First and Long: Bears Playoff Odds Increase, Offense Clicking at Historic Pace, Hall of Fame LB Kevin Greene Passes at 58
The Bears are smack dab in the middle of a battle for a postseason berth, but they still don’t feel like a playoff team to me.
After Sunday’s 33-27 win over the Vikings, the under- or over-achieving Bears, depending on how each of you personally views the team, sit at 7-7, in a fight with the Cardinals for the final seed in the NFC playoffs, and have dropped to the 16-18 range in next Spring’s draft. Chicago will take on the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars (1-13) on Sunday, who are in a bit of a battle themselves, tied with the Jets for the worst record in the league and the first overall pick.
I don’t expect that Matt Nagy and his squad will get Jacksonville at their best, and even if they do, the Bears would still be prohibitive favorites. Arizona has the 49ers (5-9) and the Rams (9-5) remaining on their 2020 schedule, and both teams are better than their record indicates. Once the Bears puree the Jags, only the Packers would seem to stand in the way of Chicago getting into the postseason tournament, assuming the Cardinals lose at least one of their two remaining tilts.
Eagles can’t pull it out. #Bears are still a game back of AZ for the final wild card spot with 2 games remaining.
Arizona: vs SF (5-9) on Saturday & at LAR (9-5) in Week 17.
Chicago: at JAX (1-13) & vs GB (11-3).
Key may come down to which WK 17 Opp has more to play for.
— Aaron Leming (@AaronLemingNFL) December 21, 2020
The Packers could be fighting for the No. 1 seed in the NFC in Week 17, so things are lining up nicely for the NFL’s oldest and most-storied rivalry to be the deciding game as to whether or not Chicago earns its 37th playoff appearance in its 101-year-old history, and first since the infamous Double Doink Game in 2018. That also means we’ll get to hear about the one-sided advantage Green Bay has held over the Monsters of the Midway since 1992, a nightmarish Möbius strip of tough losses and bitter disappointments for Windy City denizens and their beloved football team.
Just like last week, nothing really matters unless the Bears win, though we may spend more of our post-Christmas energies hoping that Arizona loses. If all of that sounds a little maddening, if not downright unnerving, welcome to McCaskey-organization football, where mediocrity is the norm, hopes are often dashed, and disappointment is expected. It would have been too easy for Nagy to build off of an incredible 5-1 start to the season, and it’s been too much to ask for the continued downward slide of a six-game losing streak in order to move up in the draft. That loss to the Lions two weeks ago looms ever larger in Chicago’s race for the postseason.
In that sense, it appears all the talk of launching the executive triumvirate of Ted Phillips, Ryan Pace, and Coach Nagy once the season ends has pretty much dissipated, and the Bears, ever-anchored to their middling place among the 32 NFL teams, can continue their milquetoast existence as one of the more frustrating franchises in the league. Excellence is no longer demanded of the team that was lead by George Halas from its existence until he died in 1983. The McCaskey’s run their team like your local Walmart: commonplace among its peers and devoid of any real aesthetic beauty, with just enough of a curiosity factor to keep the turnstiles moving.
Bears News & Notes
- The Bears offense has really been clicking since Mitchell Trubisky returned to the starting lineup, and they’ve now scored 30+ points in 3 straight games for the first time in 7 years.
- David Montgomery toted the ball 32 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, becoming the second running back in team history with 30+ carries, 140+ rushing yards, and at least two touchdowns. The other is Walter Payton, who did it three times in his career.
- Montgomery has been one of the biggest reasons for Chicago’s turnaround since losing six straight.
- Trubisky is another reason, and the signal-caller has been playing like the franchise quarterback the Bears had hoped for when Pace drafted him in 2017.
- The Bears are 1-4 when converted offensive lineman Rashaad Coward has been in the lineup, and 6-3 without him.
- Sunday’s tilt with the Jaguars has all the earmarks of a trap game.
- Khalil Mack and Cordarrelle Patterson were named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad, but wide receiver Allen Robinson and linebacker Roquan Smith, Chicago’s best offensive and defensive players this season, were unbelievably snubbed.
- The new CBA guarantees a fifth-year optional transition tag if you make the Pro Bowl. That would’ve meant a potential raise of nearly $3 million for Smith. Because no actual game will be played this year, he can’t get in as an alternate.
- With Sunday’s win, the Bears improved their postseason probability to 31%.
There’s a Flag…On the Play
‘Tis the season!
Clark Griswald driving from the Chicago suburbs to the nearest mountain range to choose a Christmas tree is some impressive dedication.
— Brad Robinson (@bradrobinson8) December 21, 2020
The Bears’ victory over the Vikings has all but eliminated Minnesota from playoff contention.
The Packers placed seven players on this year’s NFC Pro Bowl roster, led by QB Aaron Rodgers and WR Davante Adams. For Rodgers, it was his ninth career selection, tying him for the lead in franchise history with Brett Favre.
Lions QB Matthew Stafford remarkably played on Sunday with torn cartilage in his ribs, but his teammates, especially on the defensive side of the football, continue to let the field general down.
Around the League
The two-win Bengals pulled off a stunning upset of the Steelers last night.
Still, that’s a world of difference in comparison to the improbable win by the Jets against the Rams on Sunday.
The Panthers have fired GM Marty Hurney.
No Cowboys players have been selected to this year’s Pro Bowl team, breaking a streak of 30 consecutive seasons with at least one nomination.
Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill was so severely dehydrated in Sunday’s game that he had to drink pickle brine to reduce the severity of his muscle cramps.
Sad, shocking news about Hall of Fame pass rusher Kevin Greene yesterday.
????????: Kevin Greene, Hall of Fame pass rusher, dies at 58https://t.co/litnR2arBz pic.twitter.com/UhxGfHMm93
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) December 21, 2020
Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust
- The 2020 Steelers are the 1st team in NFL history to lose multiple games in which they entered with 11+ wins and their opponent entered with 4 or fewer wins.
- Roquan Smith has the lowest allowed completion percentage of the four NFC Pro Bowl inside linebackers (61.2%) and the lowest overall yards per target allowed (3.5). With 89 solo tackles, including 17 for negative yardage, plus four sacks, Smith seems like a significant Pro Bowl snub.
- Buccaneers linebacker Devin White had 12 tackles and three sacks in the win over the Falcons on Sunday. White also had 11 tackles and three sacks in Week 7 against the Raiders. Since 2000, the 22-year-old White is the only player with multiple games with 10+ tackles and at least three sacks in his career.
Watch Bengals QB Ryan Finley fool the Steelers, the camera crew, and everybody watching at home last night.
Ryan Finley had the entire defense fooled ? @Bengals
? #PITvsCIN on ESPN
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 22, 2020
At the Podium
- “Some of the stuff we went through with the offensive line, with the injuries, I think played a factor. Obviously, we made the quarterback switch, and so there were some things there. And I think right now the thing that we’re trying to look at is, we try not to look back at what happened but just kind of where we’re at right now. And we just want to keep building off of where we feel we’re at. And we do feel like it’s a good place with the identity of the offense with Mitchell playing the way he’s playing, with the scheme, with the consistency of the [offensive] line and with the growth of all these younger players.” – Matt Nagy
- “When you see a guy that runs as hard as [David Montgomery] does, it makes you want to block harder. I love blocking for a guy like him.” – Sam Mustipher
Today’s Halftime Entertainment
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town by Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band – Have you been naughty or nice this year? I don’t know about you, but Clarence Clemons is my all-time favorite Santa.