Fields and Flus: The Final Five? (‘Tis the Week 14 Game Preview with Movie Stuff Too!)

| December 8th, 2023

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?







Justin Fields. End of Story.

The Carolina Panthers are going to earn one of the top two picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. And that means – if you believe what has been written about this coming draft class – the Chicago Bears will be able to select one of the two “elite quarterback prospects” at the top of the draft: Caleb Williams or Drake Maye. And right now, it would be near impossible to see Ryan Poles passing on the position.

Justin Fields has five weeks to change that narrative.

Do you want to know what the league, at least those I know around the league, think about the situation? I sent two texts to individuals with other teams this week. Both texts were identical: “Do you think the Bears will pass on a QB and keep Fields?”

Response 1. “No.”

Response 2. “I think they might.”

I find it hard to believe the Bears have not already made their decision on Justin Fields, but if that’s the case, there’s very little left to watch over the remaining five games. So, let’s operate under the hypothetical that a verdict has yet to be reached. That creates a lovely bit of drama around the quarterback as we head into the new year.

My Ten Favorite Film Discoveries of 2023

One thing that becomes incredibly apparent as you engage any academic discipline, whether that be film studies or molecular biology, is that it’s incredibly difficult to know EVERYTHING. Every time I rewatch the films in my areas of expertise – All That Jazz, Umbrellas of Cherbourg, 12 Angry Men, etc. – there’s another film slipping through the cracks.

I didn’t see enough of the films of 2023 to compile a coherent list. But I did see about 100 films this year I had not previously seen. These were the ten most memorable for me.

Leningrad Cowboys Go America (Aki Kaurismaki, 1989). The Blues Brothers directed by Werner Herzog. On Criterion Channel.

A Moment of Innocence (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1996). Stands with Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-Up as the most remarkable cinematic achievements of post-revolutionary Iran. Rentable on Vimeo.

The Secret in Their Eyes (Juan Jose Campanella, 2009). The Academy Award-winning Argentine masterpiece. On Prime.

The Cancer Journals Revisited (Lana Lin, 2018). A harrowing, beautiful salute to Audre Lorde and survival. On Kanopy.

Woyzeck (Werner Herzog, 1979). The unsung collaboration of Herzog and Kinski. It is on this list because I spent months working with it and have grown to love every frame. On Kanopy.

Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese, 2023). There will be time, years, to write about this film. For now, I just encourage everyone to see it.

The Murderers are Among Us (Wolfgang Staudte, 1946). The most essential of the German “rubble films.” On Kanopy.

Rush to Judgment (Emile de Antonio, 1967). Emile de Antonio’s and Mark Lane’s stirring indictment of the Warren Commission’s conclusions. It is currently unavailable for home consumption.

The China Syndrome (James Bridges, 1979). One of the great 1970s American paranoia pictures, putting it in a corpus that includes The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor, Marathon Man, etc. Rentable everywhere.

Deadline at Dawn (Harold Clurman, 1946). The only cinematic work of Group Theater founder Harold Clurman, Dawn is a brilliant example of post-war feminist noir. Sadly, it’s also impossible to find if you’re not studying cinema at the university level or above.

Read More …

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A Big Game Looms Sunday — What Happens Next?

| December 7th, 2023

As we inch ever closer towards Sunday’s game, the Chicago Bears stand a pivot point — the results of these next 5 games may very well decide the direction of the biggest Bears offseason in recent memory, and if Head Coach Matt Eberflus wants to be on the safe side of that decision he’ll need to start winning games soon.

Could the Bears spark a win streak off of a divisional home defense? Cole Kmet seems to think so, but with a hungry Detroit team visiting town on a day that’s slated for snowy, cold weather, all we should expect is a knock-down, drag-out fight.

Anything could happen — after all, if Chicago manages to finish the season 9-8 they may very well land an NFC Wild Card spot. But before us fans dare to dream of the playoffs, first Chicago must force these Lions to settle a debt Detroit incurred only a few weeks ago. The Bears had the Lions within their grasp but let them slip away… if they’re to surge this season, they’ll have to start by winning on Sunday.

