same draft class as Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, both of whom are in the second year in their respective systems. I think most Bears fans believe that Trubisky should take another leap with a full offseason program under Matt Nagy.Because Trubisky has had a few up and down games, some can take his ability for granted. But when Trubisky was out for a couple of games, we noticed a difference in the offense running under backup Chase Daniel. Trubisky needs to work on his accuracy and continue to improve reading defenses to take his game to the next level."
CW: What’s your prediction for Sunday’s game, and why?
"MB: This is another game that scares the heck out of me. The Bears are coming off perhaps their biggest win in several years, defeating the Green Bay Packers to clinch the NFC North and knock the Packers out at the same time. That points to a letdown. Further, they haven’t exactly lit it up heading out west, especially when facing the Niners. I think the Bears’ defense has a couple of uncharacteristic breakdowns and the 49ers keep it close. Robbie Gould comes close to another revenge game, but the Bears pull it out."