The Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns both bounced back from Week One losses to even their records in Week Two. Now, both teams could look very different on offense as they clash in Cleveland in Week Three.
Bears rookie Justin Fields may get his first NFL start, while the Browns could have Odell Beckham Jr. make his 2021 debut in the game.
Chicago Bears vs. Cleveland Browns
Sunday, September 26, 2021 – 01:00 PM EDT at FirstEnergy Stadium
The Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns both bounced back from Week One losses to even their records in Week Two.
The Bears were overwhelmed by the Rams in the opener, losing by 20 in Los Angeles. The Browns nearly upset the defending AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs in the opener, losing a tough 33-29 game after the Chiefs rallied in the fourth quarter.
Chicago had a narrow 20-17 win over the Bengals on Sunday, while the Browns beat the Texans by 10.
Welcome (Back) to the New Guy
It would happen sooner than most expected, but Sunday could mark the official start of the Justin Fields era. The rookie has seen playing time in both of the first two games, coming in behind starter Andy Dalton.
However, Dalton went down with a knee injury during Sunday’s game, and Fields took over the rest of the way.
The team doesn’t believe that Dalton has an ACL tear. It’s believed to just be a bone bruise. That makes it possible that the veteran returns for Sunday’s game, but if he can’t play, Fields would get the chance to make his first NFL start in Week Three, and it would come in Ohio, where he starred for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Fields didn’t set the world on fire on Sunday, although it wasn’t a disaster either. He was 6-of-13 passing for 60 yards with a fourth-quarter interception that helped set up a Bengals touchdown. He also rushed 10 times for 31 yards.
Coach Matt Nagy seemed pleased with what he saw from the rookie, though.
“He’s probably further along than we thought he’d be at this point right now,” Nagy said. “So if that's the case, then we feel good about it, and Justin has worked really, really hard to get to this point. Even today at that moment as a rookie, coming in in that situation, super calm, super cool. Even after the interception … he was very cool coming out there and knowing -- to try to make a play.”
Concerns on Defense
If Fields gets the start, he couldn’t ask for a better debut as QB1 than a Browns defense that allowed the lowly Texans to put up 21 points. Houston was able to convert more than half –7-of-13—of its third-downs against Cleveland, and the Browns weren’t able to get a sack until the fourth quarter.
The Browns clearly missed the presence of linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., who is out at least three weeks with a hamstring injury. Veteran Malcolm Smith is filling in for him on the field and as the leader of the defense.
Rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has also looked good at linebacker and will likely see his playing time increase in Walker’s absence.
The defense should also improve as Grant Delpit works his way into the game plan. The safety made his NFL debut on Sunday after missing all of last year with injury and should see an increase in playing time. On offense, the big news surrounds the possible 2021 debut for star receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
OBJ is returning from ACL surgery less than a year ago. He was expected to see time against the Chiefs in Week One but was scratched after going through pregame warmups. The team then gave him Sunday off to give him plenty of time to be ready for his return.
In his absence, rookie Anthony Schwartz got time at receiver and showed promise, giving quarterback Baker Mayfield another weapon once Beckham is back.
The offense got back left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. on Sunday after he missed the opener with an ankle injury.
The Bears have been trying to work Fields into the offense in a low-pressure, low-profile way, allowing him to come in for spells, while Dalton handles the starter role. If he’s pressed into a start in front of thousands of Ohio State fans in Cleveland, it will be the opposite of what the team wanted.
For the NFL pick, look for the Browns to take advantage of the rookie in a big home win.
NFL pick: (visit our Sportsbook Review)
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.