Bears vs Ravens Game Preview
Chicago and Baltimore officially open the NFL season with a Thursday Night game, the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
Both teams share many similarities. They are both relatively young and anchored by stalwart defences particularly on Chicago’s side. They are also in the middle of a transition. The Bears have swapped coaches while the Ravens have a hot quarterback prospect waiting.
Chicago could be a surprise team this season. They are led by young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky who they drafted 2nd overall in 2017. He had an “okay” season to start but with additions to the offence including #1 receiver Allen Robinson, he’s expected to make a leap.
The Bears defence remains their bread-and-butter. Led by safety Adrian Amos, this defence quietly kept the Bears in some games. They don’t have household names but they are better than the sum of their parts.
Formerly the original Cleveland Browns, Baltimore comes “home” for the Hall of Fame game. This is a team that is still driven by a solid defence though it is inconsistent on offence. Quarterback Joe Flacco has a Super Bowl ring but his time might be coming to a close.
Behind Flacco is hotshot quarterback Lamar Jackson and former Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III. Though not expected to start, both quarterbacks will push Flacco and should he falter, either could get the call.
As the earliest preseason game, don’t expect any of the key players to play significant minutes. Both teams will roll out the second and third-string players. Baltimore is a better-coached team and has more to play for given their history so these extra reasons make them the favourite.
Bears vs Ravens Head-to-Head Records
The Bears and Ravens have only faced each other six times only playing each other once every four years. Chicago has won four of these games although Baltimore has outscored them in total.
Their first meeting came in 1998 where the Bears blew out Baltimore 24-3. Chicago has won their last two meetings but only by a field goal each. Their last meeting came in October in 2017. Though both teams are known for their defence, their games have had plenty of scoring.
In their last two games, both teams scored a total of 43 and 51. With the NFL’s shift to a more pass-happy and offence-oriented league, both franchises have tried to adapt and keep up. Their old-school smashmouth football doesn’t apply anymore.
With both franchises constantly retooling especially on offence, expect these two to be almost like a parallel version of each other moving forward.
Chicago Bears Recent History
The Bears are facing their longest playoff drought in 40 years. They last made the playoffs in 2010 where they lost to their archnemeses, the Green Bay Packers in the Conference Championship. They finished with at least a .500 record the next three seasons but have since become bottom-feeders beginning 2014.
Chicago has been plagued by bad luck, injuries, and a lack of stability on offence. It says a lot about the franchise when the volatile Jay Cutler has been their best quarterback. The team experimented in the early 2010s firing longtime general manager Jerry Angelo to make way for an offensive revolution with GM Jerry Angelo and head coach Marc Trestman, an offensive guru.
This experiment lasted only two seasons as the Bears became horrible everywhere else. Going back to their defensive roots, the Bears were set back by multiple injuries and continued to struggle. But with new coach Matt Nagy and a healthy Mitchell Trubisky, things are looking up.
Baltimore Ravens Recent History
Baltimore has been on a drought just like Chicago although not as long. The Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012 but have only had one winning season since. The good news is, they’ve only had one losing season in over a decade and it’s thanks to John Harbaugh and his staff who have allowed the Ravens to keep up with the ever-changing game.
Chicago couldn’t get their offence together but Baltimore has hummed along nicely. Joe Flacco may not be an elite quarterback, but he does just enough to keep the team steady as the usually-reliable defence takes over the other side of the ball.
The Ravens continue the culture of hiring from within now promoting Don “Wink” Martindale to fill the void as defensive coordinator. This internal process has kept them consistent through the years. But after narrowly missing the playoffs last season and Flacco having another subpar season, some changes could be coming for the Ravens in the middle.
Chicago Bears Outlook
It all depends on whether Trubisky is a stud or a dud. If he’s more of the former, the Bears can be a legitimate Super Bowl threat within the next few seasons. This franchise has long thirsted for a QB who will end their championship drought and Trubisky could be that man.
If Trubisky just becomes another body in the quarterback graveyard, Chicago will once again have to look for a pivot either by trade or through the draft. But if Trubisky remains at least good enough, the Bears will be perennial contenders. Their astounding defence will at least keep them relevant.
Chicago can look to the Ravens’ formula. Trubisky can be better than Flacco and their defence is arguably as good as Baltimore’s. Management should at least be patient and allow the coaching staff and young QB to develop. They may have learned from their cut-and-paste solutions of the past.
Baltimore Ravens Outlook
The Ravens will miss Ozzie Newsome, who has guided the team as the team’s general manager in the last 20 years. They will remain relevant in the AFC North provided they continue their tradition of re-tooling their system. Harbaugh has been the coach for a decade but with the recent string of disappointments, his seat is starting to get warm.
They upgraded on offence this offseason acquiring Hayden Hurst in the draft as their tight end of the future along with some tackles to protect the oft-injured Flacco. But in case Flacco gets hurt or proves to be detrimental to the team, Jackson or Griffin III could be the ones leading the offence.
Jackson is an enigmatic prospect. He has drawn comparisons to Michael Vick, a dual-threat quarterback with unreal athleticism. But he remains a work-in-progress, especially as a pocket passer. Baltimore has no plans of rebuilding and would like to remain in contention perennially. Jackson will have to learn fast.
This game is notable because it will feature at least Griffin III or Jackson playing significant snaps for the Ravens. Don’t expect Trubisky to play that much if he plays at all for the Bears. Given his injury, the Bears will be extra careful with him.
Both teams are deep and strong on the defensive end. Chicago added even more weapons on defence drafting Roquan Smith at linebacker. Given the division they play in, there is no such thing as having too many good defenders. The Ravens bolstered their offence to help their quarterbacks. Either Jackson or Griffin should have decent protection albeit limited weapons to throw to.
Chicago and Baltimore could play to an uneventful close game that Baltimore could eventually eke out. Harbaugh’s staff have the experience and the Ravens’ defence is one of the most experienced. They dominated last preseason going 4-0 and allowing a grand total of 32 points.
The Bears’ new coaching team are still adjusting but thankfully for them, the Ravens’ offence will also be in a learning process. Baltimore should come out on top.