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Week Four Game Preview, Volume I: “Same Old Song” Heads to New Jersey

| September 29th, 2022


They are coming off one of the least rewarding wins in recent memory. So…

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears this Week?

I.

Always.

Like.

THE.

Chicago.

Bears.


Video of the Week


The Passer Rating Problem

If you were to list the six men playing quarterback at the highest level through three games, who would you list? Jalen Hurts. Tua. Josh Allen. Lamar Jackson. Mahomes. Probably Trevor Lawrence?

Well, those six men currently lead the NFL in passer rating. Passer rating is not a flawless stat by any means. Quarterbacks should not be penalized for throwing the football away or for interceptions off the hands of their receivers. And quarterbacks should be rewarded statistically for avoiding negative plays and extending drives with their legs. But nevertheless, the passer rating stat is still our finest tool for measuring consistency at the position. All six of those players have a rating north of 100, and you don’t fluke your way into that number.

Justin Fields’ passer rating is 50. That ranks him 33rd in the league. And yes, there are only 32 starting quarterbacks.

The gap between Fields and Mac Jones in 31st (Trey Lance is 32nd) is 26.2 points.

That’s the gap between Jones and the top six, with Lawrence at 103.1.

This means that, according to the passer rating statistic, Fields is as far being the 31st ranked quarterback as Jones – who has been terrible – is from being a borderline Pro Bowler.

The Giants, who have a terrible secondary, have played three quarterbacks. Their passer ratings against:

  • Ryan Tannehill: 106.4
  • Baker Mayfield: 74.6
  • Cooper Rush: 98.2

Fields needs a clean game. No turnovers. High completion percentage. A few big plays. Nobody should be asking for (or looking for) more than that at this stage. If Fields can pitch to a QB rating around 90, there will at least be SOME reason for optimism moving forward in 2022.

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Dannehy: Bears Defense Could Be Good

| September 28th, 2022

If the Chicago defense is going to establish itself as a good unit, Sunday in New Jersey is the perfect time to do so.

The unit’s numbers are a bit mixed, which probably best describes their performance. The team is 11th in points allowed and 20th in yardage. They’re 9th in passing defense, 30th against the run. That’s all fine, especially considering their talent. But a deeper dive is less encouraging.

They are 17th in points allowed per drive, 22nd in yardage. However, because they’re seventh in takeaways – The Eberflus Effect – they are 11th in DVOA.

At the very least, this defense is mediocre. They have a chance to be better than that. They struggled in the first half against San Francisco and Green Bay and had some issues early against Houston. But they have been lights out in the second half, another effect of having Eberflus at the helm. (A lot of this is due to Kyler Gordon’s second half performances being far superior to his first halves.)

They need to put it together for four quarters. Sunday is a prime opportunity.

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For Bears Defense, Offseason Needs Quickly Coming into Focus

| September 27th, 2022


Thinking about 2022 as a developmental season means thinking about what the primary roster needs will be heading into 2023. And just three weeks into the season, those needs are becoming clear on the defensive side of the football.

First things first. The Bears should not even consider letting Roquan Smith play elsewhere next season. Does that mean signing him to a $100 million contract? Not necessarily. While a happy Roquan is the best possible outcome for both sides, it was obvious Sunday that Roquan is more than capable of delivering a professional (and brilliant) performance even without the (somewhat absurd) guaranteed money he seeks. The franchise tag is awful for players, but it exists, and the Bears should not hesitate to use it on one of the best defensive players in the league. Unless another team approaches with a knockout trade offer Roquan should be wearing #58 in Chicago next year.

Second is the secondary, which looks solid at the very back and sketchy everywhere else. At corner, there are too many questions. Can Jaylon Johnson stay healthy for a season? Kindle Vildor has shown an ability to make plays, but can he display the consistency required to be a starting NFL corner? Kyler Gordon is a rookie, and rookies struggle, but some of Gordon’s struggles are, let’s just call them…eye-popping. Yet there are still plenty of moments that show why Gordon was selected in the second round, including several in the second half Sunday. Can he overcome the former and produce more of the latter? Corner is a position where you can’t have too much talent and the Bears need to add several quality bodies.

