First and Long: Dissecting Chicago’s Playoff Chances, Offense Clicking Since Trubisky’s Return, Potential Top Draft Pick Could Spurn Jets
The path to the playoffs is a difficult one for the Bears and that wretched loss to the Lions a few weeks ago may be something that comes back to haunt them in the coming weeks. First and foremost, Chicago will have to beat the Vikings on the road this Sunday. More on that in a bit.
If Matt Nagy and his squad can somehow pull off the improbable and win this weekend, and then beat the Jaguars and Packers on the following two Sundays, they still have just an 89% shot of earning the final Wild Card seed, per FiveThirtyEight’s simulator. In addition to winning out, Chicago would need the Cardinals to lose at least one game against the Eagles, 49ers, or Rams. That would guarantee the Bears a ticket to the dance and a first round matchup against the No. 2 seed, likely the Packers or Saints.
If the Bears finish 8-8, the simulator gives them a 35% chance of sneaking in and, believe it or not, a possibility exists that Chicago can back into the postseason with a 7-9 record. That could happen as long as one of those wins comes against Minnesota. In that scenario, the Monsters of the Midway would need both the Cardinals and Vikings to lose three straight. Minnesota would finish at 6-10 and the Bears would win the tiebreaker over the 7-9 Cardinals.
With all that in mind, any dalliance with a potential spot in this year’s playoffs starts and ends in Minnesota on Sunday. The Vikings are favored by 2.5 and FiveThirtyEight gives the Bears a 42% chance of winning. The Bears will need another “complementary effort,” if not a complete one, and need to find a way to stop Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Kirk Cousins. It will be Khalil Mack and the defense, not Mitch Trubisky and all of his offensive weapons, that brings home a victory.
.@FiftyDeuce out here on neighborhood watch! SAFETY!
?: CBS#HOUvsCHI | #DaBears pic.twitter.com/mBRgDuwmxH
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 13, 2020
The good news is, the defense should step up against the Vikings. Cousins has been sacked 10 times in the last two games, including six last weekend, and the Bears are coming off a 7-sack effort of their own. They’ve also shut down Cook pretty well over the past two seasons. limiting the NFL’s No. 2 rusher to 131 yards on 41 carries in the teams’ last three meetings.
On offense, Trubisky and David Montgomery are playing at the tops of their games. The QB has completed 67.3% of his passes with seven touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 100 passer rating since returning to a starting role. Montgomery leads all NFL rushers with a 7.38 yards per carry average over the past three weeks, rushing for 288 yards on 39 attempts with three scores.
I’ve been down on the Bears, but I think a road-dog upset is not out of the question. The players seem to be united in saving Nagy’s job, showed last week that they’ve certainly not given up on the season.
Bears News & Notes
- One big difference for the Bears may lead to better offensive production against the Vikings this weekend.
- Olin Kreutz is a big believer in center Sam Mustipher.
- Trubisky has really benefited from an improving offensive line. Against the Lions and Texans the past two weeks, the Bears posted their second and third-highest yardage totals of the season.
- Chicago has had a number of off-field distractions this week that the team will need to put behind them if they want to beat Minnesota.
- The Bears have done a much better job rushing the football with Trubisky under center this season.
- Kicker Cairo Santos has made 18 straight field goals and is on pace to break the single-season franchise record for field goal percentage held by Robbie Gould.
- The Bears have struggled to find a backup running back since Tarik Cohen was injured earlier this season. Old friend Jordan Howard has been relegated to the Eagles’ practice squad, and the Bears could pick him up if they gave him a roster spot.
There’s a Flag…On the Play
That a team with a 4-9 record has a shot at winning their division is the very definition of one of the oddest seasons in the history of the NFL.
So you're telling me there's a chance?
Believe it or not, the 4-9 Cowboys still have a chance to make the playoffs. Here's what would need to happen ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/7NIm94YlaD
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) December 16, 2020
- The Packers have invited 250 local healthcare workers, first responders, and their families to this weekend’s game as guests of the organization.
- Vikings kicker Dan Bailey has missed three-of-four extra points and four-of-six field goals over the past two games, but Minnesota is sticking with him for at least another week.
- The Lions will need to rely on QB Chase Daniel to keep their playoff hopes alive. Matthew Stafford is unlikely to play vs. the Titans on Sunday.
Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust
- Trubisky is 110 yards shy of 10,000 passing yards in his career so far. He’d become the fastest to get there for a player who began his career with the Bears.
- With two dimes last night, Chargers QB Justin Herbert tied the NFL record for the most passing TDs by a rookie with 27.
- After last night’s 30-27 OT win, the Chargers are now 3-7 in one-possession games this season.
Around the League
NFL fans will be treated to Saturday football this weekend with two schedule games. The Bills will take on the Broncos in a matinee tilt, and the Packers will host the Panthers in prime time.
The Bills could break a 25-year divisional drought by clincing the AFC East with a win against the Broncos.
The Saints were all set to draft QB Patrick Mahomes in 2017 before the Chiefs picked them off.
After last night’s loss to the Chargers, Raiders fans are blaming Jon Gruden for the team’s lack of success over the last few seasons. The embattled head coach is 18-28 since taking over the Raiders in 2018.
Five Rams players, including safety Nick Scott, were absent from practice yesterday after an unidentified teammate tested positive for COVID-19.
Projected top draft pick Trevor Lawrence of Clemson could spurn the Jets if New York intends to select the quarterback No. 1 overall. Like Peyton Manning in 1997, Lawrence could leverage one more year of eligibility instead of declaring for the NFL draft.
Remember when Cam Newton got the best of Clay Matthews? Good times.
“You been watching film, huh? That’s cool. Watch this."
Two years ago today, Clay Matthews called the wheel route. Cam and CMC had other ideas ?
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 17, 2020
At the Podium
- “I’m a fan of Mitch Trubisky. I think he has been over-coached. How many people do you want in your ear telling you things when you just want to go out there and play? Chicago has never been a friendly quarterback town.” – Mike Tomczak
- “I know exactly what I want, I’m driven, I’m bringing a certain presence and energy to the facility every day that my teammates can feed off of, and I just know what I need to do on a daily basis to help this team.” – Mitch Trubisky
Today’s Halftime Entertainment
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me by George Michael & Elton John – Need to win them one at a time, sorry for the tired sports cliche.