There’s enough within this game to unpack that Nick & I managed to record our longest Bear With Us episode yet — in this episode, Nick and I dive into…

  • How can we work to talk about Justin Fields as rationally as possible? What does he need to show by the end of the year?
  • What on earth has happened to the Lions’ defense?
  • Where are the Lions winning on offense? Where are they losing?
  • How does a healthy Bears team match up with this Detroit squad?
  • What does this game mean for every Bear involved
  • What have we learned about defense in the NFL from Eberflus’ 2023 season?
  • Is the league as down on Luke Getsy as most Bears fans are?
  • And much, much more…

I know I say this often, but this really is one of our best episodes yet — check it out and let me know what you think!

Your Turn: How do you feel about this weekend’s contest?

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Checking the Tape: Just How Good Are These Top 2 Quarterbacks?

| December 5th, 2023

Last night I dove deep into the All-22 tape from both Caleb Williams & Drake Maye’s 2023 season to see what all the hype is about — throughout the stream I talked through:

  • Where is Caleb Williams winning? Where is he losing?
  • Where is Drake Maye winning? Where is he losing?
  • How does each QB’s offensive scheme support them? How well do they play within it?
  • When plays break down, how does each player attempt to control the chaos?
  • Rants & ravings about the future of the Bears
  • And much, much more

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Your Turn: Do you even want the Bears to draft a new QB? Do you have a preference on who?

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Reviewing the Roster Around Justin Fields

| December 4th, 2023

Football happened yesterday! And just in case you didn’t check yesterday’s scores, let me give you the highlights of what mattered for the Bears:

  • The New England Patriots couldn’t score 7 points on the Chargers and thus fell at home, leaving them at #2 in the draft order.
    • The Patriots’ offense is BAD — their passing offense displays all the hallmarks of dysfunctional offense (OL protection issues, a QB that holds the ball too long, and WRs that can’t catch the opportunities delivered to them), their rushing offense is awful, and now that Bailey Zappe has officially taken over for Mac Jones it’s hard to imagine the Patriots finding a spark to rally around. Offensive Coordinator Bill O’Brien is likely out of motivational tricks, but with a winnable Thursday Night game in Pittsburgh on the horizon I hope he and Belichick can find some Patriot Magic on the short week.
  • The Arizona Cardinals topped the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road, moving to 3-10 on the season and all-but excusing themselves from the race for a Top 2 pick.
    • Kyler Murray and former 2nd round pick Trey McBride make a dynamic combination and the two stuck it to Pittsburgh to the tune of 89 yards & a score on 8 catches (9 targets). Arizona’s defense didn’t win their side of the ball so much as Pittsburgh lost it, but Zona’s offense didn’t let bad weather slow them down as they piled up a 17-3 lead and watched Pittsburgh squirm. Will Arizona win a game outside of their Christmas Eve tilt in Chicago? If they plan to try, they’ll need Kyler Murray to keep playing like he did at times today. He was fun to watch.
  • The Carolina Panthers lost on the road to a struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers team, falling to 1-11 in a game I’m sure they’d like to have back.
    • This was a pivotal game for Carolina — most teams rebound when their coach gets fired mid-season, but with this loss the Panthers are officially eliminated from playoff contention. With a trip to the Superdome looming, how does this team keep their head against a string of opponents fighting for playoff spots?

Why do these scores matter? Simple: Arizona’s win & Carolina’s loss all but guarantee the Bears will receive a Top 2 pick in the 2024 Draft Class. Seth Walder confirms that notion below with ESPN Analytics:

If you’re a frustrated Bears fan looking for hope in the midst of a frustrating season, a Top 2 pick in this draft class represents just that.

It’s not that the Bears have to move on from Justin Fields, but having the option to do so without feeling the pressure to settle (EX: The Giants & Daniel Jones) is a luxury most NFL teams simply cannot afford. As I discussed in a column last week, a Top 2 pick is an objective good for the Chicago Bears — between sticking with Fields & drafting a rookie, there’s no “wrong” option.

That said, maybe you’ve heard all this talk of drafting a QB and want to know more about who these players are — I’ll be streaming a draft breakdown this evening of both major QBs in an attempt to pull back the curtain on Caleb Williams and Drake Maye. Join me at 8PM CST and let’s get to know the good, the bad, and the ugly of these kids’ games.


