1. Fast times at Friendship Collegiate Academy
Friends, how many of us have them?
Yannick Ngakoue will have a good friend on the opposite sideline Sunday in Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman. Ngakoue and Goldman go way back, all the way back to growing up in Washington, D.C., together. The two played together on the same defensive line at Friendship Collegiate Academy, where they wreaked havoc on the DMV and other nationally ranked high schools. After Goldman graduated and went to Florida State, Ngakoue led the charter school to a state championship and was named the D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year his senior season.
"To come from where we both come from, it's hard to get out of there. It's a blessing to be able to see him Sunday," Ngakoue said.
2. Track star
Henry Ruggs III's speed still has not ceased to amaze me.
The Bears' secondary will have a difficult time of trying to contain the second-year receiver that's coming into his own this season. Ruggs currently leads the team in receiving yards with 297 and he's also the fastest ball carrier in the league so far this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. He clocked in at 21.78 miles per hour on his 51-yard reception in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers last Monday.
3. Fields will be on the field
The Chicago Bears have officially given the ball to their rookie first-round quarterback and will let him run with it.
Justin Fields was named the starting quarterback by Matt Nagy after he started their previous two games in place of an injured Andy Dalton. Fields has displayed what has brought him to the dance so far, showcasing great arm strength and mobility in the pocket.
"You just keep seeing the plays from preseason to now, you're just seeing a guy keep getting better," said defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. "Very athletic, very strong. Throws a really good deep ball. Athletic, can make plays. He looks downfield when he's scrambling and getting away from the rush. He's been impressive."
Bradley and a Raiders defense that has had success this season against mobile QBs will try their hand at taking the rookie out of his element.
4. Protecting the QB
Something that I will be most interested in seeing is which offensive line can keep their quarterback off the ground.
Both Derek Carr and Justin Fields have taken their fair share of hits this season – both have been sacked 12 times. Carr has still been able to make plays and is leading the league in passing yards. Fields is 1-1 in his two starts with no touchdowns but two interceptions. While Carr has proven he's one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Fields is still adjusting to the NFL and will need all the help from his offensive line to help with his learning curve.
Good blocking will be vital for both teams, as the Bears defense leads the league in sacks (15) and the Raiders aren't too far behind with nine.
5. Getting D-Wall involved
Darren Waller is at the point of being so good that he's had a somewhat quiet three-game stretch – and he's still leading the team in catches.
Don't get me wrong, Carr getting the rest of his offense involved is the best thing for the offense as a whole. However, it will be interesting to see if Waller will have one of his traditional dominating performances against the Bears. Since going for 10 catches and 105 yards in Week 1 against the Ravens, he's cooled off a bit in production. The past three games he's had less than 65 receiving yards and has dropped down to four or five catches a game. Even with the dipped production, he's leading the league among tight ends in catches and second in receiving yards.
"We know that Darren is obviously a premier tight end in this league and we'll continue to find ways to get him involved," said offensive coordinator Greg Olson. "But if they want to try and take him away, we really feel good about the other guys we're going to."
It will be interesting to see if Carr can connect with his star tight end early and often against a very formidable Bears defense. The Bears have held the opposing starting tight ends they've faced this season to an average of 3.25 catches and 33.25 receiving yards.
6. Return of the Mack
For the second time since he was traded to the Chicago Bears, Khalil Mack will play the team that drafted him.
Whether it's been in Oakland or in Chicago, Mack has been one of the most consistently dominant linebackers in the league, and has carved out a career warranted of a future Hall of Famer. Mack is off to another impressive season with four sacks in four games. While dealing with a rib and foot injury, his status for Sunday's game is still up in the air. If he does suit up, his former quarterback is excited to compete against him once again.
"I know some things about that guy no one else knows. That's one of my best friends in the whole world," Carr said of Mack. "I love him to death. He knows that. It's no secret, everyone knows how close we are. That's not hidden any way. Not only is he one of the best players living in the world today. ... Again, he's one of my best friends but I can't wait to see him because I'm not going to stop talking to him the whole game."
The Silver and Black get one last practice in at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center before hosting the Chicago Bears at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday.