Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Raiders


1. Don’t let Derek Carr be effective on quick throws, especially to TE Darren Waller. Only three quarterbacks have averaged a lower time to throw than Derek Carr in 2019, per NFL Next Gen Stats. To put it another way: The Raiders’ offense is designed for Carr to get the ball out quick, a critical component of any offense trying to neutralize a menacing pass rush containing Khalil Mack. 

But those quick throws do limit Carr’s ability to push the ball downfield. Carr’s average intended air yards per attempt is the fifth-lowest in the NFL at 6.2 — even lower than Mitch Trubisky’s average of 6.9. 

Wideout Tyrell Williams is questionable, but there’s a sense he’ll play Sunday. But the biggest ask will be containing tight end Darren Waller, who’s averaging eight catches and 80 yards per game while picking up 9.7 yards per reception, yet has the third-lowest average intended air yards (4.9) among qualified receivers in the NFL. In other words: Oakland is capable at getting Waller the ball quickly, and he’s been extremely effective after the catch. 

If Roquan Smith indeed plays, he’ll be the biggest key for shutting down this quick-game-to-Waller offense. But no matter who’s on the field for the Bears, against a depleted Raiders’ offense, the mission is clear: Limit Waller’s impact, and Oakland will have a difficult time scoring points. 

2. Get good production from depth — again. The Bears, like every football team, reflexively cite a “next man up” mentality to deal with injuries during a season. But unlike most teams, the Bears’ next men up actually played well last week against the Minnesota Vikings, with key contributions coming from Chase Daniel, Javon Wims, Rashaad Coward, Nick Williams, Roy Robertson-Harris and Nick Kwiatkoski. 

The Bears will need some of those backups to play well again on Sunday. Daniel will start, and all he should need to do is have another efficient, turnover-free game for the Bears to score enough points to win. Wims will take on an increased role again with Taylor Gabriel (concussion) not making the trip. Even if Akiem Hicks does play, the Bears will need Williams and Robertson-Harris to have success against the run to further muzzle Oakland’s offense. 

3. Have more success on the ground. The Raiders will be without suspended-for-the-year inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict and might be without defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell (concussion). The Bears would do well to take advantage of those absences, even if their running game hasn’t generated much outside of one big run to Cordarrelle Patterson this year. 

The Raiders rank ninth in run defense DVOA but 27th in passing defense DVOA, so generating some consistent success on the ground would help Daniel have more success picking apart a suspect secondary. Even an average of four yards per carry for David Montgomery would be an improvement — he’s averaging just 3.4 yards per carry so far this year. 

Prediction: Bears 24, Raiders 18

The Bears’ lost a sloppy, fumble-filled game to the New York Giants last year with Daniel having a full week to prepare as their starting quarterback. It wasn’t the kind of clean play the Bears needed from their backup, even if he did lead a furious last-ditch charge that wound up sending the game to overtime. 

Daniel can afford to make a few mistakes on Sunday, but the Raiders aren’t bad to the point where the Bears can overcome a string of miscues by their quarterback. The expectation here is the game won’t be entirely clean for the Bears, but they’ll do enough to avoid a letdown and leave London with a 4-1 record. 

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