Bears vs. Bills — What to Watch 4

The Bears’ NFL-leading running game could get a boost from the return of Khalil Herbert, who has missed the last four games with a hip injury. On a day likely fit for running, Justin Fields will continue his quest for the all-time rushing record for quarterbacks.

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Bears running back Khalil Herbert has 108 carries for 643 yards and four touchdowns this season, but has missed the last four games with a hip injury.

Bears running back Khalil Herbert (24) scores a touchdown on a 25-yard pass from Justin Fields in the Bears’ 33-14 victory over the Patriots on Oct. 24 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

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Key matchup

The Bears’ league-leading running game (186.9 yards per game) could be a bigger factor than ever in expected windy, sub-zero wind-chill conditions that will make passing treacherous — especially for a team that isn’t that great at it in perfect conditions.

With the return of running back Khalil Herbert (108 carries, 643 yards, 6.0 average, four touchdowns), who has missed the last four games with a hip injury, the Bears are at full strength in their backfield with David Montgomery (172-694-4.0-5) and quarterback Justin Fields (143-1,000-7.0-8).

And even excluding quarterback rushing yards, the Bears would be ninth in the NFL in rushing (115.4 yards per game). But without Herbert, Bears running backs averaged 83.0 yards per game. In the previous five games with Herbert, Bears running backs averaged 114.2 yards per game.

The Bills counter with a run defense that is sixth in the NFL in yards but 19th in yards per carry after Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert rushed for 136 yards on 17 carries against them last week. Veteran defensive tackle DaQuan Jones leads the Bills in run stop win rate (42.7%), but their defensive interior is banged up with tackles Ed Oliver (calf) and Jordan Phillips (shoulder) questionable. Keep an eye on linebacker Matt Milano, who has emerged as an unsung hero on the Bills’ defense.

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The Bears allowed six sacks against the Eagles last week and are 32nd and last in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play. The Bills’ front seven isn’t as potent as that of the Eagles, but it’s still enough to present a big challenge for the Bears’ offensive line.

“I think most of the guys in our room, they want challenges,” Bears center Sam Mustipher said. “You want to see what you’re made of. They train for these moments. [Not only] a team with as much talent as they have, but the coaching staff they have [Eric] Washington, [Sean] McDermott, Leslie Frazier — some of the best minds in football. That’s also a challenge.”

Player to watch

Bears quarterback Justin Fields needs to average 69 rushing yards in the final three games to break Lamar Jackson’s NFL single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,206 in 15 games in 2019). Jackson rushed 11 times for 73 yards in a 23-20 loss to the Bills in Week 4.

X-factor

Even two teams that play in outdoor stadiums in Buffalo and Chicago could be challenged by wintery conditions at Soldier Field — single-digit temperatures and 20 mph winds with gusts up to 35 mph.

“You love playing in these dirty conditions up front. We’re excited about it,” Bears offensive line coach Chris Morgan said. “You heard Justin [say] he’s excited about playing in this game. He’s never played in a cold game, so when you hear that coming from your quarterback, that’s pretty cool.”

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