I always like the Chicago Bears…
…and after a few weeks in the darkness of Quitsville, I’m back!
The Bears are 6-7. And this might be the most important game ever played by a 6-7 team.
If the Bears win Sunday, they’ll be 7-7, with Jacksonville on deck. (8-7) That’ll bring the Packers to town, with Tim Boyle likely starting, and a playoff spot likely on the line. If the Bears win Sunday they will be playing meaningful football for 17 weeks at a minimum. That’s how the late Giants owner Wellington Mara defined a successful season. And knew a bit about football.
But winning, especially with another superior offensive effort, would also continue to change the narrative around the head coach. Nobody is firing a head coach who is eight games over (minimum) in his first three years. And if the quarterback pitches another triple-digit quarterback rating? How could the narrative around him not alter slightly as well? Wouldn’t the Bears have to start considering a 2021 prove it deal?
Now if the Bears lose Sunday, their season ends. If they lose Sunday and deliver another lackluster offensive effort against the Vikings, Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky go back under the bright interrogative lamps of media and fans. (Hard to imagine Ted Phillips and Ryan Pace won’t be there regardless of these final games.) A loss flips the fourteen-day hourglass and the sand shuffles through on January 4th. That’s when we’ll find out who among the leadership is coming back in 2021.
It’s all at stake Sunday.
One of the strangest games of this NFL season. A myriad of thoughts.
The Vikings were allowing 412 yards per game this season.
The Bears had 149.
The Vikings were allowing 29.3 points per game.
The Bears offense scored 6.
FOCO is giving away the product above (full description available HERE) to the winner of tonight’s contest. It’s going to be a super cold winter across the country and having a hoodie that doubles as a mask will help.
So what is tonight’s contest? Guess the total yards COMBINED for Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Darnell Mooney receiving. (Receiving only.) For context, their totals over the last three games are 183, 229 and 130. So a wide range is possible.
As always the rules:
Good luck! On to the remainder of the game preview!
As was broken in the comments section last week, Matt Nagy won’t be calling the plays tonight. It was the only move for him to make and it’s overdue.
Will this move fix the offense? Of course not. But when your offense is performing at a level this low, you have to empty the trunk and bring out the gimp. No move is too dramatic. If changing the play-caller means even two or three extra first downs a game, you do it.
Nagy didn’t want to . I get it. “I love it” he said repeatedly about calling plays. We take this game so seriously sometimes that we forget it’s a game and it’s supposed to be fun for EVERYBODY involved. Nagy just relinquished the part of the game he loves most. That ain’t easy.
And as much as I fell this move was belated, it should still be applauded. A mature head coach is benching his stubborn offensive coordinator.
Calling plays no more,
Nagy paces the sideline.
His headset, on mute.
Offense. Allen Robinson. There’s no doubting that Robinson is this club’s number one receiver but he is looking for Michael Thomas money. Is it too much to ask for him to win 50/50 balls? Is it too much to ask for him dominate an inferior opponent? The Bears don’t need 4-for-70 from ARob tonight. They need 11-for-140. And they need that production to occur while the game is still being contested, not in garbage time. You can blame the quarterback play all you want but great receivers elevate mediocre quarterbacks. Is Robinson a great receiver?
Normally, these kinds of thoughts would be relegated to the Twitter feed once the season begins but this season is unique. With no good camp reporting anywhere, and no preseason fake games to look at it, the last five days were the first opportunity to see these 32 teams in any realistic way. So having caught at least condensed game versions of every team, some thoughts.
A week ago, these were the odds to win the NFC North: Vikings +160, Packers +180, Bears +380, Lions +550.
Today, these are the odds: Packers +110, Vikings +260, Bears +300, Lions +900.
These odds didn’t move because of the lunacy of Bears/Lions. They moved because Aaron Rodgers was the best player in the league Week One and the Vikings defense didn’t look like they’d practiced this summer. (The gap closure between the Vikings and Bears is sizable for one week.) Pay no attention to the final score of the game (43-34). The Packers led 30-10 going into the fourth quarter and called off the dogs. Oh, and they scored two more touchdowns without the dogs. If Rodgers needed 60 Sunday, he could have gotten it.
The story in this division was a tale of two lines. Washington has a terrific collection of DL talent but it’s clear Carson Wentz and the Eagles won’t survive with their makeshift OL. Wentz was a sitting duck, sacked 8 times, and flustered throughout.
Sometimes coaches get enamored with this “next man up” bullshit and that’s clearly what happened with Doug Pederson. “Next man up” is fun to say but teams don’t have the economic freedom to create the depth necessary to execute it. The Eagles don’t have good players on their OL right now and their scheme relies upon having one of the best lines in the game. They need to embrace what’s actually happening, and change the scheme.
(The Cowboys changed coaches and looked exactly the same.)
It could be argued that no NFC North team improved as much as the Chicago Bears this off-season. Whether they can reclaim their spot on top of the NFC North is still a major question.
Starting today with the offense, here is how the Bears stack up with the rest of the division.
2. Green Bay
Analysis: It is impossible to rank Chicago’s quarterback — whether it be Trubisky or Foles — ahead of the others in the NFC North.
The big knock on Cousins has been his performance in big games, but he seemed to disprove that last year with a road playoff win over New Orleans. Rodgers is coming off of one of the worst seasons of his career and is 36 years old. He hasn’t sniffed his career passer rating of 102.4 in three years and has finished with passer ratings below 98 in four of the last five years. (While many have blamed his relative lack of production on a poor supporting cast, Green Bay’s front office clearly doesn’t agree as the only position they invested a major asset into this off-season was quarterback.) And despite Detroit’s constant attempts to ruin him, Stafford is right there with the other two, although a back injury makes him a bit of a question mark heading into the 2020 season.
Bears don’t have quarterbacks of this caliber.
2. Green Bay
Four games. I’ll give you a bet for each. (All odds courtesy of DraftKing Sportsbook.)
Saturday 3:35 PM Central
Bills at Texans (-2.5)
My heart is all-in for the boys from 716 but Josh Allen, facing a good pass rush, on the road, terrifies me. Look for Allen to use his legs a bunch in this one but I still don’t see Buffalo producing enough offense. If this line were a point higher, I’d go the other way. Begrudging Bet: Houston -2.5.
Saturday 7:15 PM Central
Titans at Patriots (-5)
Bill Belichick will go into this game with a one-track mind. If the Patriots stop Derrick Henry, they win. But Henry has quietly become the best back in football and New England struggles upfront against these bruising-type runners. I don’t know if Tennessee wins this game but I like them to keep it close. Bet: Tennessee +5.
Sunday 12:05 PM Central
Vikings at Saints (-8)
I thought the Saints were in the best team in football in 2017. They lost in the playoffs on a ridiculous play.
I thought the Saints were the best team in football in 2018. They lost in the playoffs on a ridiculous call.
I think the Saints are the best team in football in 2019. They’re not losing to Kirk Cousins. Bet: New Orleans -8.