Buffalo Bills 27, Chicago Bears 13
Let’s be honest, we’re going through the motions here.
Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears this Week?
The Bills came into this season in an incredibly difficult spot. They were the universal choice to win the Super Bowl, many believing they should have won it all LAST year (including me). They had nothing to gain and everything to lose in this regular season. And through 15 weeks, they have had to both shoulder the burden of expectations and survive an onslaught of injuries at key positions, especially on defense.
And they have weathered all of it. It hasn’t always been pretty, but they now find themselves the top seed in the AFC with three games to play. Their schedule isn’t easy down this final stretch, with a Monday Night Football visit to Cincinnati in Week 17, but even facing the prospect of an AFC title game in KC, the Bills will likely be the Super Bowl favorite coming out of the regular season. And deservedly so.
With conditions expected to be difficult on Sunday, don’t expect it to bother Josh Allen and the Bills. Nothing bothers them. And when conditions are difficult, I’d expect the bigger effort to come from the better team with everything to play for.
Notes: The ascendancy of the Bears offense is showing up statistically, and their path to increased improvement is clear. The Bears know they’ll be able to run the football in 2023. Every decision they make this off-season should be geared towards improving the passing game.
Notes: These numbers tell me something: the Bears are seriously improved at the back of this defense. If they focus on the defensive line, including the pass rush, they should be able to jump their overall defensive numbers into the top half of the league. If they do that, this is a playoff contender in 2023.
The league is bananas. And there’s a lot to digest every week. Here are some general thoughts.
Last season, DBB nailed the preseason Super Bowl prediction for the first time in our history. The excitement at our headquarters was palpable; the laudits many. The key to the city of Pasadena was an unnecessary thrill.
This season we seek to repeat that historic achievement. Three questions.
(1) What teams have the big-game quarterback?
(2) What teams have the kind of division that will escort them into the top seed?
(3) What teams have a pass rush capable of taking over in January?
Sorry, folks, Green Bay.
Strange game. From the moment Eddie Jackson returned a Roquan Smith-forced fumble for a touchdown with 7:07 remaining in the first half, the entire building knew the game was over. Here are six specific, in-building thoughts from Bears 41, Bills 9.
(1) That was one of the loudest stadiums I’ve ever heard to start the game. The crowd noise was absolutely deafening when the Bears had the ball for the first quarter plus. The false starts upfront were completely understandable. Offensive line miscommunication should have been expected. (I could barely hear a friend two seats away from me.) There is no chance a Soldier Field crowd, with the team at 2-6 and starting a dead weight quarterback, would be anywhere near that enthused at kickoff. Impressive showing from Bills fans, in and around the ballpark.
(2) Good to see Jordan Howard running with some anger. Again, don’t look at the overall numbers. They’re mostly meaningless in a game like this. But Matt Nagy is finally starting to understand how to use Howard, especially down in the red zone. The Andy Reid offense like to throw to score. The Bears are built to ride Howard into the end zone.
(3) Two defenders stood out to me: Roquan Smith and Eddie Jackson. Smith is going to be a star in the league for a long, long time but that is expected from a top draft pick. Jackson is an incredible player. He closes on the football as good as any Bears safety since Mike Brown. He’s the rare back end guy comfortable with the football in the air and tackling in the open field. He’s got great, natural instincts.
(4) The Bears were clearly uncomfortable with the amount of running Mitch Trubisky did against the Jets last week because there were times Sunday Trubisky had acres of space in front of him. If this WAS a coaching decision, I applaud it. Trubisky knows he can run. That’ll be there as long as his legs are. But this season has to be more about processing information, stepping into the pocket and delivering the football. And in a game like Sunday’s there’s no reason for the young quarterback to take any unnecessary punishment.
I always like the Chicago Bears…
…and they are simply the better team, again. Yes, the game is on the road. Yes, it’s very hard to win on the road in the NFL. But the Bills are scoring 10.9 points per game. And that’s with scoring 27 in a dominant victory over the Vikings – the season’s most absurd outcome. (If you take that game out, the Bills are only averaging 8.5 points in their other 7 games. In this NFL that’s borderline impossible.)
(i) The Bills have a very good defense. They are sixth in yards-per-game while operating with one of the worst offenses in the history of professional football. In case you missed it earlier, the BILLS ARE SCORING 10.9 POINTS PER GAME. Expect Sean McDermott – a disciple of the great Eagles DC Jim Johnson – to attack Mitch Trubisky early and often because he knows creating mistakes is his team’s best chance to win.
(ii) So the Bears need to be patient on offense. Run the ball. Be conservative in the passing attack. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Field goals are fine because the Bills simply don’t score touchdowns. Field position is huge because the Bills aren’t going 80 yards on anyone.
(iii) The Bills are starting Nathan Peterman most likely. And Peterman is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. Career: 45.7%, 360 yards in three starts, 3 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 31.4 passer rating. (The backup? #BarkleyTime.)
(iv) The Bills have slow, lumbering wide receivers. Zay Jones can move a bit but Benjamin, Holmes, Croom and Clay (tight end) get almost no separation and are not what you’d called big YAC guys. (Whether Terrelle Pryor is able to get healthy enough/up to speed for this weekend remains to be seen. Doubtful.)
(v) The Bills can run the ball a bit but their offensive line – loaded with Bears castoffs like Jordan Mills and Vlad Ducasse – is not good enough to control the line of scrimmage for an extended period of time. It also shouldn’t be good enough to beat Hicks, Goldman & Company at all. Still, expect LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory to have a few moments Sunday. They’re good players.
(vi) This means the Bills will need sustained, multi-play drives to score points. And without a successful running attack they’ll need to convert on third-and-longs to achieve that. But they’re starting one of the most inaccurate quarterbacks in league history and fielding a crop of receivers who fail to gain separation. This is not a winning formula for Buffalo.
(vii) The Bears knew the Jets couldn’t beat them. So they didn’t beat themselves. Expect the same Sunday.
(viii) Score 14 points. Probably win.
Oh, in the home
Where the Buffalo Bills roam
Lived a man called Gerard McTeer
Ran a chipper in Trim
And the town adored him
When he left, there were many-a-tear
Now in Western New York
They call for the stork
For his cooking makes everyone randy
Not fancy, these things
These Buff-a-lo wings
As sweet and delicious as candy