Yesterday was the breakdown of what the Bears must do to beat the Rams, a team superior to them at almost every facet of the game. The Bears don’t run it better. The Bears don’t throw it better. The Bears don’t stop the run better. The Bears don’t stop the pass better. The 2020 Bears were better in the return game but their kick returner has left town. It is not difficult, at all, to see why the Bears are opening as more than a touchdown underdog on the road.
But hope is not lost.
I always like the Chicago Bears.
But they’re testing me right now. And I’m failing.
To paraphrase the great Hyman Roth, “This is the life they’ve chosen.”
By not giving Justin Fields even so much as the opportunity to win the starting job, Nagy has effectively forced the NBC cameras to cut to Fields with every three-and-out, every Dalton blunder, every quarter that goes by with the offense flailing. No, this group shouldn’t be expected to flourish against unquestionably one of the league’s best defenses, but that doesn’t matter.
Because every time Dalton gets sacked, fans will wonder if Fields could have avoided it.
Every time Dalton checks down, fans will wonder if Fields could have extended the play a few seconds with his mobility and made a big gain down the field.
Every time Dalton throws a ball into the fourth row, fans will wonder if Fields could have used that 4.4 speed to race by the sticks and extend the drive.
Matt Nagy and Andy Dalton don’t need to win Sunday night. But they need a tight, clean performance. They need to look like this offense is heading the right direction. Because the eyes of the football world will be upon them.
We’re finally talking about football. Two teams playing. Someone keeping score. Results that matter.
This season, the Thursday space will be occupied by a simple concept: how the Bears beat their opponent that week. Friday will fill out the game preview, including off-topic stuff and a prediction. But Thursday will be specific to mapping out a potential journey to victory for the boys from Chicago.
Victory is highly unlikely.
What Must the Bears Do on Offense:
The 2021 season probably won’t be one the Bears highlight, but it could be important for determining the future of the franchise. They have an odd mix of veterans and young players, all needing to prove themselves. They have key positions that didn’t have battles, but also don’t have sure things locked in.
We know Justin Fields is ultimately going to be the straw that stirs the drink, hopefully for the next two decades. But the Bears need to determine two things: (a) who will be surrounding Fields and (b) how will they make life easier for the quarterback.
With that, here are the ten most important Bears of 2021, other than Fields, of course.
10. Akiem Hicks
Hicks flashed greatness last year, then seemed to run out of gas.
His job was different last year without Eddie Goldman; teams were able to focus more on him in the running game. But then you’d see the spurt; he’d throw a guard three yards back and take out a running back in the backfield.
Hicks is in a contract year and the Bears have to know what he has left before deciding what to do.
9. Sam Mustipher
Mustipher was a legitimately good center last year and could be a building block going forward. The team didn’t consider replacing him. He needs to reward that confidence.
8. Darnell Mooney
If teams are going to take Allen Robinson away, Mooney needs to make them pay. The wide receiver needs to take a significant step in his sophomore season.
No reason to bury the lede.
If Justin Fields were the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears from Week One, I would predict this team to win 9-10 games and make the playoffs. But he’s not the starting quarterback. And that prediction is impossible to make.
This team’s offensive line will not be as bad as many predict, but the unit is still one of the most flawed on the roster. They’ll struggle to run the ball against bigger, more physical interiors. They’ll struggle on the edge against speedier rushers. With Dalton, that means no run game. With Dalton, that means sacks.
With Fields, it doesn’t. The optimum word for a player like Fields is extend. He’ll extend drives with that casual six-yard scramble on third-and-four. That’s three more plays; three more opportunities for big plays; ten more minutes of rest for the defense. Fields will also extend plays with his mobility. That’ll keep edge rushers more worried about contain than crash.
Fields at quarterback would see the offense jump 8-10 spots in every statistical category of note. He would still make plenty of mistakes. He would still turn it over a bunch. But a serious production increase would come with those errors.
And the Bears are starting Andy Dalton.
Last season, DBB nailed the preseason Super Bowl prediction for the first time in our history. The excitement at our headquarters was palpable; the laudits many. The key to the city of Pasadena was an unnecessary thrill.
This season we seek to repeat that historic achievement. Three questions.
(1) What teams have the big-game quarterback?
(2) What teams have the kind of division that will escort them into the top seed?
(3) What teams have a pass rush capable of taking over in January?
Sorry, folks, Green Bay.
Movies are subjective. So explaining a list like this seems to be of little use. This is them. These are it.
50. Joe Versus the Volcano
48. Planet of the Apes
47. Defending Your Life
46. Marathon Man
45. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
44. Annie Hall
41. The Firm
40. A Fish Called Wanda
There are thousands of fantasy football draft analysts out there and you can consume their content in any form you want. They got draft kits for sales. They have daily podcasts. They all write the same columns: Sleepers! Bold Predictions! Round-by-Round Value Selections! The Fantasy Industrial Complex has grown large enough to make Dwight Eisenhower blush.
My first draft in 18 years is tonight. My league is, let’s just say, unique. There are twelve teams and you are forced to draft the following:
You must draft exactly in these slots. No stockpiling at positions. This is a half PPR league but with no flex, the league actually skews more towards the quarterback and tight end than almost any other league out there. So here are some draft strategies I’ve developed over my several weeks of research, focused specifically on this league. Maybe they’ll help you if you’re drafting over the next six days. Maybe they won’t.
Rounds one and two of a fantasy draft feel the same to me as rounds one and two of the actual draft. You’re looking for the guys who will carry your team for the duration of the season. For me, that means the following:
Matt Nagy likes to talk a lot without saying anything.
When asked last week why he was optimistic, his answer centered on the fact that more players understand their roles, having been in his system for longer. As expected, that response was universally panned because fans see more immediate results elsewhere.
But there was a second part of his answer.
After rambling about experience he added “When you have that and you have a guy like Andy (Dalton) and these quarterbacks that come in and understand it, that’s where it gives me confidence.”
Ah, yes. The most important position in sports does, in fact, matter. The truth is there is reason to believe the team’s offense will be better largely because the personnel fits what we believe he wants to do.
Nobody is going to tell you that Dalton is the savior. (Fields may be in time.) But Dalton can do things that previous quarterbacks simply couldn’t; most notably, he can throw the ball down the field with accuracy.
Keep in mind, Dalton isn’t a great downfield passer, but he’s better than what’s been here, according to Pro-Football-Reference.