When the Bears host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, keep an eye on these matchups:
Bears left tackle Charles Leno Jr. vs. Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa
Bosa is coming off a two-sack performance against the Titans, perhaps kickstarting a year that started a bit slow for his standards. Since entering the league in 2016, Bosa has lived up to the hype that made him the third pick in the 2016 draft.
"He has such a dominant motor," said coach Matt Nagy. "He can beat you in so many different ways that I think you see that. I remember when he got drafted, and we had to go against him. He was injured that first year later on and then came back, and we saw, wow, he's special."
Paired with Melvin Ingram on the other side, Bosa could put a lot of pressure on Mitchell Trubisky if he can get the better of Leno.
With the loss of Kyle Long, Leno is now the team's longest-tenured lineman. He's struggled with penalties this season (four holding calls this year after none in 2017), but was clean last week against the Saints. Leno is a veteran presence and a grinder whose technique has given him staying power.
While the Bears will likely run the ball more than seven times against the Chargers, Matt Nagy isn't going to dust off the T-formation any time soon. Leno's ability to keep Bosa and Trubisky strangers will go a long way toward getting the offense to click.
Bears receiver Allen Robinson II vs. Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward Jr.
Last week, Robinson faced off against Marshon Lattimore and acquitted himself well. Robinson ended the day with 10 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown (though the touchdown and three catches for 27 yards were in the waning minutes of the game). Whatever struggles the Bears have had on offense the past two weeks, Robinson has made good on his offseason promise to take another step forward as a receiver.
In the past few weeks, Robinson has distinguished himself as the Bears' biggest offensive weapon and vocal leader.
"Allen is naturally an introverted person," Nagy said. "But he's one of those guys when you get him on the field and he speaks through his play."
Robinson will face the veteran Hayward this week. For Bears fans, the cornerback will be somewhat familiar, given his four-year stint with the Green Bay Packers. Hayward has been elite at times in his career but hasn't been the pick-machine that he was during his first two seasons for the Chargers.
Whether it's Hayward or the scheme, the Chargers have only allowed one receiver to go over 100 yards in a game: Detroit's Kenny Golladay in Week 2. With the Bears aiming 27 percent of their passes in Robinson's direction, the offense will rely on Robinson to win this battle.
Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman vs. Chargers center Scott Quessenberry
The Chargers' offensive line has been snake-bit all season. In the offseason, left tackle Russell Okung suffered a pulmonary embolism due to blood clots in his lungs and missed the first seven weeks of the season. The team lost its starting center Mike Pouncey to a neck injury in Week 5 and his replacement Forrest Lamp to a broken fibula in Week 7.
Second-year player Scott Quessenberry is set to snap the ball against the Bears. Quessenberry was used almost exclusively on special teams as a rookie and entered the year second on the depth chart at center. The coaching staff, however, opted to move Lamp to the position from guard when Pouncey went down.
This means that Eddie Goldman, one of the Bears' most steady players, has a chance to exploit a third-stringer, or perhaps preferably, force the Chargers to commit two blockers to him, freeing up the edge rush that has been largely stagnant for the last two weeks. With Akiem Hicks out, the Bears will rely on Goldman to take up blockers to allow their linebacker corps to operate freely.