Nick and I recorded a podcast where we talked through the roster around Justin Fields with a fine-toothed comb — How much of this team will remain in 2024? Who’s playing well? Who’s struggling? Where should Chicago look to upgrade in the offseason? Check it out here:

Your Turn: How do you feel about Chicago’s roster as things currently stand?

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What is Driving the Bears’ Defensive Dominance?

| December 1st, 2023

Last night I dove deep into the Bears’ tape from Monday’s big win in Detroit — throughout the stream I talked through:

  • What did the Bears do so well early to rattle Josh Dobbs? Where is their scheme winning?
  • Which defenders are leading their defensive units?
  • What, if anything, is still wrong with the Bears’ defense? Can their problems be fixed?
  • What fueled the good parts of the Bears’ Sunday offense?
  • Who stood out on the Bears’ offensive line? Who was left lacking?
  • What made Chicago’s late playcalling so… ugly? How did that affect their scheme?
  • Rants & ravings about the future of the Bears
  • And much, much more

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Your Turn: What are your Thanksgiving plans?

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Between Drafting a Quarterback & Sticking with Fields, There is No Bad Option in Chicago

| November 30th, 2023

If the Chicago Bears have a Top 2 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, chances are strong that I’ll advocate for a move at quarterback this offseason. Why? Because I love what both Drake Maye & Caleb Williams have put on tape.

I think they’re the kinds of quarterbacks you wait years to draft, each squarely in the realm of Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence. Both are cuts above your standard prospect, but through overuse of the word “generational” many have recently begun to view both Williams and Maye as “Overhyped”, “Not That Good”, and all kinds of other derogatory phrases.

Let’s set the record straight: Drake Maye has one of the gaudiest arms on the planet. Not only can he make any throw on the football field, he does make every throw on a week to week basis. Caleb Williams, on the other hand, processes the game at an outstanding level while consistently showing off a sublime combination pocket movement, arm talent, and awareness that allows him to make plays that other QBs truly can’t dream of making.

If the Bears have the option to take one of these two players, I want them to go for it. I think these players are worth it.

But, and here’s the key point I’m trying to make, wanting Chicago to draft a QB if given the chance doesn’t mean “Robert hates Justin Fields” — Fields is a Top 20 QB & a bona-fide starter, but he’s also a limited passer that takes a ton of hits & needs an offense to cater to him more than his peers do. He’s a dynamic runner, but we’ve seen most running QBs struggle to sustain rushing (while staying healthy) over the course of a 17-game season.

Too many have made this quarterback conversation obnoxiously black and white — it’s devolved into split sides shouting “Well actually Caleb & Drake suck” or “Fields can’t play”… but neither statement is true. The kids are good, and Justin Fields has played well enough in Chicago to become a topic of trade conversations around the league. Regardless of what you prefer the Bears do at quarterback this offseason, neither answer is objectively bad & neither side needs to be treated as such.

I personally think the Bears have the opportunity to build an ideal landing spot for a rookie QB. Exciting WRs, a talented young OL, and a proven safety valve TE should make up a strong supporting cast. Drafting any QB this high is risky, but I think these rookies are worth the risk involved in moving on from Justin — especially since sticking with Justin is no sure thing either.

But despite my personal preference, it’s also possible that the Bears could build such a strong team around Justin that not winning more games would be nearly impossible. I personally think this team would struggle to keep the QB healthy (Fields’ average time to throw went up against a blitz-heavy team in Minnesota) and would eventually face defenses they don’t have answers for on offense, but until the Bears line up, play, and lose those games there’s no sense treating a Fields-led unit as if it’s doomed to fail.

A Fields-led 2024-2025 team has a better shot of winning 9-10 games & making the playoffs each year than drafting a rookie QB does — if that’s the direction Chicago goes, it’ll be the best pair of seasons they’ve had since 2005 & 2006. It’s been that long since Chicago won 9+ games in consecutive years — this result would not be “bad”.

