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4 things to watch in Bears-Bills game

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

The Bears (3-11) will look to snap a seven-game losing streak when they host the Bills (11-3) Saturday at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to follow in the game:

(1) What will emerging star Justin Fields do next?

The dynamic second-year pro is in the midst of a breakout season, developing into a prolific dual threat. Last Sunday against the Eagles, Fields became just the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, joining Michael Vick and Lamar Jackson, while also eclipsing Bobby Douglass' Bears single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback of 968 set in 1972.

Fields ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing with 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns and has thrown for 2,048 yards with 15 TDs, 10 interceptions and an 88.0 passer rating. He has accounted for 18 touchdowns in his last seven games, rushing for 718 yards and seven TDs and passing for 1,179 yards and 11 TDs.

The former Ohio State star has made major strides throughout the season. He has rushed for an average of 100.8 yards since Week 6—second most in the NFL—and has posted a 101.1 passer rating since Week 8 after registering a 74.6 rating in Weeks 1-7.

On Saturday, Fields will benefit from the return of running back Khalil Herbert and receiver N'Keal Harry from injuries. But the Bears will still be thin at receiver, with Darnell Mooney (ankle) out for the season, Equanimeous St. Brown (concussion) ruled out of the game and Chase Claypool (knee) listed as doubtful.

Fields will face a Bills defense that ranks second in the NFL in points allowed (17.9) and ninth in total yards, sixth against the run and 18th versus the pass.

The Bears spent a chilly Wednesday afternoon on the practice fields at Halas Hall getting ready for their Christmas Eve matchup with the Buffalo Bills.

(2) Will the Bears defense be able to contain an explosive Bills offense?

For the second straight week, the Bears will face a dangerous offense that's fueled by an elite quarterback-receiver tandem. Last Sunday it was the Eagles' Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown; this weekend it's the Bills' Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs.

The Bears intercepted Hurts twice, but the Eagles quarterback ran for three touchdowns and passed for 315 yards, including nine completions for 181 yards to Brown. 

The task will be just as difficult against a Bills offense that ranks fourth in the NFL in scoring and second in total yards. Allen has passed for 3,857 yards and 30 TDs, the third most in the NFL. The 6-5, 237-pounder has also rushed for 705 yards, the fourth most among quarterbacks. 

"He compares a lot to the one we just faced; like Hurts, just bigger," said defensive coordinator Alan Williams. "Probably a little bit better arm talent in terms of how he throws the football, but very similar in terms of what they do and what they can do and how you have to approach them. I think last week I said we'd like to have 12 or 13 on the field because of the nature of the quarterback runs and quarterback scrambles and that type of thing. So, another test for our defense in terms of what we can do." 

Diggs, meanwhile, ranks third among NFL receivers in receptions (99) and yards (1,299) and is tied for third with 10 TDs.

(3) Will Bears kicker Cairo Santos revert to his regular form?

Santos was arguably the most reliable player on the Bears roster from the start of the 2020 season through the middle of the current campaign. He converted 92.0 percent of his field-goal attempts (69 of 75), becoming the most accurate kicker in franchise history and setting a club record with 40 straight field goals during one stretch. He also made 95.0 percent of his extra-point tries (77 of 81) during that span.

But Santos has recently hit a rough patch, missing two field goals and three extra points in his last five games. After missing his first extra point try versus the Eagles, he moved the ball from the right hash to the middle of the field and made his next two attempts. It's something he'll continue to do moving forward.

"I'm going to make a change and kick it from the middle, sometimes left hash depending on the wind," Santos said. "A change of scenery I think it'll probably clear up some of the bad habits I think the right hash has apparently given me."

Santos has remained consistent in practice, so he's not considering a major overhaul of his technique. "I'm still kicking well every day that we're out here [at Halas Hall]," he said, "so I don't think I should hit the panic button. [I'll] just kind of figure out what changes I need to make to put the ball through the uprights."

(4) How will the frigid conditions impact the game?

Bears coach Matt Eberflus recalled this week that when he was coaching with the Cowboys in a 2013 game against the Bears, he was so cold he couldn't feel his feet. On that occasion, the temperature was eight degrees with a wind chill of minus-nine.

"It was bitter cold," Eberflus said. "You had to really make sure all your skin was covered because you would potentially get frostbite and all that, so you had to make sure you used Vaseline on your face to make sure everything's covered up right. It was cold and the helmets sounded weird when they hit."

Similar conditions are expected Saturday. The forecast calls for a high temperature of 10 degrees with winds from 20-to-25 miles per hour and gusts up to 35 miles per hour, dropping the wind chill to minus-25.

The Bears will conduct a final walk-through at Halas Hall Friday and then remain at the practice facility for meetings they usually hold at the team hotel the night before home games. Players will have to report to the hotel before curfew Friday night.

"It's like anything," said offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. "If you're standing outside and you're trying to make a decision or you're trying to write down something and you're cold, it affects you. We've got to do a great job of staying warm when they have those opportunities and breaks … Once they get out there [on the field], the adrenaline that they have, I think they'll be fine."

With frigid conditions and snow hitting Chicagoland, check out the 10 Bears home games with the lowest temperatures since the team moved into Soldier Field in 1971.

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