After Peterman, Division Challenges That Will Define Bears Season Await

| October 31st, 2018

We’re halfway through the 2018 NFL season, and the Bears sit atop the NFC North at 4-3.

This team is one win away from equaling the total number of wins they had last season, and frankly after watching Monday night’s game between the Patriots and the Bills, and knowing that Nathan Peterman is likely Sunday’s starter, if they aren’t at 5-3 by the end of Week 9 this might be the last article you read from me because I will have gone into some state of catatonic shock.

Now I know what some of you are thinking (fearing). The Bears we’ve come to know over the last few years have had a propensity to lose games they absolutely should win. It was a defining feature of the John Fox era.

Many of you might point to the Bears loss in Miami a few weeks ago as another sign that this team still struggles to put away lesser opponents. While I admit the loss to the Dolphins has grown more and more frustrating after seeing both the current landscape of the NFC North, as well as the increasingly poor play of Miami, I stand by my article two weeks ago. It was a painful loss, but not necessarily a bad one.

Apart from that, this team has done well in beating opponents they’re supposed to beat.

  • The Week 2 win against Seattle looks more impressive (and important) now that the Seahawks have won 4 of their last 5 games.
  • They rightfully demolished a terrible Tampa team.
  • While they kept it a little closer than we all would’ve liked against the Jets last week, they made the adjustments and pulled away when they needed to, winning by 14.

I fully expect Chicago to do the same thing this Sunday against the Bills. If they don’t, I’ll have to reevaluate how I view this team, and what they’re capable of in 2018. But from my perspective, after Buffalo is where the real challenge begins.

The Bears have three straight division games in Weeks 10-12, and more than anything else that’s happened so far this year those three games will give us the best insight into what we can hope and expect from this team heading into December.

As we’re all well aware another unfortunate marker of the Fox era was the Bears’ miserable record against division opponents. They managed just three wins in the NFC North in three years, and one of the biggest goals of Nagy’s new and improved Bears is to turn that record on its head.

After Buffalo, Chicago plays Detroit twice with Minnesota sandwiched in between. The Bears should absolutely be able to go 2-1 in that three game stretch (especially since the Lions seem to have already given up on making much of a push this year).

A win in Buffalo, followed by two out of three wins in the division would put the Bears at 7-4 overall, and 2-2 in the NFC North. In their remaining five games they have two very winnable match ups against the Giants and the 49ers. They also play the Rams, Vikings, and Packers.

Out of those three teams, the Rams are the only one I look at and say, “Yeah. The Bears probably aren’t winning that.” Chicago should’ve beaten the Packers in the season opener, and as I’ve maintained this whole year, Green Bay has a great quarterback doing his best with a mediocre supporting cast. Chicago should beat them at Soldier Field.

The Vikings have looked pretty good this whole season (apart from the bizarre loss to Buffalo), but they certainly aren’t unbeatable, and the Bears will want to manage to at least split games with Minnesota if they hope to achieve a .500 record or better in the division.

All of this is doable. The Bears have the talent to achieve it. Trubisky and the offense continue to show signs of progress, and apart from the deeply unfortunate loss of Kyle Long, the team has managed to stay relatively healthy and avoid serious injuries.

But it all comes back to those three consecutive division games. It’s already clear this Bears team is different than what we’ve gotten used to watching in seasons past. Just how different remains to be seen. Check back with me after Thanksgiving.