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Rival Roundup: The Bears Are Good, But Must Be Better to Win the NFC North

| October 11th, 2019


We’re just over a quarter of the way through the 2019 season, and the bye week makes it the perfect time to assess where the Bears stand, both as an individual unit and in relation to the rest of the NFC North.

Rivals:

Green Bay Packers

Right now the Packers are the top team in the NFC North. They’re currently 4-1, and 2-0 in the division. Most likely they beat the Lions on Monday and become 3-0, which would be a boon to their playoff hopes. They also have the second easiest remaining schedule in the division.

Both the defense and run game have improved for the Packers, and much of the tension that hung in the air during the end of Mike McCarthy’s tenure seems to have dissipated under LaFleur (despite initial reports that he and Rodgers were clashing). Rodgers isn’t putting up his usual numbers quite yet, but as long as they’re winning, he seems perfectly content with that.

It’s early and a lot can still happen, but it’s quite possible that Week 15 in Green Bay could hold even more significance than usual in the Bears-Packers storied rivalry.

Detroit Lions

The thing about the Lions is, they’re actually kind of good. They’re also still the Lions.

They could very easily be 4-0 right now instead of 2-1-1. They blew a significant fourth quarter lead against the Arizona Cardinals in their season opener that ended in a tie, and they kept pace with Mahomes and the Chiefs right up until the very end of their Week 4 matchup.

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ATM: North Might Be Tighter, But Bears Are Still Best

| June 4th, 2019

There is little question that at least a couple of other teams in the NFC North are better than they were a year ago, but the Bears were so much better than the field it doesn’t seem likely the gap isn’t still significant. In addition to having four more wins than any other NFC North team last year, the Bears outscored their divisional opponents 153-109. That’s a differential of 44 points, meaning a +7.3 point average in divisional contests.

While the Lions and Packers made significant additions via free agency and, presumably, through the draft, they were so far behind the top two teams. The Lions were outscored by the other three teams 131-118, while the Packers were outscored 162-110. In fact, the Packers needed late field goals to avoid three double-digit losses and were handled by the Lions, twice.

Of course, the 2018 Bears were a great example of going worst-to-first, losing every divisional game in 2017, with most of them not being particularly close. But the Bears spent most of the 2017 season with a rookie quarterback and made more significant roster additions than any of the NFC North teams,

Here’s a quick look at the division.


Minnesota Vikings

Best Addition: Irv Smith Jr. The Vikings have some really good offensive players, but they reminded me of the 2014 Bears, who were basically playing 10-on-11 offensively without a decent second tight end or third receiver. Smith gives them another weapon, who should allow them to play big and run the ball.

Biggest Loss: Sheldon Richardson. Playing on a one-year deal, Richardson was second on the team with 20.5 combined quarterback hits and sacks last year.

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Playoffs Aside, 2018 Regular Season Established Bears as NFC North’s Best Team

| December 31st, 2018


The 2018 Chicago Bears played six games against the NFC North this season. The same number they always play. But these six were different.

Yes, the Bears were 5-1, with a point differential of +44. Yes, they were 3-0 at home, with a point differential of +24. But it was more than the numbers that told the story of these Bears. It was how and when they handled each opponent. Let’s look at them.

  • Green Bay Game I set the tone for the entire season. The Bears left Lambeau on the opening Sunday night knowing they should have won, knowing Kyle Fuller should have caught the game-clinching interception, knowing they were the better team. Matt Nagy didn’t let that game bring his team down. He used it as inspiration. It worked.
  • Detroit Game I was a bloodbath. The 12-point victory didn’t represent how lopsided the ballgame was. But the result was still important because the Bears had been struggling with the Lions for the last several seasons. No longer.
  • Minnesota Game I was the biggest regular season game at Soldier Field in a decade. In primetime the Bears had to prove they were the favorite to win the division. And from a hotel room in Paris, in the middle of the night, I silently watched them do just that.

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The Diary of the Day of Our First Division Title in 8 Years

| December 17th, 2018

It was a wild day. Start to finish. Here’s what I went through.

SUNDAY – DECEMBER 16, 2018

4:15 AM. My uncle’s birthday party started at 10 AM Saturday, in an Asbury Park bar, so I was fast asleep by 9:30 PM. At 4:15 I was wide awake and hungover and then came to the realization that (a) it was Sunday and (b) the Bears would be playing the Packers for a division title in 11 hours. So now I was awake, hungover and tense.


5:15 AM. Reverend Dave was flying into JFK from Paris so I checked the tracker. He was on time. There’s a good and bad side of this. Good side is…he’s on time. Bad side is I have to see Dave now.


9:29 AM. I had to drive from Sea Girt, New Jersey to Queens. I drive my dead grandfather’s 2004 Chevy Cavalier. It has 197,000 miles on it. And it doesn’t handle particularly well in conditions. Not only did I make this drive in a downpour but the fog was so thick I couldn’t see ten yards in front of the car.

10 and 2. Whole way. Tense as hell. Packer tense. Driving tense. Lots of tense.


11:35 AM. The normally hour and half ride is now done, clocking in at over 2. Instead of going into my apartment to pet my cats I went into my local, took a dump, slammed a quick Miller Lite and ordered an Uber to Josie Woods.


Sometime Around Noon. I popped into the pizza joint next to Josies for a quick slice. Cab pulls up in front. I see Dave in the back. He’s got two of the largest suitcases I’ve ever seen. I can barely hold the slice because I’m still tense from the drive and worrying my senior citizen mobile would veer the fuck off the Verrazano Bridge.

I said hello to Dave.


12:35 PM. There were already more Bears fans at Josie Woods than the previous five weeks combined. New faces too. Amazing what happens when you win more than you lose.


