The Road to Miami (via London): Bears down Raiders

Charlie Mullen

October 04, 2019 at 8:48 am.

LONDON — The Bears and Raiders touched down in London for their historic meeting at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday with morale-boosting wins last weekend.

The Raiders held on to beat the Colts 31-24 while the Bears found a way to stop the Vikings running game in a 16-6 win.

So what can we expect from the first game in this year’s International Series?

Oakland and Chicago have played in London before so they will know what it takes to deal with the jetlag that comes with the journeys across the Atlantic. Oakland arrived in London at the start of the week while Chicago arrived in the capital on Thursday.

On their previous trip to England, the Bears beat the Buccaneers 24-16 in 2011 when Lovie Smith’s defense kept their opponents out of their endzone until the fourth quarter when the win was already secured. Their defense finished the day with four interceptions and a sack that day. The Raiders have lost both their games in London by 24 points. In 2014, Derek Carr was replaced by Matt McGloin when Oakland were beaten 38-14 by Miami. Carr left the game with a leg injury in the third quarter but two interceptions by McGloin ended the Raiders hopes of a win. Last year, the Raiders struggled moving the chains with only 185 net yards – the lowest by any team in an NFL London game. They became the third team to fail to score a TD in the capital when they were soundly beaten 27-3 by Seattle.

The Bears will start as favorites to improve their record to 4-1 and preserve the NFC’s impressive record in inter-conference match-ups in London. There have been 14 inter-conference games played in the English capital with the NFC losing just three.

The start to this 100th NFL season has seen AFC teams win a total of 28 games through four weeks while NFC teams have registered 34 victories. Ten of those have come in the North division with the Packers and Bears leading the way with three wins while the Lions and the Vikings have each own two games. And it’s the competitiveness that the Bears face in their division that makes them favourites to beat the Raiders in London.

Playing in a neutral venue eliminates the so-called ‘home field advantage’ that can be crucial for some teams. So it should not surprise anyone that the designated ‘home’ teams have won 10 of the 24 so far. Anyone who attended last season’s match-up between Philadelphia and Jacksonville would have thought the Eagles were the ‘home’ team given the level of support they received from the Wembley stands, especially when the Jaguars were faced with third downs.

In terms of team news, the Bears could be without first choice QB Mitchell Trubisky who left Chicago’s 16-6 win over Minnesota at Solder Field with a shoulder injury. Chase Daniel replaced him and led his team to a statement win that moves Chicago to 3-1 alongside Green Bay. Daniel is expected to start at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and while the stadium may be new to the QB, the city won’t be. Daniel replaced Kansas City QB Alex Smith for the final two drives of the Chiefs’ 45-10 win over Detroit in 2015. Daniel completed both passes he attempted and led Kansas City on a touchdown drive. However, linebacker Roquan Smith’s availability is questionable after missing last week’s win for an undisclosed issue. For the Raiders, Vontaze Burfict landed in London to find the league had suspended him for the rest of the season following his helmet-to-helmet hit on Colts TE Jack Doyle. It’s the latest in a long list of misdemeanors committed by the former Bengals linebacker.

This will be the first time Bears lineback Khalil Mack will face the team that traded him on the eve of the 2018 season. Since then, Mack has led Chicago’s defence to the league’s number one ranked scoring defense last season with just 17.7 points allowed. This season, the Monsters of the Midway have carried on their dominance by giving up just 11.2 points per game. The Bears are fortunate to have such a strong defense because their offense only has the Dolphins and the Jets below them in the rankings. The Raiders are ranked 21st in offense and 22nd in defense which leaves a lot of room for improvement. If the Bears are to win, the performance of their defense could be the deciding factor.

Bears by 7