SERIES HISTORY: 64th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 31-31-1. The clubs have met each of the last four seasons, the last three times in December in Chicago. The last time they played at San Francisco, the 49ers were hosting their first-ever regular-season game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., in September of 2014. The Bears won the game 28-20.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Defensively, this should be a coordinator's dream. The Bears are facing the 49ers' third-string quarterback, essentially, in Nick Mullens. With 10 touchdown passes and six interceptions, Mullens has made a statement about his abilities. He's been at 102.1 or higher in three of his starts in terms of passer rating. But defensive coordinator Vic Fangio can be expected to mix up and disguise coverages without getting too exotic because they have two backups playing in the secondary in safety Deon Bush and slot corner Sherrick McManis. The Bears will not blitz much overall normally, but a few coming out of the slot can be effective against the pass -- and also in disrupting the running attack on the stretch plays the 49ers want to run to Matt Breida.
Offensively, the Bears won't run up against the most stout of defensive fronts, but the 49ers definitely can bring it in the pass rush with defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. The inside push is strong as Buckner has 11 sacks. Throwing to the backs and working the backs in the running game is a way Seattle attacked San Francisco successfully. The 49ers have given up 121 yards rushing on average over the last nine games, so the rushing attack and short passes can do damage. The Bears have the ability to use Tarik Cohen and hammer Jordan Howard and should use their edge.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--DOUBTFUL: S Eddie Jackson (ankle), LB Aaron Lynch (elbow)
--QUESTIONABLE: DT Bilal Nichols (knee)
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
--OUT: S Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Bears SS Adrian Amos, who has two interceptions, vs. 49ers TE George Kittle, who made the Pro Bowl with 72 catches for 1,154 yards. No tight end since Logan Thomas for Buffalo has had more than four catches against the Bears, and part of that is Amos' work. Some is due to Roquan Smith's improvement at linebacker. In a contract year, Amos has quietly put up 60 tackles, fourth-best total on the team. Kittle is versatile, and at his best with the short catch and run.
--Bears LB Roquan Smith, who leads the team with 108 tackles, vs. 49ers RB Matt Breida, who has 794 rushing yards. At 5-10, 190, Breida is no power back, but he does run hard through tackles and with good speed. He's dangerous on stretch plays and outside zone runs, getting in behind linemen and then popping out into gaps. As Smith has improved, fewer backs have found running room or openings in the short passing game. Smith has roamed sideline to sideline and makes fewer power decisions than in the first few weeks. It's why he became a Pro Bowl alternate as a rookie. Breida aggravated an ankle injury in the last game and his status is uncertain, although he practiced Wednesday on a limited basis. The injury has helped hold him to 56 yards total on 22 attempts the last two games.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: 49ers DT DeForest Buckner. While most people will be watching Bears defensive ace Khalil Mack, Buckner should have a greater incentive to shine in the Week 16 matchup. Buckner was not selected to the NFC Pro Bowl team despite 11 sacks from his interior defense position. Mack, a linebacker who is a candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has 12.5 sacks this season.
FAST FACTS: BEARS clinched NFC North division title last week. ... QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY completed 20 of 28 (71.4 pct.) for 235 yards with 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 120.4 rating last week. Ranks 2nd in NFL averaging 6.7 yards per carry this season (min. 50 atts.). ... RB JORDAN HOWARD rushed for 60 yards & TD in Week 15. Has 3 rush TDs in his past 5 on road. ... RB TARIK COHEN is 1 of 3 players (CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY & EMMANUEL SANDERS) with rush TD (2), TD catch (5) & pass TD (1) this season. Has 1,115 scrimmage yards in 2018, his 1st-career 1,000-yard season. ... WR ALLEN ROBINSON II leads Chi. WRs with 669 rec. yards this season. ... LB KHALIL MACK had 2.5 sacks last week. Has 4 sacks, 2 FFs, FR & 27-yard INT-TD in 5 road games this season. ... LB LEONARD FLOYD had 6 tackles & 2 sacks last week, his 4th career 2-sack game. Has 3 sacks in his past 3. ... Rookie LB ROQUAN SMITH is 1 of 4 NFL rookies with 100+ tackles this season (107). ... 49ERS QB NICK MULLENS completed 20 of 29 (69 pct.) for 275 yards with 1 TD vs. 0 INTs for 110.6 rating last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with 100+ rating. Has 95+ rating in 4 of 6 career starts. In 4 career starts at home, has 1,119 pass yards (279.8 per game) with 7 TDs vs. 3 INTs for 105 rating. ... RB MATT BREIDA had 96 scrimmage yards (50 rush, 46 rec.) & career-high 5 catches in Week 15. Has 95+ scrimmage yards in 3 of his past 4. ... Rookie RB JEFF WILSON JR. has 276 scrimmage yards (92 per game) in his past 3. ... TE GEORGE KITTLE ranks 2nd in league in YAC (743) & ranks 2nd among NFL TEs in rec. yards (1,154) this season. Has 570 rec. yards (95 per game) & 2 TDs in his past 6. ... Rookie WR DANTE PETTIS led team with 83 rec. yards last week. Has 4 TD catches in his past 4. ... DL DeFOREST BUCKNER tied career-high with 11 tackles & had 2 sacks last week. Has 11 sacks this season, his 1st-career season with 10+ sacks. Has 6.5 sacks in his past 6. ... LB MARK NZEOCHA had 1st-career sack & FF in Week 15. ... LB ELIJAH LEE had 10 tackles & TFL last week, his 2nd-career game with 10+ tackles.
PREDICTION: While the 49ers do possess some defensive talent, the Bears are the better team and are looking to improve their seeding in the NFC. It might not necessarily be easy, but the Bears should win out in a close contest.
OUR PICK: Bears, 21-16