12:56 PM. A long debate occurred as we tried to find what the city equivalent of Reverend Dave is. Our best comp: Trenton. Except Trenton has a good slogan. (“What Trenton Makes, the World Takes”) Noah suggested the shitty tourist trap town at the base of Machu Picchu. Probably he’s the bad parts of Warsaw.

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Bears 24, Packers 17: Rapid Fire Reaction to a Division-Clinching Victory

| December 17th, 2018


This was not a clean effort by the Chicago Bears. But just think about that. The Bears played sub-par ballgame and beat Aaron Rodgers to clinch the NFC North. This simply has not been possible for the last decade. More thoughts…

  • Mitch Trubisky was great. He was calm and smart under pressure, decisive and accurate with the medium-range passing game and also flashed a few moments of absolute brilliance, including the the left sideline/cross-body toss to Shaheen and the bullet to Bellamy over the middle. This might not have been his flashiest box score but it might have been his best performance of the season.
  • But I’m sure today someone will write that Trubisky can only go to his first read or that he struggles throwing to his left. Why? Because the Bears played Sunday at 1 PM and most national guys didn’t watch the game.
  • Aaron Rodgers did something yesterday I haven’t seen from a QB. Every time Khalil Mack got near him, he switched the ball to the opposite arm. Rodgers knew Mack was going to get him. He wasn’t going to let him get the ball. Smart stuff. (And I don’t know how to write about Mack anymore. He’s everything a superstar player is supposed to be.)
  • DBB will be sending Lou Malnati’s pizza to Jon Gruden today. Updates will be available on the blog over the next few days.
  • Tarik Cohen’s season: 88 carries, 405 yards (4.6 per) and 2 touchdowns. 68 catches, 710 yards, 5 touchdowns. And he’s also the best punt returner in the NFL. The Bear are not division champions without him.

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Aaron Rodgers, Soldier Field & An Opportunity To Become Champions

| December 12th, 2018

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images


Aaron Rodgers has dominated the Chicago Bears. This is a fact that does not require statistical, analytical or anecdotal support. It’s as common knowledge a statement as Nazis are bad people, Roy Scheider was criminally underrated in the 1970s and a Saturday night on the Guinness makes my apartment smell decidedly worse Sunday morning.

I am not going to Google “Aaron Rodgers Record Chicago Bears”. I don’t want to molest my current football euphoria with a bunch of grabby statistics. Rodgers has dominated the Bears because since 2010, or for the bulk of Rodgers’ prime, he’s been one of the two best quarterbacks in the league and the Bears have been shit. Rodgers’ dominance is a fact. It’s just not particularly impressive.

Sunday, Rodgers will be a five or six-point underdog at Soldier Field. He brings in a mediocre team with mediocre players. But after beating a terrible Falcons team last week and watching every other sixth-seed contender in the conference lose, the Packers are still clinging to hope of playing in January and the laundry list of what they need to occur is not particularly outlandish.

First and foremost, they have to beat the Bears at Soldier Field. Something that has not been an issue in the past.

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Entering the Final Quarter, Bears Must Now Pay Off Start & Win Division

| December 3rd, 2018


Lovie Smith always broke the NFL season into quarters – four-game segments that provided enough data for a proper evaluation of performance. The Bears enter the fourth and final quarter of this 2018 campaign at 8-4, top of the NFC North table by a game and a half. Despite a disappointing (yet entertaining) showing in the Meadowlands this weekend, most of which can be laid at the feet of their overwhelmed backup quarterback, the Bears have a great season staring them directly in the eyes.

But this division was never going to be handed to them. Yes, the Minnesota Vikings struggle against the better opponents. Yes, the Green Bay Packers have hit rock bottom, losing at home to a DOA Cardinals team. Yes, the Detroit Lions are the Detroit Lions. The division has never felt more winnable than right now. But the Bears still have to go and do it. And over the next month, they will get that opportunity.

They get the Rams, the conference’s best team, Sunday night. They get their oldest rival the week after. They finish with their closest chaser, on the road in Minneapolis. (They also have a road trip to San Francisco in there but that game doesn’t really fit my narrative here.) How Matt Nagy’s Bears perform over these final four contests will define this season.

They have been everything we could ask over these first twelve games. Aggressive. Exciting. Interesting. They have been in every single game they’ve played. Some would argue getting to eight wins has already made this a successful year. But you won’t read that here. No, what these twelve games have proven – without question – is the Bears are the best team in the NFC North.

Now they have to prove it, do what it takes to hold off the Vikings, and host a playoff game in January. Anything less than that will lend an air of disappointment to what has been a profoundly wonderful experience.

The “same old Bears” would fade down the stretch and give a post-season press conference talking about “learning how to win” and “building a winner” and “coming back fired up and ready to win in 2019”. The Matt Nagy Bears have to be better than that.

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Bears Building Team That Could Take Control of NFC North

| May 18th, 2016

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked and hit by Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (50) in second half action. The Colts defeated the Green Bay Packers 30-27 on Sunday, October 7, 2012, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Sam Riche/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1129744

Since taking over before last offseason, Ryan Pace and John Fox have completely rebuilt the Bears defense and it should result in a team that contends for the NFC North in both the near and long term.

I don’t care what happened last year. The Packers are still the team to beat in the NFC North. They have the best coach, the best quarterback and – while they’re certainly declining – I’m not ready to proclaim the Vikings or any other team the new King of the North. But what the Bears did to the Packers on Thanksgiving wasn’t a fluke and now they’re building up their talent level to do it consistently. At the very least, with a good defense, they’ll give themselves a consistent chance.

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