Four Downs: Sizing up battle of Longs

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
11:24
AM ET
Kyle LongJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesKyle Long and the Bears offensive line will be in for a challenge against a formidable Rams defensive front.
Peyton Manning and Eli Manning have played each other several times, but, as quarterbacks, the brothers' matchup is more figurative because they are never on the field at the same time. But when right guard Kyle Long (Bears) and defensive end Chris Long (Rams) play Sunday in St. Louis, the brothers have the potential to go heads to head.

Will Chris Long get the best of his younger brother? Is Zac Stacy the next running back in line for a big day against the Bears' run defense? Our panel weighs in on those questions and more:

First Down

Fact or Fiction: Chris Long will beat Kyle at least once and get a sack.


[+] EnlargeLong
Pat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsThe Rams' Chris Long has 6.5 sacks this season.

Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. If Chris Long beats a Bears offensive lineman for a sack on Sunday, it will be either left tackle Jermon Bushrod or right tackle Jordan Mills. Rams coach Jeff Fisher said on Wednesday that he does not anticipate Long bumping inside and lining up at defensive tackle, which is where he would have to play in order to go head-to-head with right guard Kyle Long. Maybe the two brothers exchange words and get tangled up after the whistle, or perhaps the younger Long is asked to help out Mills to block Chris Long, but don't expect the sibling rivalry to take place head-up in the trenches.

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Chris Long has a better shot of beating tackle Jordan Mills, whom he'll mostly be matched up against in a one-on-one situation. Either way, I think the odds are decent the Bears hold the elder Long brother sack-less, if only because that's what they're good at. The Bears have given up the third-fewest sacks in the NFL and you can bet Mills, as well as Kyle Long, will be ready for him.


Second Down

Fact or Fiction: Josh McCown will make the debate about a starting QB even hotter with another strong game.


[+] EnlargeJosh McCown
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJosh McCown hasn't thrown an interception in 101 pass attempts this season.

Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Eventually McCown is going to have a mediocre game, but if the Bears can give the veteran time to throw on Sunday, he should be successful against a Rams defense that ranks No. 19 overall. Now, that's easier said than done given the presence of Chris Long (6.5 sacks) and Robert Quinn (12.0 sacks) on the St. Louis defensive line and the always productive James Laurinaitis at middle linebacker. But imagine if McCown improves to 3-0 and the Bears sit at 7-4 next Monday. Are the Bears really going to rush Jay Cutler back from this high-ankle sprain? If McCown plays well on Sunday and the Bears are victorious, the best thing for the team is to start McCown Dec. 1 at Minnesota. Why ruin a good thing?

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. McCown should have a good game, but it doesn't change the fact that Cutler is the starter. This isn't a Colin Kaepernick-Alex Smith situation. The Bears might not sign Cutler to a long-term deal this offseason, but he's not getting benched for McCown, now or later. It's not even a question, especially considering Cutler has played pretty well this season, thanks in part to the upgrades on the offensive line and the coaching staff.


Third Down

Fact or Fiction: Zac Stacy will be the next running back to gash the Bears defense.


[+] EnlargeZac Stacy
AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceWill Zac Stacy eclipse his season-high of 134 yards rushing against the Bears on Sunday?

Jeff Dickerson: Fact. The Bears proved again last Sunday they can't stop the run. The Ravens entered the game averaging 73 yards per game on the ground. They left Soldier Field with 174 yards. Stacy is the second-leading rookie rusher in the NFL with 537 yards and posted back-to-back 100-yard rushing games in Weeks 8 and 9. With the game being played in the controlled climate of the Edward Jones Dome on artificial turf, I expect Stacy to be next in a long line of running backs to exploit the Bears' run defense.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. Well, he's next, right?


Fourth Down

Fact or Fiction: Alshon Jeffery will get more receiving yards than Tavon Austin.


[+] EnlargeAlshon Jeffery
AP Photo/Ben MargotAlshon Jeffery is 14th in the NFL with 818 yards receiving on 54 catches.

Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Austin is a dangerous home-run hitter. But Jeffery is turning into a legitimate No. 1 NFL wide receiver with 54 receptions for 818 yards and three touchdowns. He is a focal point of the Bears' offense. Jeffery has four 100-yard receiving games this season and has topped 80 yards in three of the past four weeks. Brandon Marshall is likely due for a bounce-back game after a mediocre performance against the Ravens, but even when Marshall is on a roll, Jeffery finds a way to get his touches. Expect that same exact scenario to play out Sunday in St. Louis.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. Austin is coming off the best game of his young career -- 138 yards and two touchdowns, including an 81-yarder. That's the kind of explosive effort the Rams expect, and the Bears do like to give up yardage. But that's the only game he's had more than 47 yards. The Bears' secondary might be bad, but I'd put my money on another reliable effort from Jeffery. With McCown in at quarterback, Jeffery has caught 18 passes for 273 yards in 10 quarters and one series. He's a star in the making, just as Brandon Marshall has predicted. And we know Marshall is never wrong.

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