The Chicago Bears host the Tennessee Titans in week 1 of the preseason on Saturday at High Noon (central time). It will be nice for everyone involved to get the competitive juices flowing again in live action. What are some things to watch for in this tilt?
Bears Offense vs. Titans Defense
Pro Football Talk has reported that the Bears’ first string will be on the field for a few snaps at a minimum. The first preseason game isn’t the best barometer for any team looking to fine-tune things. Even if the Titans don’t trot out their first-team defense, it’s a great opportunity for those on the lower end of the depth chart to make a few plays.
OL vs. DL Matchups to Watch
The most intriguing matchup will be on the perimeter with Braxton Jones against the Titans’ pass rushers (should they play) like Harold Landry and Arden Key. Tennessee can throw in youthful Rashad Weaver as well. Rookie right tackle Darnell Wright will be eager to prove that he should’ve been Tennessee’s selection over Northwestern alum Peter Skoronski. All reports indicate that Wright has been very good in the Bears’ camp. Former Titans guard Nate Davis will be anxious to play his mettle against teammates he practiced daily against last season, Teair Tart and Jayden Peevy. Barring any major surprises, stars such as Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry likely won’t play in this contest. It will be imperative for back-end roster types like Tyler Shelvin, Thomas Rush, and Caleb Murphy to get going quickly.
Skill-on-Skill Matchups to Watch
The Bears have a flotilla of weapons including the electric DJ Moore leading the way. Chicago also has the enigmatic Chase Claypool on the team. The second-leading receiver Darnell Mooney is also expected to be a huge factor for Chicago in 2023. Tight end Cole Kmet is also a significant threat for Justin Fields to use. Former University of Tennessee standout Velus Jones, Jr is looking to emerge, too. Chicago’s running back room provides an intriguing matchup for the Titans’ linebacker group. They will likely heavily feature former Titan D’Onta Foreman, rookie Roschon Johnson, and Travis Homer. Tennessee does feature an impressive yet underrated secondary to counter the bevy of Bears’ receivers. UDFA signees like Tyreque Jones, Armani Marsh, Anthony Kendall, and Steven Jones will need to play well to secure a further look in game two.
Titans Offense vs. Bears Defense
The Bears feature a familiar face to Tennessee heading operations on that side of the ball in HC Matt Eberflus. He briefly served as the Colts’ defensive coordinator before his promotion. Chicago just recently signed former Colts’ pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue to add some juice and familiarity to Eberflus’ scheme. Adding to the Tennessee-to-Chicago pipeline is DeMarcus Walker and backup linebacker Dylan Cole. Both players played varying roles for the wounded Titans’ defense over the past couple of years.
OL vs. DL Matchups to Watch
If you are eligible to play right tackle and can block to a moderate degree, please report to Nashville. The situation is even more dire now that Jamarco Jones was released due to excessive fighting. John Ojukwu’s status is up in the air for this upcoming game as he was hurt last week. The undrafted free agent has been in contention for a roster spot for the majority of camp.
Regardless if the Bears do or do not start their defensive regulars, it should be a stern test for the Titans’ line looking to gel. Tennessee’s projected five starters are either new to the team or unproven. The looming backdrop against a defensive front features Walker, Ngakoue, Trevis Gipson, and Rasheem Green to name a few. Expect rookies like Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens to get a lot of burn against the Titans’ backups.
Skill-on-Skill Matchups to Watch
Chicago’s defense has strengths on all three levels but none more so than the secondary which can match up well with any receiver room. Cornerback talents such as Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon are young and talented. Ditto for safeties Jaquan Brisker and veteran Eddie Jackson. The Bears’ starting four should provide good landmarks for the Titans’ receivers such as youthful star Treylon Burks and wily old veteran DeAndre Hopkins. Reports from training camp indicate that rookies like Treshaun Harrison and Kearis Jackson are prospering. Young veterans like Racey McMath and Reggie Roberson need a big game to state their continued presence on the roster. They should match up well against Bears’ defensive backs Jaylon Jones and Kindle Vidor.
The Bears’ projected starting three linebackers are very good and young. TJ Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds were highly compensated to come over from winning organizations. Jack Sanborn was a star in the making last season as a rookie before a season-ending injury. It will be fun to watch them match up against the electric rookie runner Tyjae Spears and emerging tight-end sensation Chigoziem Okonkwo. Former Bear Trevon Wesco returns to the Windy City as the preeminent backup to Okonkwo.
Saturday’s weather forecast calls for a high of 83 degrees with an 18 percent chance of rain and northwestern winds blowing at 11 mph. While it isn’t the blazing heat that Nashville is used to at this time of year, the projected rainfall for Friday night should keep things cooler for the Windy City. The weather is perfect for all aspects of the game.
Odds and Ends
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel stated in his Monday press conference that Defensive Line Coach Terrell Williams will handle HC duties.
The Bears are favored by THREE points at Fanduel -115 odds. Books like BetMGM, Caesar’s, and DraftKings have Chicago favored by 3.5 points at -110 or -105 odds, depending on the site.
The money line at Fanduel has the Bears at -175, BetMGM at -165, Caesar’s at -170, and DraftKings at -180 while the Titans are +150, +140, +143, and +150, respectively at those books.
Fanduel is the outlier with regards to the total, which they set at 37 even at -110 odds. The other books all have set their totals at 37.5 at the same -110 odds.
Note that these odds will continue to shift as we get closer to kickoff.
Main Photo Credit: Denny Simmons/The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports