LAKE FOREST – After matchups with two of the NFC’s best, the 49ers and Packers, in Weeks 1 and 2, the Bears have a favorable streak to come next month.
They will start with the Houston Texans this week. Beyond that, they have the Giants, Vikings, and Commanders to come. This could be a key stretch for Matt Eberflus’ 2022 Bears. It is one of the few games in which the Bears are favored by sports betting.
Lovie Smith will return to Soldier Field as the Texans head coach. He last coached an NFL team at Soldier Field when his Tampa Bay Buccaneers visited in 2014.
By virtue of being in opposing conferences, the Bears and Texans have only played five times since the Texans’ inaugural season in 2002. Through 2020, the Bears were winless against Houston. They beat quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Texans at Soldier Field in December 2020, going 1-4 all-time against Houston.
Here’s what to look out for in the latest installment of this series. The Bears (1-1) and Texans (0-1-1) face off at noon on CBS.
1. Will the Bears throw more?
Justin Fields has attempted just 28 passes in two games. Some NFL quarterbacks could hit that mark in two quarters.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy wasn’t concerned about what the box score said after last week’s loss to Green Bay. Yes, Fields only attempted 11 passes, but the Bears only went 41 plays for the game. Getsy estimated he called 19 or 20 passes. Fields simply jumped on several of them and he was sacked three times.
“It’s our job every week to assess the opponent: what gives us the best chance of succeeding and where are our matchups in our favor?” Getsi said. “Obviously last week we felt like there were parts of the racing game where we felt like we had a pretty good game.”
Fans certainly want to see Fields spread the ball more, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will this week against Houston.
2. What if Roquan Smith doesn’t play?
Bears linebacker Roquan Smith sat out practice several days this week with a hip injury and is questionable for Sunday’s game. It is not known when the injury occurred. Smith played all 68 defensive snaps for the Bears last week against Green Bay.
While he may have started a little slow, the Bears aren’t worried about Smith’s lack of big plays in the first two games. If he’s unable to play on Sunday, it will be a huge absence for the Bears defense.
Next on the depth chart would probably be Lake Zurich native Jack Sanborn. Linebacker Joe Thomas could be dropped from the practice squad with linebacker Matt Adams (hamstring) already ruled out.
3. Houston’s Dangerous Rookie
Like the Bears, the Texans are in rebuilding mode. One of the exciting new additions to their team is rookie running back Dameon Pierce. Florida’s fourth-round draft pick has 102 rushing yards on 26 carries (3.9 yards per attempt) in two games this season.
Pierce has the potential to propel this attack, which lacks firepower elsewhere. His workload increased from Week 1 to Week 2, and it may continue to increase as his coaches gain confidence in the rookie.
The Bears defense ranks last among NFL teams to stop the rush, giving up 189.5 yards per game in two games.
4. Does Lucas Patrick return to the center?
The Bears could be about to mix things up on the offensive line. Lucas Patrick, who played with a thumb injury, started breaking football again this week in training. This likely signals a return to center. Patrick played right guard in each of the first two games, rotating with Teven Jenkins in that position.
The Bears brought Patrick here to be their starting center, so they want him back there when he can. This makes things more uncertain at the right guard. The coaching staff were impressed with Sam Mustipher, who had taken reps at right guard before Patrick’s injury. Jenkins was also a pleasant surprise at right guard.
5. Will Mooney and Kmet be involved?
Receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet were virtually absent from the passing game in the Bears’ first two games. If the passing offense is going to improve, they need to be part of it. Both Mooney and Kmet seemed indifferent this week when talking about their lack of production.
“Obviously I’m a catcher,” Mooney said. “I want to catch the ball. I want the ball, that’s for sure, but you also have to be a team player.
Don’t be surprised if the Bears make an effort to throw to Mooney and Kmet early in Sunday’s game.