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.
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.
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.
Pretend Matt Eberflus’ brain didn’t turn to hot soup against the Denver Broncos and the Bears won that ballgame. The team would be 2-3, on the periphery of the wildcard conversation, with a chance to win their third straight against a Justin Jefferson-less Minnesota Vikings this Sunday. This would be a massive contest.
But Eberflus’ brain did turn to split pea, and this is not a massive contest. But that doesn’t mean it is unimportant. Just remember, if the Bears win Sunday, they will be 2-4, with a mediocre Raiders team coming to town next week, bringing with them a big, shiny opportunity to be 3-4. And isn’t hovering around .500 with an improving Justin Fields exactly what most of us expected from this campaign?
The Bears could not lose that Broncos game. And they did. Because of that, they needed to win the next three in order to insert relevance into their season.
Minnesota. [ ]
Los Angeles [ ]
The Chicago Bears shouldn’t be favored to win the NFC North, but they certainly have a shot to take what is now a weak division. The Lions are the favorites, and rightfully so, but Detroit missed a major opportunity to improve at key positions and further separate themselves from the rest of the division. The Minnesota Vikings are the defending champions, but their limp to the finish line brings up many questions. And the Packers, well, where do we start?
These are things Ryan Poles was surely looking at when he told The Athletic the team should contend for the NFC North. Here’s a quick snapshot at each of the teams and why the Bears could top them.
There’s a lot to like about the Detroit Lions but that can be found all over the internet. In short, the Lions had a top-five offense in 2022 and their defense allowed a hair over 20 points per game in the second half of the year. They finished 8-2 with convincing wins over the Vikings and Packers.
But there are issues with the Lions that are largely going ignored.
We can comfortably assume Detroit’s defense will improve, after being bottom-five in both scoring and yardage last year. How much is a bit of a mystery, though. They made some improvements in the secondary but spent a first-round pick on an inside linebacker — a position that wasn’t a strength, but also not necessarily a weakness.
On paper, the Lions should be favored to win the NFC North. But it isn’t hard to see why that might not happen.
This is less a gambling guide, and more an overview of the weekend’s action with predictions. But my gambling choices are evident in my final score prognostications. (All lines from DraftKings Sportsbook.)
Why do I Like the Chicago Bears this Week?
With Justin Fields, who accounts for about 90% of the offense, not playing, and Nathan Peterman, one of the worst starting quarterbacks in modern NFL history, playing, the Vikings will have their starters on the bench by early third quarter.
Vikings 33, Bears 9
Houston is simply playing better football, week in and week out. And while folks will argue they have no impetus to win this game and fall out of the first pick, the Deshaun Watson trade gave them more than enough ammunition to ensure they come out of the 2023 draft with whomever they deem their top prospect.
Texans 19, Colts 13
And with this prediction, the Chicago Bears will secure the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
The Bears are unlikely to win any of their remaining games. The Philadelphia Eagles might be the best team in the league. If they’re not, that distinction could be awarded the Buffalo Bills. Since starting the season 1-6. the Detroit Lions have been a top NFC side, going 5-1 and last Sunday, making their case as the best team in the NFC North (despite overall record). The Minnesota Vikings will win the division but with Dallas and San Francisco breathing down their necks for the two seed, they will need a win in the finale. In none of these final four contests will the Bears be less than a touchdown underdog. They may steal a victory in this closing month, but it’ll be a surprise if they do.
So, what is left for the Bears fan? The answer, sadly, is not much.
Justin Fields has proven to be one of the most electric quarterbacks in the league and the future at the position in Chicago. That was everything in 2022.
We know what the Bears have on their offensive and defensive lines, i.e., not much. (Teven Jenkins can play, it seems. Can Braxton Jones? I honestly don’t know.)
We’ve seen glimpses of production from the receivers (Claypool, Harry, EQ) but know improvement is needed. We’ve seen production in the secondary but know reinforcements are needed there as well. (You can never have enough quality corners.)
And we’ve seen quite the revelation in Jack Sanborn, whose production the last few weeks saved the Chicago Bears about $100 million in what would have been misallocated resources.
The beats will beat on; they don’t have the luxury of this approach. Kevin Fishbain can’t just write, “Ah, fuck it, this game doesn’t mean anything,” and still hope his direct deposit from the fine folks at The New York Times Company goes through. But if the Bears are smart, they are going to use these final four contests for purely evaluative purposes. That means any player with a tenuous role moving forward should be on the field for meaningful reps. These are not preseason games. These are four real contests against good teams with the world to play for. You want to find out what these young players have?
Draft position is important. But there is little drama remaining there. Even if the Bears steal another victory, they will be picking in the top five, and likely the top three. With this draft reportedly top heavy at quarterback, Ryan Poles should have an opportunity to trade back and add premium picks. (This roster needs them.) If a big trade doesn’t surface, Poles will have to decide whether to a top lineman prospect or electrifying wide receiver. I can tell you right now, having watched what’s happening around the league, I’ll be pushing for the latter.
Enjoy this final month, Bears fans. The team has their quarterback and 2023 Bears, while not yet contenders, should be the most entertaining team on the lakefront in modern history. The arrow for this franchise is pointed decidedly up, with an exciting off-season soon to come. We just have to suffer through a few losses down the stretch to get there.