Last, and the opposite of least, is the defensive front. There is some talent on this line, but it’s hard not to notice two alarming trends.

  • For as good as the Bears have been running the ball, they have been equally bad defending the run. They’re getting pushed off the ball and it’s now very clear why their first free agent target was Larry Ogunjobi. They lack heft in the middle of the line.
  • The Bears are struggling to get off the field on third downs, primarily because their pass rush disappears in those spots. (Robert Quinn seems like he’s been a few feet from about ten sacks.) There is no such thing as a great defense absent a great pass rush. The quickest route to a great pass rush is finding yourself a great pass rusher. It will likely be their second biggest need this offseason.

Through three games, the Bears are firmly a mid-table defense, which should give fans confidence in what Matt Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams are building in Chicago. They don’t have top of the league defensive talent. But they might only be three or four players away from being among the game’s best.

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Week Three Game Preview, Volume II: Bears Will Find Themselves a Surprising 2-1

| September 23rd, 2022


Five Things I Think Will Happen Sunday:

  • Justin Fields will rebound, to a degree. The Bears will get the run game going early, opening up play action, and leading to a stat line around 17-26, 246 yards, 1 TD throwing, 1 TD running. It will be enough to quiet down the noise surrounding the quarterback for at least another week.
  • Darnell Mooney will finally kick off his 2022 campaign. Luke Getsy hears the criticism and knows he needs to get his top receiver involved. Seven catches, 104 yards and a touchdown.
  • Dameon Pierce will have his breakout game for the Texans. After a 15 carry, 69-yard output against Denver, this shapes up for a 20+ carry, 100+ yard performance, especially with the Bears concerned about protecting both one starting outside corner and their rookie slot guy.
  • Eddie Jackson will get his second interception of the season. One thing that stands out watching Davis Mills is the number of contested balls he throws over the middle of the field. Jackson snags one.
  • The team that wins the sack battle wins the game. And the Bears win that battle, 4-2.

Chicago Bears 24, Houston Texans 13

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Lovie Returns to Soldier Field (Again): Week Three Game Preview, Volume I

| September 22nd, 2022


He has a beard now. A glorious, white beard. It terrifies young babies. So…

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears this Week?

I.

Always.

Like.

THE.

Chicago.

Bears.


Lovie vs. Opposing Quarterbacks

In the first two weeks of the season, Lovie’s defense has faced Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson, both times as substantial underdogs. Their passer ratings?

Ryan: 83.1

Wilson: 66.5

That ranks the Texans seventh in the league in opposer passer rating, a pretty decent stat when evaluating a pass defense. For those thinking this is a “get healthy” week for Justin Fields, that just isn’t the case.

But Houston is allowing 163.5 on the ground so don’t be surprised if the game plan for the Bears in Week 3 is relatively similar to what we’ve seen so far in September.

Knowing Lovie, expect the Texans to sell out to stop the run and dare Fields to sit in the pocket and beat them. If Fields has a good afternoon, the Bears could have a big offensive output.


Other Early Stats that Could Matter

  • Lovie’s teams always get off the bus running the ball but through two games the Bears have actually run it substantially more, to the tune of 64-46 total carries. (Fields runs a lot. Davis Mills runs less.) Bears are also averaging a yard more per carry.
  • Keep an eye on third down defense. Texans are allowing conversions on exactly a 33.3% of attempts. The Bears are allowing conversions on 50%. Small sample size, sure, but those numbers projected out are devastating for the Bears.
  • Both the Bears (28.6% conversion) and the Texans (25% conversion) are in the bottom six in the league in third down offense.
  • Underrated stat: total plays per game. Houston is averaging 63.5 (T-15) and the Bears are averaging 48.5 (31). If the Bears want to improve their offensive performance, it would be helpful to run some offensive plays.

