When the 49ers take on the Bears in Chicago Sunday, few people are likely to notice outside the Bay Area and Illinois.
The 1-10 49ers have the second-worst record in the NFL. The 2-9 Bears are right behind. Both teams have thin rosters and even thinner hopes for picking up victories over the final five games of the 2016 season.
In fact, whoever loses this game actually helps its chances for getting the first or second pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
This may be the 49ers’ best opportunity to come up with their first victory since the opening game of the season – or at least until Dec. 24, when they get another shot at the Rams, their Game 1 victims.
The 49ers beat the Bears last season, 26-20, in Chicago when quarterback Blaine Gabbert – now benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick – had a long TD run to send the game into overtime, then hit Torrey Smith on a 71-yard TD pass to win the game.
This game will feature two of the NFL’s least-effective offenses. The 49ers rank 28th and the Bears are 16th. The Bears, however, are without injured starting quarterback Jay Cutler, meaning backup Matt Barkley will get his second straight start. In losing to the Titans last week, Barkley threw 54 times for 28 completions and 316 yards and three touchdowns, but also was intercepted twice.
One bright spot for the Bears has been rookie running back Jordan Howard, who has 766 yards rushing. Another positive has been Chicago’s defense. The Bears’ D is 11th in total yards and has been good against the run, giving up just 3.8 yards per carry.
The 49ers go into Chicago after a week in Florida, where they’ve been practicing since last week’s loss in Miami.
Niners starting left tackle Joe Staley says he and his teammates haven’t given up and are going into the Bears game with the intent of turning things around over the final five games.
“We’re 1-10 and have a 10-game losing streak,” he told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “We’ve got to get out of this slump, get back to winning ways, just feel like what it’s like to win again.
“Build on one (win), build on two and carry that momentum into the offseason, instead of ending the season terribly and wiping that from our mind and go off with some positive mojo.”
Though the 49ers have continued to lose, the offense has shown a slight uptick behind Kaepernick over the past few games. Against the Dolphins, Kaepernick threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 113 yards.
Oddsmakers, however, are giving the Bears the edge as 3-point favorites. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. in the Bay Area.