When the Bears take on the Dolphins Sunday, keep an eye out for these three key matchups:
Bears LB Khalil Mack vs. Dolphins RT Ja'Wuan James
Bears linebacker Khalil Mack put together one of the most impressive defensive performances over the course of a month in recent history. Mack joined the Bears shortly before the season kicked off and quickly introduced himself to the team's first four opponents, recording five sacks, four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a pick-six en route to being named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September.
The flip of a calendar page shouldn't slow down Mack at all, and he'll benefit more than most players from the bye week after he sat out all of training camp. In Miami, he'll have to get past right tackle Ja'Wuan James in order to get to Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. James is tasked with helping to lead an offensive line that has lost two starters to injuries in guard Josh Sitton and center Daniel Kilgore.
James has stressed a next-man up mentality, but Mack and the Bears defense may be its biggest challenge yet. After starting the season 3-0, the Dolphins have dropped their last two, and the offensive line has allowed five sacks in the past two games. If Mack is able to get around James, it could spell a long day for Tannehill as Mack looks to start his October the same way he closed out September.
Bears WR Taylor Gabriel vs. Dolphins S Minkah Fitzpatrick
Bears receiver Taylor Gabriel is coming off his best performance of the season as the team heads down to Miami. Gabriel had seven catches, 104 yards and two touchdown receptions in the Bears' rout of the Buccaneers in Week 4. It was the kind of standout performance Gabriel needed to end a scoring drought that went back 16 games.
Gabriel will have a bigger challenge facing Miami and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick's strength lies in his ability to be mobile and move around the field, and his speed allows him to cover receivers out of the slot or line up downfield as a free safety.
Meanwhile, Gabriel, who has earned the nickname 'Turbo' for his speed, has shown an ability to make big-time plays downfield as well. He has three catches of at least 20 yards this season, tied for the most among Bears receivers.
Fitzpatrick racked up nine picks in three years at Alabama and has made his presence felt early in his rookie season after the Dolphins selected him 11th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. He got his first NFL interception in Week 4 and has tallied 34 tackles on the season. On Sunday, it'll be a battle of speed versus speed, and if Gabriel is able to create separation between himself, Fitzpatrick and the rest of the Miami defense, the Bears could count on another big week out of the veteran receiver.
Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky vs. Dolphins CB Xavien Howard
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is hoping to ride the momentum from his Week 4 performance into Miami on Sunday. Trubisky was historically good against the Buccaneers in the Bears' last time out, throwing for six touchdowns and racking up 354 yards through the air.
After some early-season woes, all the parts finally came together on offense. Trubisky looked comfortable under pressure and had no problem hitting receivers downfield. Six of his 19 completions went for at least 30 yards, and the second-year quarterback mixed up receivers, targeting seven different players.
In Miami, Trubisky will face a Dolphins team that leads the league with 10 interceptions. Cornerback Xavien Howard has harassed opposing quarterbacks this year and his three picks is tied for most in the league. His defensive prowess was a key reason the Dolphins jumped out to a 3-0 start, but the defense hasn't been as sharp in the past two weeks, giving up 522 yards through the air in its back-to-back losses. Trubisky's ability to keep Howard and the Miami defense guessing on Sunday will be a major factor in the outcome.