Additional Notes (Links) from the Houston Press

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Dannehy: Passing Game Failures are Everyone’s Fault

| September 21st, 2022


If Week One was a giant victory for the Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus era, Week Two was a terrible defeat.

There is a lot of blame to go around for Chicago’s failures against Green Bay. It starts by looking at the rosters. When you compare Green Bay’s defensive front to Chicago’s offensive line, and their secondary to Chicago’s receivers, it is a total mismatch.

That said, it isn’t like the Bears have a bare cupboard. The fact that Justin Fields has fewer than 200 passing yards through two games is, well, shocking.  Nobody will say Fields was great as a rookie, but in his last two games in 2021 he had more than 500 passing yards and three touchdowns. We can talk all day about the players the Bears don’t have, but they do have two who should be good options in the passing game in Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet. Both were able to produce last year and can’t even get the ball thrown their way this year.

Was Matt Nagy that good or is Luke Getsy that bad?

That isn’t to absolve Fields, Kmet, Mooney or any of the other players. We’re simply learning that they aren’t good enough at this point. That also shouldn’t be a surprise. If you go back to the early reports from camp, they were all about how much the Bears were working on their running game and not their passing game. How could anybody expect mediocre — if we’re being generous — talent to produce against elite talent when they haven’t even put the time in on the practice field?

The NFL season is guaranteed to have 17 tests and the Bears have gone through two of them. The team’s front office and coaching staff is well aware that they aren’t going to be contending for the Super Bowl this year. They knowingly took the slow path to success and, unfortunately, that means there will be games like Sunday night.

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Four Young Bears Off to Cold Starts (Non-Quarterback Category)

| September 20th, 2022

Again, Tuesdays are a good spot in the week to assess the development of young players on this young roster and a few concerning trends have begun to emerge.


Darnell Mooney/Cole Kmet

Where are they?

That’s serious question worth asking after two games.

Where are they?

There was no scenario wherein the Bears could be a productive offense in 2022 without serious production from Mooney and Kmet and, through two games, they have been utterly invisible. How much of that do they own? How much of that is on the quarterback? How much of that is on two difficult defensive opponents?

Whatever the reasoning, it has to stop. The next two games – home to Houston and at the Giants – need to be games where these two players are fed the football. Scheme them open if necessary. The Bears need to find out just how many weapons they need to acquire this off-season.


Roquan Smith

In the winter, Aaron Judge played hardball with the New York Yankees. He wanted a zillion dollars over a zillion years. The Yankees only wanted to give him 3/4 of a zillion over slightly less than a zillion years. Nobody budged. No deal. And now Judge is having the greatest contract year in the history of professional sports.

Roquan Smith is off to the opposite campaign. He is getting blown off the ball repeatedly, including by backs and receivers. He looks slow in coverage, normally a major strength. And the tenacity that has come to define his game is absent. Roquan is 25 years old and should be a long-term answer on this defense. But playing at this level, it’s becoming more and more likely he is elsewhere in 2023.

Imagine the criticism that would befall Ryan Poles were Smith to be playing at this level after being given $100 million.


Larry Borom

With a nod to Dave Wasserman, I believe I’ve seen enough. Borom is not a starting offensive tackle.

Teven Jenkins looks good inside. Braxton Jones is holding his own at left tackle. But Borom is a severe liability on the right side and the Bears need to start thinking about an upfront construction that doesn’t land him in the starting five. (This might take Alex Leatherwood’s return from mono.)

This shouldn’t be read as a striking criticism, either. Borom was a late-round pick and is a perfectly capable swing tackle. He is a roster asset. But in a league where the athleticism on the defensive edge seems to increase tenfold yearly (have you seen Micah Parsons play?), Borom simply can’t handle the role four quarters a week for 17 weeks plus.

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