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New QBs Stafford, Dalton debut in Rams’ opener with Bears

MGN

CHICAGO (8-8) at LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-7)

Sunday, 8:20 p.m. EDT, NBC

OPENING LINE: Rams by 7 1/2, according to FanDuel SportsBook

SERIES RECORD: Bears lead 54-38-3

LAST MEETING: Rams beat Bears 24-10 on Oct. 26, 2020 in Inglewood, California

BEARS OFFENSE: OVERALL (26), RUSH (25), PASS (22), SCORING (t22).

BEARS DEFENSE: OVERALL (11), RUSH (15), PASS (12), SCORING (14).

RAMS OFFENSE: OVERALL (11), RUSH (10), PASS (13), SCORING (t22).

RAMS DEFENSE: OVERALL (1), RUSH (3), PASS (1), SCORING (1).

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Bears minus-4; Rams minus-3.

BEARS PLAYER TO WATCH: Veteran QB Andy Dalton makes his Bears debut after signing a one-year, $10 million deal in the offseason, with prized rookie Justin Fields backing him up. Dalton made three Pro Bowls in nine seasons with Cincinnati before spending last year with Dallas. A rough outing could ratchet up the calls for Fields — the No. 11 overall draft pick — to start.

RAMS PLAYER TO WATCH: S Taylor Rapp takes over for departed John Johnson as the starting free safety. Rapp had an injury-plagued 2020, but the Rams are betting heavily on their former 2019 second-round draft pick’s ability to take over Johnson’s major responsibilities on LA’s elite defense.

KEY MATCHUP: Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai vs. Rams head coach Sean McVay. What a way to start a new job for Desai. The unheralded former safeties coach makes his debut as an NFL coordinator against Matthew Stafford and McVay, one of the most innovative and successful offensive minds of the past decade.

KEY INJURIES: The Bears signed 39-year-old Jason Peters in mid-August, hoping the two-time All-Pro can solidify the left tackle spot with second-round draft pick Teven Jenkins missing the start of the season following back surgery. Jenkins and LB Danny Trevathan (knee) were placed on injured reserve. ... Bears NT Eddie Goldman missed practice Wednesday with a knee/ankle injury. He could be limited. ... Rams DT A’Shawn Robinson is returning slowly from a preseason knee injury, but McVay expects him to play.

SERIES NOTES: The Bears and Rams are facing each other for the fourth consecutive season. Los Angeles leads 2-1. ... McVay is 4-0 in season openers as a head coach, while Chicago’s Matt Nagy is 1-2. ... The Bears are opening in Los Angeles for the first time since 1950, when they beat the Rams 24-20 at the Coliseum.

STATS AND STUFF: Both teams debut new quarterbacks, with Stafford taking over in Los Angeles after 12 seasons, 45,109 yards passing and 282 TD throws in Detroit. ... Bears LB Khalil Mack and Los Angeles’ Aaron Donald are the only players with eight or more sacks in each of the past six seasons. ... Chicago RB David Montgomery ranked fifth in the NFL with a career-best 1,508 yards from scrimmage (1,070 rushing, 438 receiving) and had 10 touchdowns (eight rushing, two receiving) last year in his second season as a pro. ... Bears RB Damien Williams opted out of last season with Kansas City because of COVID-19 concerns and to spend time with his mother as she battled cancer. He ran for 498 yards and five touchdowns in 2019 and played a huge role in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory over San Francisco, scoring two TDs in the closing minutes. ... WR Allen Robinson caught a career-high 102 passes last year, and his 1,250 yards were second only to the 1,400 he had in his 2015 Pro Bowl season with Jacksonville. He had four catches for 70 yards in Chicago’s loss at SoFi last October. ... LB Roquan Smith led the Bears with 139 tackles and ranked second in the NFL with 18 tackles for loss in 2020. ... Stafford is the oldest QB to start a season opener for the Rams since Steve Bartkowski, who was also 33 when the 1986 season began. ... WR DeSean Jackson also debuts for his hometown Rams after a 13-year NFL career spent entirely back East. ... Rams LB Leonard Floyd is back with a new contract after getting two sacks in a big game against his former Bears teammates last season. ... Veteran assistant Raheem Morris takes over the NFL’s No. 1 defense in 2020 as the replacement for coordinator Brandon Staley, now head coach of the Chargers.

FANTASY TIP: Darrell Henderson is the only running back on the Rams’ roster with experience in McVay’s offense. If Sony Michel needs a few weeks to get up to speed, Henderson will get the ball extensively, and he loves to be a workhorse back.

Associated Press

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