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Bears Have Put Themselves in the Fight. Now They Have to Win it.

| November 6th, 2018

By opening the season at 5-3, the Bears have put themselves in the fight. While they couldn’t win the NFC North in the first half of the season, they managed to put themselves in position to win the division or, at the very least, make the playoffs. They are in the fight. Now they have to win it.

At five wins and three losses, the Bears have the same record through eight games they had in 2013, the last time they were relevant in the NFC North race. We all remember how that season ended. The Bears went 0-3 against NFC North foes — including an overtime loss to a five-win Vikings team — in their last eight games. A win in any of them would have won the division. The Bears haven’t been competitive in the NFC North since.

The 2018 Bears have five divisional games in their final eight, including each of the next three. They’re sitting at the top of the division now and need to win at least two of the next three to stay in that race. It’s impossible to say what will happen but there’s no reason to think the Bears can’t stay in this thing until the end.

Because while it wasn’t flashy, we really shouldn’t undersell what the Bears did to the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. Those are bad teams, sure, but outscoring them 65-19 without Khalil Mack or Allen Robinson is, well, interesting.

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Rounding Up the Division Rivals (And Looking Slightly Into Their Futures)

| October 4th, 2018

Four games in the books, which means we’re a quarter of the way through the regular season, and it’s time for the first edition of “Rivals Round Up”. This is a new feature wherein I’ll take a look at how things stand in the NFC North.

And we’ll start at the top.


Chicago Bears, 3-1

Almost a week later, and last week’s win still feels every bit as good as it did on Sunday. (If you’re a Cubs fan like me, the Bears’ early season success might be the only thing getting you through this first week of October.) Chicago leads the division for the first time in years. They’ve won three games in a row for the first time, again, in years. And Mitch Trubisky’s offense took a hugely positive step forward with a dominant performance over Tampa Bay.

Oh, and that Khalil Mack guy? He’s pretty good, too.

Next Opponent: Miami Dolphins.

I don’t love that Chicago’s bye week comes so early this year, and after last week I’m antsy see them play again. But I expect the Bears to stay focused, keep learning, and go into Miami next week without missing a beat.

The Dolphins crashed back down to earth last week after a 3-0 start, getting pummeled by the Patriots 38-7. They play the 3-1 Bengals in Cincinnati this Sunday. Ryan Tannehill is having a nice season and seems to function well in Adam Gase’s system.

However, their offensive line is shaky and I fully expect the Bears to put pressure on him the entire day. On the defensive side, the Dolphin’s secondary will definitely be a step up from what Trubisky faced against Tampa. They’ve managed a league-leading nine interceptions in four games, so Mitch will have to play smart and stay accurate to keep from making costly mistakes.

Game Prediction: It won’t be another Bears blowout, but I think they earn their fourth straight win in Miami: Bears 24, Dolphins 17

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ATM: The Same Old Bears

| September 11th, 2018

On their way to revolutionizing the way football is played in Chicago and around the world, the Bears hit a speed bump when they actually had to play a game and it revealed that talk his cheap and this team certainly looks to be the same it has been for most of the last 25 years. The hype train spun out of control when the team added Khalil Mack — and he certainly showed why he was worth such hysteria — but lost in all the commotion was that the Bears actually had to put a product on the field and, when they did, it wasn’t good.

The expectation was that this was going to be a different Bears team. They had the talent and the coaching to beat the Packers. Add that Aaron Rodgers missed a chunk of the game as the Bears lead grew from 10 to 20 and it was surely a changing of the guard.

Except it wasn’t.

The loss couldn’t have been any more typical Bears. The offense scored on the first two possessions, then failed to make any adjustments. When is the last time the Bears had a coaching staff that was good at making adjustments? It appears that is a trend that will continue.

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Week One: Bears at Packers Game Preview

| September 6th, 2018


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And, I mean, how can any Bears fan not like the Chicago Bears heading into this 2018 season? The organization has done every single thing they could to build a winning roster. Now they take that roster to the field.


Why the Bears Will Win

  • Khalil Mack. It simply can’t be overstated. Mack makes every single player on an already-good defense better. The Bears should be able to mount their most ferocious, consistent pass rush in the Aaron Rodgers era.
  • Mystery. What the hell are the Bears going to be on offense? Most people have pointed to the Andy Reid units in Kansas City (and kind of Philadelphia) but the talent pool in Chicago right now bears little resemblance to what the Chiefs have utilized the last several seasons. Robinson and Cohen barely showcased at all during public practices and preseason games. Add in offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich’s unique perspective and one has to wonder what Packers DC Mike Pettine is expecting to see Sunday night.
  • Better Run Game Than 2017. In Jordan Howard’s two games against the Packers last season he failed to rush for more than 54 yards. Why? Because Dom Capers wisely understood that stopping the Bears run game meant stopping the Bears offense. (Hell, they ran the ball on every first and second down.) But now there are simply too many weapons in the passing game for Pettine to take a similar approach and that should free up a multitude of running lanes for Howard – the best pure runner in the game.