But I also think the opportunity Caleb Williams & Drake Maye present gives Chicago a better shot at becoming a Super Bowl contender than sticking with Fields does. Explaining why each quarterback excites me so much will take full scouting reports, so we’ll save that for the offseason — but the prospects’ talent & the opportunity to reset the rookie contract clock (allowing Chicago to pay for an extra pair of Free Agents) allows Chicago to build a team that can compete with (and beat) the Chiefs, Ravens, and 49ers by 2025.

Regardless of which ‘side’ you’re on, I think that’s an exciting thing to talk about.


Nick and I recorded a podcast where we talked through Justin Fields in much greater detail — his strengths, his weaknesses, what we should expect to see him improve on, and where we think he’s likely done growing. Check it out here:

Your Turn: How do you feel about Chicago’s signal-caller?

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Five Questions, with Five Games Remaining

| November 29th, 2023

(1) What do we make of Matt Eberflus’ defensive success? The Bears are now 9th in yards allowed per game, with the game’s best rush defense. The addition of Montez Sweat has dramatically improved their pass rush, seeing sack and interception totals rise. Eberflus has been a net-minus as a head coach, but he’s been a net-plus as the defensive coordinator, with only the late-game collapses against Denver and Detroit marring his 2023 record. This defensive program is clearly working. Will continued success over the final five games be enough for him to keep his job?

(2) What about the availability of high-profile offensive minds? Frank Reich, a terrific OC with clear ties to Eberflus, is now available. Josh McDaniels, a bad head coach but good OC, is now available. Eric Bienemy will be available (and should be in demand as a head coaching candidate) come January. Could Eberflus sell the front office on his defensive success with a retooled offensive structure?

(3) Is the quarterback’s tenure in Chicago officially over? If the season ended Monday night, that answer would surely be yes; the lack of week-to-week consistency would not prohibit the Bears from using one of their high draft picks on a quarterback prospect. Fields has ability; he is a brilliant runner capable of making dynamic plays off-script. But if you listened to Troy Aikman on Monday night, you heard an analyst incredibly skeptical of Fields’ ability to play the position from the pocket. Folks in the building share that skepticism.

(4) Where will the Carolina pick land? The Bears don’t have a particularly good team left on their schedule. It is likely they finish 2-3 or 3-2 over the final five, with the latter moving their own draft pick outside the top ten. Carolina’s finish will play an important role in the composition of the 2024 roster. If they finish with a top two pick, it feels a sure thing that the Bears hit restart at the quarterback position. But what if Carolina win a few games down the stretch and that pick falls outside the Caleb Williams/Drake Maye realm? (Side note: I’ll be rooting for the Bears to take Drake because then we can call him The Hotel.)

(5) How much money are the drops costing Jaylon Johnson? If Johnson could catch, he would be a pick-six machine, and those drops are the only thing preventing him from entering the “best corner in the league” conversation. Eddie Jackson’s career is over, but the Bears have productive young players throughout their secondary. Poles should just suck it up and Johnson what he wants to avoid the tag ballet that follows situations like this. The dropped pick sixes have actually rendered Johnson cheaper than he should be.

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A Win is a Win – and Matt Eberflus Needed a Win

| November 28th, 2023

Last night’s gritty, ugly 12-10 win over the Vikings may soon become a career-defining game for their Head Coach — Matt Eberflus took the helm in Chicago and immediately articulated a plan to create a tenacious, turnover-hungry defense that would win games behind a balanced ball-control offense, and that’s exactly the plan we saw in action on Monday Night.

Can this plan work forever? We’ll know more in two weeks’ time as they take their second shot at the Lions. For now, sit back and enjoy a rare victory Tuesday — we never get enough of them.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good:

