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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Bears at Vikings Monday Night Football Game Preview, Featuring the 2023 Christmas Movie Rankings!

| November 27th, 2023

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears this Week?







Contextualizing 3-8 (It’s About the Head Coach)

Should the Bears have beaten the Broncos? Yes. They didn’t, because of the head coach.

Should the Bears have beaten the Lions? Yes. They didn’t, because of the head coach.

Mediocre work on the sidelines would have the Bears 5-6 this season, which is exactly where most of us believed they would be at the Thanksgiving holiday. But the coaching, specifically the work from head coach Matt Eberflus, is the reason the Bears are (well) behind their 2023 targets/expectations.

Will Justin Fields be the starting quarterback in 2024? Who knows, but clearly his performance against the Lions last week made some of his more vocal critics, including myself, leave that door slightly ajar. Personally, I just don’t care anymore. Bring him back, don’t bring him back, whatever. I think Fields is good enough to win games but not good enough to be the reason you win a championship. But Josh Allen can’t even get to an AFC Championship Game while Brock Purdy is throwing up perfect quarterback ratings in blowout victories…so maybe there’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. I mean, would you rather have Fields or Jared Goff? I think I prefer Fields.

But Eberflus is never going to be a top head coach. That’s apparent on the sidelines almost every week. If the ceiling for Fields is “not the reason you win a championship,” the ceiling for Eberflus is .500.

The Christmas Movie Guide

This year, I’m going with ten films. Ten films only. I’ll be watching more than 40 Christmas movies over the next month, but it is time to make the difficult choices. It is hard to leave off films like Santa Claus the Movie and Jingle All the Way and Christmas with the Kranks and Noelle. It was not hard to leave off films I simply don’t like, including the perennial downer It’s a Wonderful Life and the wildly overrated A Christmas Story.

Three films worth noting here.

  • Klaus is slowly climbing into my top ten and would probably sit 11th currently.
  • While I believe White Christmas is a wonderful movie, it has almost nothing to do with his Christmas. It is a movie more about snow than Christmas.
  • I am not including A Very Murray Christmas, even though I will watch it at least a dozen times in the next month, because it’s not really a movie.

10. Scrooged (1988). The most beautifully written and performed speech in the Christas movie canon.

9. The Santa Clause (1994). The sequels are unwatchable, but the original is both sardonic and sweet hearted.

8. Die Hard (1988). I have gone back and forth on the “is Die Hard a Christmas movie” debate but I think Michael Kamen’s use of Silent Night in the score solidifies its standing in the corpus. It is the best movie on this list, but only the eighth best Christmas movie.

7. Home Alone (1990) *

*Home Alone 2 should be consumed for ironic purposes only, but it SHOULD be consumed. I will have a full game preview section on Home Alone 2 before Christmas. 

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A Bad Matchup: Bears Travel North to Face Current Class of NFC North

| November 17th, 2023

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears this Week?







New Thinking on Quarterbacks/Defense

How many great quarterbacks are there currently in the NFL? How do we even define a great quarterback anymore? What if we reframed the question as…how many teams are currently not looking to upgrade the quarterback position? I’ll be conservative: Mahomes, Herbert, Russ (he does look pretty good) Lamar, Burrow, Deshaun (they have no choice), Tua, Rodgers (he’s old but he counts), Allen, Lawrence (I think), Stroud, Hurts, Dak (right?), Goff, Cousins (leave him there), Purdy (I know, I know), Kyler (maybe?). Some of those guys are elderly. Some of those guys are on the bubble. But even at my most conservative, only half the league has the QB position close to sorted.

How many great defenses are there currently in the NFL? Only nine units currently allow less than 20 points per game. But after watching the Browns and Ravens play a shootout and seeing the Saints get torched by Josh Dobbs, I would question whether there is a defensive group in the league capable of manhandling a decent opponent. The great defenses (a) bully bad offenses and (b) keep you in games with the good ones.

Is there a conclusion to be reached?

For me, the NFL has come down to a six-point lead with 1:41 on the clock. And two questions beg to be asked.

Do you have a quarterback that can put the ball in the end zone?

Do you have a defense that can keep the opponent out of the end zone?

If you can answer YES to those questions, you have a team that is likely to win double-digit games and make the tournament. Trying to find the next Peyton Manning/Tom Brady, or build the next ’85 Bears, seems a fool’s errand. Constructing a roster with the league’s financial impositions is too difficult. Find the right answers to those questions and become competitive on a weekly basis.

Dick Butkus Video of the Week

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