Why They Won’t

  • Aaron Rodgers. Do you really require a paragraph explaining that Rodgers beats the Bears just about every time he plays them? He’s 15-4 against ’em. So odds are he’ll be 16-4 against ’em by the time the clock strikes Monday.
  • Mitch Trubisky’s Big Night. Anyone who has spent nine seconds on this site knows I’m a big fan of the young signal caller. But this is his first game running a new, complicated offense and it’s on one of the biggest, brightest stages he’ll see the entire regular season. It’s a tough spot. The offense should not be expected to hit it’s stride until 3-4 weeks into the season but can Tru avoid the big mistake early in the season?

Neil Simon’s Best Line

Neil Simon is a criminally-underrated playwright. He never reached the artistic accolades of an August Wilson or Eugene O’Neill or Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller but his body of work is unparalleled in the history of American dramatic literature. The man had four hit plays running on Broadway…at one time. RIP Neil.

He also wrote one line I’ve never forgotten and I believe truly changed me as a writer. It’s from Biloxi Blues.

“You’re a witness. You’re always standing around watching what’s happening, scribbling in your book what other people do. You have to get in the middle of it. You have to take sides. Make a contribution to the fight. Any fight. The one you believe in.”

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ATM: Bears Need To Beat The Packers

| September 5th, 2018

The start of the regular season is usually the worst thing that can happen to the teams that win the offseason and the Bears can’t let that be the case as they open in Green Bay this Sunday.

It isn’t a stretch to say that losing to Green Bay has cost every coach the Bears have had since Mike Ditka their jobs. The likes of Dave Wannstedt, Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith, Marc Trestman and John Fox have compiled a 13-38 record against the Packers since 1993.

Smith was the toast of the town when he won six of his first eight meetings with the Packers. He then he lost nine of his last eleven. Outside of that four-year period in which Lovie had success, the Bears have gone 7-36 against the team to the north.  Trestman and Fox both scored prime time victories in Green Bay in their first seasons but it was all downhill after that.

The Packers aren’t just another team. They’re not viewed that way by most fans and they certainly aren’t viewed that way in the big offices at Halas Hall. If Matt Nagy is going to be separated from the poop platter that the team has had since Ditka, he has to beat the Packers.

He has to do it on Sunday.

He has to do it consistently.

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Expect the Bears to Protect Their Biggest Offensive Asset – Mystery – in the Coming Weeks

| August 16th, 2018

When the Bears kick off their 2018 campaign in Green Bay on September 9th, Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine won’t have a clue what Matt Nagy intends to do with Jordan Howard. He won’t have a clue what Nagy intends to do with Tarik Cohen. He won’t a clue what Nagy truly intends to do with any of the newly-assembled Bears weapons on offense. Sure, Pettine and his staff can scavenge old tape of Andy Reid’s offenses but different personnel bring an entirely different set of skills and Reid never hired an outside-the-box offensive coordinator like Mark Helfrich.

No, Nagy’s Bears, at least on offense, will be a mystery in Week One. And that, to start this season, is their biggest strength.

That’s why over these next two preseason contests fans shouldn’t be surprised if very few of this team’s core offensive weapons – Howard, Cohen, Trey Burton, Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel – are featured in any kind of prominent way. They’ll get snaps, I suppose, but those snaps will be more about getting them into the rhythm of an actual game and maybe taking a few hits so the first contact in Green Bay doesn’t jar their livers loose.

Contributors will still be out there. Anthony Miller and Adam Shaheen are young talents who’ll be expected to make an impact but not relied upon like highly-paid starters.

We’re less than a month from the start of the season and some folks have opined Kevin White won’t be on the roster in Green Bay. Others believe he’s going to be given every chance possible to play on game days. Either way, expect him to be out there for these practice games.

The depth wide receivers and backs are all jockeying for the placement at the bottom of the depth chart. Can a good performance in a practice game make a significant difference for an Ayers or Wims or Fowler or Knile Davis? Not likely. But when they are used in these games should let fans know how they’re valued by the organization.