  • Chicago’s defensive turnaround deserves more than just a hat tip. I’ve written thousands of words about how disappointed I am in Matt Eberflus’ tenure with the Chicago Bears, but Chicago’s defense is playing too well to not give the man his flowers. Young players are developing (Gervon Dexter had a great game, Kyler Gordon has a nose for the football, Tyrique Stevenson has flashed competency in his rookie year, etc), core pieces are producing (namely Montez Sweat, who’s tilted the field for Chicago on key downs), and now that the defensive line seems to be creating pressure somewhat consistently the DBs are beginning to shine.
    • It’s good old-fashioned team defense, and who doesn’t love that? Everyone’s getting their fair share of takeaways — linebackers, safeties, and corners alike are getting chances to catch the ball, largely because the Bears haven’t left many safe areas to attack within their defense. What a difference a little pressure from the DL makes!
  • Jaylon Johnson is playing phenomenal ball right now. CB Jaylon Johnson has blanketed his matchups over the last two weeks and is giving himself chances to make plays on the ball — he swung the tide of the game early by picking off Josh Dobbs’ attempt at a Cover 2 hole shot, nearly hauled in a Pick-Six on a 3rd-down route-jump later in the game, and even deflected away a pass that landed in the hands of TJ Edwards.
    • Don’t get too hung up on the Pick-Sixes that he’s failed to successfully haul in — he’s playing with great process, letting him break on passes early and make plays on the ball. The INTs will come, and with Jaylon already at a career-high 3 INTs on the year it’s hard to imagine that he isn’t turning a corner. An extension may be in order after all.

  • The Offensive Line came up big late in the game. With the chips down at the end of the game, the Offensive Line provided clean pockets galore for Justin Fields’ winning drive. The blitz gave the OL trouble early, especially when an injury briefly sidelined de-facto OL captain Teven Jenkins, but when their QB most needed protection this young, hungry OL unit delivered just that.

The Bad

  • Screens, screens, and more screens. Brian Flores brought the house throughout the entire first quarter, but did OC Luke Getsy really need to call what felt like 15 screens in order to slow down the pass rush? Getsy’s game plan felt gratuitous, haphazard, and seemed to lack trust in its’ quarterback — The All-22 will tell us more about the opportunities Chicago passed up on down the field, but for now I can’t condone the way Getsy ran the game. You won’t win many games with an offense that stalls out early in the 2nd quarter and never seems to regain its mojo.
  • Penalties are becoming an issue. Despite this regime preaching a lack of penalties as a positive throughout last year’s lost season, Chicago has now allowed 143 yards on 13 penalties throughout the last 2 weeks. These free first downs annihilate Bears’ offensive drives while extending the drives of Chicago’s opponents, and as we saw this evening those penalties add up over time.
  • Chicago’s three late fumbles should’ve spelled the end. Roschon Johnson & Justin Fields’ fumbles within Field Goal range on the drive that would’ve given the Bears a 2-score lead were inexcusable. There isn’t a more lenient word I can use, either — after collecting your 4th takeaway of the evening, it speaks to a lack of team discipline that both Chicago’s lead runningback and starting quarterback fumbled the ball, giving up a lead to Minnesota in the process. Then, with the game on the line, Fields gave the ball away to Minnesota one again via a 2nd fumble. The timing couldn’tve been any worse.
    • If this was an isolated incident, just one game, I’d mark tonight’s fumbles as a bizarre fluke that wasn’t likely to happen again. But between the Denver game and nearly all of 2022, is it fair to say that Justin Fields may always have fumble issues? I imagine that’s a question the Bears will look to answer within the next few weeks.

The Ugly

  • Barely scraping a win out of a dominant defensive performance feels unsustainable (and all too familiar). While I’d love to write about how the defense has a path to creating 3-4 turnovers in every given week, life in the NFL isn’t so easy — teams will adjust to what the Bears are doing defensively, and I imagine Chicago’s defense will settle down at 1-2 turnovers per game. But when they aren’t +2 or +3 in the turnover margin, is their offense capable of scoring enough to win games regardless?
    • We’ll find out soon, but I have my doubts — the Vikings have a budding defense, but 12 points given 4 turnovers and outstanding field position feels like an underperformance. This game should’ve never been close, an early touchdown might’ve shut down the Vikings out for good, but despite all of the advantages Chicago’s defense provided its offense with, the offense still needed a late rally to secure the 2-point win. How long can they keep this up? We’ll find out.

Postgame Podcast:

Nick and I recorded a podcast where we talked through the ups, the downs, the ins, and the outs of Chicago’s big win here:

Your Turn: How do you feel about yesterday’s game?

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