The Bears will look to record their second straight win and remain in first place in the NFC North Sunday when they visit the Buffalo Bills. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:
(1) Will the Bears offense continue to roll against a tough Bills defense?
The Bears have been red hot in their last four games, averaging 32.7 points, scoring 17 touchdowns and amassing 1,798 total yards. Their 131 points during that span are their most in a four-game stretch since they scored 147 points in Weeks 2-5 in 1989.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has led the charge in those four contests, passing for 1,223 yards with 13 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 113.1 passer rating while also rushing for 232 yards and one TD on 23 carries. The second-year pro ranks second among NFL quarterbacks with 296 yards rushing, behind only the Panthers' Cam Newton (309).
The Bills have lost three straight games and are in last place in the AFC East with a 2-6 record. But their defense has performed well. On Monday night, Buffalo held Tom Brady and the Patriots without a touchdown for the first three-and-a-half quarters.
"They're super aggressive," Trubisky said. "They get after it. They don't really take plays off. They just wreak havoc up front and they're just trying to cause as much trouble as possible. They fly to the ball. When you watch that on film, we've got to match that intensity every single snap."
(2) Will the Bears defense excel against a struggling and injury-depleted Bills offense?
The Bears defense will look to build off its performance last weekend against the Jets versus a struggling Bills offense that has had major injury issues at quarterback. Rookie Josh Allen has been ruled out with an elbow injury and veteran Derek Anderson is not expected to play after suffering a concussion Monday night against the Patriots.
That leaves Nathan Peterman, who was benched earlier this season. Peterman has thrown nine interceptions on 81 career pass attempts while appearing in seven games with three starts in two seasons with the Bills.
"We've just got to defend their offense regardless of who is playing quarterback for them," said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "I know that they like [Peterman] there. He did earn the starting job coming out of camp. They pulled him for [Allen] at some point and I do know that they have a lot of confidence in him. We've got to be able to defend their offense, and he's a capable player."
Regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Bills, the Bears will look to stuff the run first just as they did last Sunday when they limited the Jets to 57 yards on 24 carries in a 24-10 win over New York at Soldier Field.
(3) Will the Bears focus on the task at hand and not look past the Bills?
Beginning next week, the Bears will play three division games in an 11-day span, with two dates against the Lions sandwiching a contest versus the Vikings. But coach Matt Nagy has spent the week ensuring that his team focuses all their attention on the Bills.
"There's way too much parity in this league," Nagy said. "If anyone on this team—player or coach—is [looking past the Bills], they need to get out of this building and get out of this place. Don't even think about it. You can't do that. We don't think that way, so I'm not going to let our players think that way."
While the Bills have lost three straight games and scored just two touchdowns in their last five contests, they did stun the heavily-favored Vikings 27-6 Sept. 23 in Minnesota. Plus, they play in a very loud stadium backed by fans that are referred to as the "Bills Mafia."
"We're going into a hostile environment and that has been our message to the guys: make sure you are ready for a battle," Nagy said. "Buffalo has always been very blue collar and they will come and they will hit you hard on offense defense and special teams. Our guys need to be prepared for that."
(4) Will the Bears continue to get more from their running game?
The Bears closed out the Jets last Sunday by relying on running back Jordan Howard, who carried on nine of the team's last 11 plays from scrimmage. Howard's 24-yard run set up his 2-yard TD, which gave the Bears a 24-10 lead after the Jets had scored a touchdown to close the gap to 17-10. Howard rushed for 81 yards on 22 carries.
"Jordan had 16 carries [in the second half] and had a 24-yarder in a four-minute drive," Nagy said. "That part was good. Overall, I know we can be better and that's what's great about this. Our guys understand it, our coaches understand it, and we're going to keep plugging away until we get that."
The Bears rank third in the NFL in rushing, averaging 137.6 yards per game. But that stat is skewed by Trubisky's 296 yards on the ground.
Last Sunday Howard and Tarik Cohen (5 carries for 40 yards) combined to rush for 121 yards, their highest total of the season. A similar outing against a Bills run defense that ranks 15th in the league seemingly would greatly enhance the Bears' chances of winning Sunday's game.