But the guys who’ll be shouldering a bulk of the offensive responsibility will remain shrouded in mystery. It’s what makes the opener one of the most exciting Bears games in recent memory. It’s also what makes this offense impossible to game plan against early in the season.

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ATM: Bears Need Roquan Smith On the Field Right Now

| August 15th, 2018

The Bears will need Roquan Smith against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Finally the camp-long nightmare has come to an end. The eighth overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft has signed his contract with the Bears after a nearly 30-day holdout. Missing nearly all of training camp would typically be enough to rule out a rookie from making an impact in Week One, but don’t be surprised if that’s not the case on the evening of September 9th. While the situation has been far from ideal, a player of Smith’s caliber and skill set should still figure into the Bears’ immediate plans.

Rodgers’ ability to move and make pinpoint throws in the middle of the field make having an athletic inside linebacker a must. It’s why Rodgers calls Brian Urlacher the best defender he ever faced, it’s why Smith was the pick and it’s why they double-dipped taking Joel Iyiegubuniwe in the fourth round.

The plan was for Smith to start Week One. That should still be in play but it’s hard to see the team giving the rookie the nod over Nick Kwiatkoski after the third-year linebacker has, by most accounts, played well in camp. It was to the point that the Bears didn’t even play Kwiatkoski in the first preseason game and he saw very limited action in the second. A bigger issue is that they can’t sell the first few weeks of camp as actually being important if a guy who has never played in the NFL doesn’t need them to be ready to face Rodgers.

Regardless of how well he has played in practice, Kwiatkoski has significant flaws. While many have pointed to his training camp interceptions, anyone who has spent too much time watching camp clips on Twitter has also seen several times in which the Bears got the better of Kwiatkoski. They’ve attacked him in practice, just as opposing teams did in games last year. The Bears actually took him off the field on passing downs in favor of Christian Jones late in the season. Maybe Kwiatkoski has improved in coverage, but it’s unlikely he’s going to cease being a liability there and Roquan figures to be among the elite coverage backers in the entire league.

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Data Responds: Bears vs. Packers

| November 12th, 2017

Chicago came out of the bye flat, acting like nobody actually wanted to play a football game against their biggest rival. Their terrible kicker was good, but nobody else really was. The only thing that kept this game somewhat close was the fact that Green Bay is terrible, but they still won fairly comfortably on the road.

Let’s break down this embarrassing effort.

Offense

  • The first drive was simply awful. After two weeks to prepare, they ran into a loaded box on 1st down and lost a yard. After a nice pass picked up a first down, they again ran into a stacked box and lost a yard. The next play was both an illegal formation and a hold, setting Chicago up in 2nd and 21. At that point, the drive was over thanks to a combination of poor play calling and dumb penalties.
  • Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky actually had a pretty good start to the game. He made good throws and got the ball to players in space. That changed as the game wore on and Green Bay dialed up the pressure. Trubisky got happy feet and starting pulling his eyes down from scanning the field too quickly. He also refused to throw the ball away, making him completely inept under any sort of pressure.
  • Green Bay’s five sacks weren’t all on the offensive line, but they were bad today too. Hroniss Grasu, making a start at center and shifting Cody Whitehair to right guard with Kyle Long out, was routinely pushed back into the backfield. The unit also picked up way too many penalties, with a nice mixture of pre-snap, during the play, and after the play mixed in.

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Data Responds: Bears at Packers

| September 29th, 2017

Two road games, two blowout losses for the 2017 Bears. Green Bay won the first quarter 14-0 after a great opening drive, followed by a 3-yard touchdown after Mike Glennon turned it over on Chicago’s first offensive snap. Things stayed quiet until the end of the first quarter, when a 47 minute lightning delay led to what felt like the start of another game.

Of course, the Bears still had Mike Glennon in at quarterback, so nothing changed. He turned the ball over 3 more times and shut down the entire offense with his incompetence before racking up just enough garbage time stats to make his performance somewhat defensible if you squint (stop me if you’ve heard that before).

Coaching

  • We’re starting here tonight, beginning with the continued ineptitude making appropriate personnel decisions late in a blowout. With all the practice the Bears’ coaches have gotten in these situations in the last few years, you’d think they would be great at it by now, but they’re not. Down 28 points in the 4th quarter, the Bears rode Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, their two best offensive players, to a meaningless late touchdown. Zach Miller, their best tight end who has made a career out of going to IR, played while rookie Adam Shaheen sat on the bench. Why? This is literally a fireable offense if the team’s management cares about their personnel at all.

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