By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) — All eyes will be on Kyle and Chris Long Sunday as the two brothers face each other for the first time in their lives in any sport.
It’s a fun, interesting family affair between the Bears right guard and Rams defensive end, but to be honest, it’s not going to impact the outcome of the game very much. Kyle and Chris will certainly run into each other a number of times Sunday, but for the most part, Chris will be matched up against right tackle Jordan Mills, not his brother.
Sorry to kill the buzz.
That’s not to say it isn’t worth keeping an eye on both of them Sunday. Kyle, 24, considers Chris, 28, to be his role model. Chris, meanwhile, admires how Kyle has hurdled some obstacles in his life and overcome the pressure of living up to the natural hype that comes with being the brother of an NFL star and son of an NFL Hall of Famer. And, not surprisingly, the matchup is big enough for the Long family that Howie — the aforementioned Hall of Famer — is taking the day off from his FOX gig to be there in person in St. Louis.
It’s a great side story. But it’s not going to determine the outcome of the game.
Here are some matchups that will, however:
Chris Long Vs Jordan Mills
Chris knows that Mills is the guy he really needs to be worried about this week.
“I think he’s got good athleticism and good length. I think Kyle and him work well together,” Chris Long said Wednesday on a conference call. “It’s good to have (Roberto) Garza in there. He’s a great leader, I know that, and kind of keeps that whole group together. For two rookies to be kind of out there on an island together, working as well as they do, it’s pretty impressive. Jordan’s athleticism and his length kind of stand out.”
Mills is coming off one of his better performances, but he has struggled at times this season. Long will be a handful. He doesn’t have the athleticism that his brother Kyle has, but he’s much more experienced than Mills from a technique standpoint and his motor never stops.
With Robert Quinn also presenting a tough challenge for left tackle Jermon Bushrod on the other side, help for Mills could be limited. The rookie is going to have to win some 1-on-1 battles for the Bears to have a chance.
Of course, if Kyle is free, he’ll be happy to help out too.
Julius Peppers Vs Jake Long
Television broadcasters have been screwing up the Longs all season, so good luck Sunday, Kenny Albert.
Jake is not related, but he’ll play a huge role in the outcome of the game. Julius Peppers had arguably his best game of the season against the Ravens and it happened on a muddy field, which usually slows down defensive ends. Long is not the player he used to be, but he’s still an above-average left tackle and can slow down Peppers. He’s also a strong run blocker and the Bears need all the help they can get in stopping the run.
Peppers needs to win this battle every time Sunday when he gets Long 1-on-1.
Zac Stacy Vs Corey Wootton/Landon Cohen
The Bears’ run defense now ranks 31st in the league, giving up 133.9 rushing yards per game. That’s scary considering the Bears will be without defensive tackle Stephen Paea Sunday against a Rams running attack that is just scratching the surface with Zac Stacy.
Wootton has been good in the three technique, but Cohen tends to get spun around a lot by offensive linemen and gets pushed out of his gaps. There will be pressure on the linebackers as well, while safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte will likely come up to the box often with the Rams limited in the passing game.
Cortland Finnegan Vs Bears Receivers
Finnegan has struggled a little bit this year and missed some time with various injuries, so he might not even play this week. He did not practice Wednesday because of an eye injury.
If he does play, however, it will be fun to watch him go up against Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery when he lines up against them. He’s not exactly the No. 1 cornerback anymore, but Finnegan has always been known for being feisty and getting under the skin of opposing wide receivers. Jeffery is quiet and doesn’t get rattled easily, but Marshall is certainly the kind of guy who could get into it with Finnegan.
The good news for the Bears is that the Rams secondary has struggled this year, allowing seven touchdown passes of 20 or more yards. Marshall and Jeffery are certainly going to have a chance to make big plays in this game.
Every game has its fair share of interesting matchups, but this one seems to have more than usual. And it won’t hurt that the atmosphere inside the Edward Jones Dome will be intense as a large number of Bears are expected to be in attendance.
For a matchup between a 6-4 team and a 4-6 team, this promises to be a good one.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.