Football

Welcome back, Bears fans! Today, Friday, and Monday Wes and I will be doing a 3 part roundtable about the draft and going forward. Just like every website that somehow has access to our email addresses, I’d like to include the phrase “in these uncertain times” before we go too far- so be on the lookout for that.
-TM

Wes-
It’s been a minute since we were together here at the roundtable. Since we last spoke, I wrote 3500 words about a bunch of players the Bears didn’t draft, but they selected 7 new dudes and picked up 11 UDFAs.
How do we feel, in these uncertain times?

Wes French: I’m a little…skeptical. I was ECSTATIC when Josh Jones, Antoine Winfield Jr., Grant Delpit and Jeremy Chinn were all there at 43 only to see the Bears pop Cole Kmet. I was still pretty happy when Jones and Chinn were available at 50, but Jaylon Johnson is also a very good gamble given his ability and “slide” was due to some cranky shoulders that might not be that scary. 

Ryan Pace has made his mark in the middle rounds across his drafts, so I didn’t mind spending a little draft capital next year and using existing later round picks this year to create three Fifth Round 2020 selections. Trevis Gipson especially stands out for me.

Tony Martin: As everyone that reads the site knows, I was a major mark for Winfield Jr throughout the pre-draft process and I was so pumped when he was still on the board at 43. I have mixed feelings about the draft, but Jaylon Johnson isn’t one I’m mixed on. I saw projections of him as a day 1 player, and “immediate starter” is a phrase I’ve seen in a lot of his scouting reports. If both he and Kmet live up to their potential, this was a power move by Pace.

I don’t really know what to feel about the Kmet pick. I mean, I guess this is more Nagy’s chance to prove that the offensive shortcomings can be changed if they have that prototypical TE, I just wish the Bears fans on Reddit can see that he’s not a complete prospect and his blocking is suspect. Tell me more about why you like the Gibson pick, I’ll tell you why I think Kindle Vildor shines in this system and then we can probe the late round picks and UDFAs.

Wes: I was WAY in on Winfeild Jr. Man, the possibilities with playing next to Eddie Money, allowing Jackson to basically be unleashed to do ANYTHING in the defensive backfield…fuck. Oh well. 

My problem with the Kmet pick is it feels desperate. We know this was Nagy’s guy, it had to be. My problem with the whole situation is that they have now devoted a ton of resources in the way of salary, draft capital and player development into positions that are clearly central to Nagy’s offense. The boys upstairs got super cute with the first iteration, tabbing a career back up and Juco draft reach the first go around in 2017 and now Trey Burton is cut and costing millions to not play and Adam Shaheen is more thank likely to be cut without a complete 180 this summer. The pedigree is better for the second crack at it with Jimmy Graham/Kmet…but Graham is basically in the twilight of his career and Kmet is at best a high upside project. Just feels like throwing more bad money after bad money but I guess they have to try. 
On Gipson, it just feels like the type of mid/late round Pace pick that will pop. A guy that had some really strong games while playing a style with his hand in the dirt on the edge at Tulsa could easily become a force in a stand-up 3-4 straight up edge rusher role. Also, there’s this comparison I found to be pretty encouraging: 

Matthew Judon: 6-foot-3, 261 lbs., Arm length: 33 7/8 inches – Drafted: 5th round, No. 146 overall in 2016

Trevis Gipson: 6-foot-3 3/8, 261 lbs., Arm length: 33 7/8 inches – Drafted: 5th round, No. 155 overall in 2020

The paths could be similar too – Judon was a rotational/role player on the edge his rookie year, and in the last three seasons has become a force worthy of a Franchise Tag in Baltimore. Gipson has the measureables and quick-twitch hallmarks of someone that can succeed on the edge in the new NFL. While he didn’t pile up sacks last year (8.5) he did have 15 tackles for loss showing he knows how to be disruptive in opposing backfields. I love this pick. (h/t Adam Hoge for the leg work on this one)

Tony: Before we put the Winfield Jr stuff to rest, I’d like to agree and also point out that I’ve seen a lot of chatter that the Bears needed an “in the box” safety, without acknowledging that EJax also plays close to the line and makes plays in the run game as well, and having two incredibly versatile athletes at Safety gives the team crazy amounts of flexibility.I think your love for Gipson will pay off, to be honest. He looks like he can contribute to the rotation and will certainly be an upgrade over Aaron Lynch almost no matter what. As an added bonus, he also gets to learn from two all-star edge rushers, which no doubt inspires confidence in his future development.While we’re dreaming of big things, I wanna talk about two guys that I think not only make this team but contribute: CB Kindle Vildor and WR Darnell Mooney. Vildor is a man corner who won’t challenge for starting reps anytime soon, but he will make major contributions on special teams and I believe can eventually come in and make plays in sub packages. He’s got a major chip on his shoulder and I have major love for gritty players from small schools. Mooney, on the other hand, is going to come in and make plays. He’s quick, tall, and can win contested catches. His highlight tape is basically him winning jump balls and taking slants 70 yards to the endzone, and ironically as I was writing this the Bears signed Ted Ginn Jr, so I guess there’s time for him to develop that route tree.

Any thoughts on the later round guys or UDFAs?

Wes:I agree on Vildor, and I’d like to tie this into baseball (RIP) a little bit and steal a phrase – This entire Bears draft is full of 70/80-grade names. Love it. I do think taking two CBs and no safeties tells you how they feel about the personnel in house. I was pretty happy with what I saw from Kevin Toliver at the end of last season, but he’s going to have a real battle just to make this team now.For the 7th rounders/UDFAs I think it’s those last two picks/two signings on the Oline that stand out, another few 80-grade names in Arlington Hambright and Lachavious Simmons (7th Rd) and Dieter Eiselen/Badara Traore (UDFAs). The more I think about the process the more I like the idea of swinging for a handful of OL late with the idea you stash them on the practice (or possible taxi squad this Fall…) and let them come along that way instead of a project in the 2nd round. Pace keeps telling us that Juan Castillo was the big acquisition on the OL this offseason and this draft only solidifies that sentiment.

You feeling good about any of the other UDFAs?

Tony: Simmons has some awesome tape, and with a new offensive line coach I’m excited to see how the young guys develop, given that most of them won’t have the time to take physical reps, given the state of the world. I’m hoping at least one of the late round linemen makes the team, and a couple of the UDFAs make the practice squad. Is LeDarius Mack a viable prospect? I’m hoping the name gets him in the door and he makes the team, but the ones I like the most are Artavis Pierce, the RB from Oregon State, and Rashad Smith, another OLB from Florida Atlantic who I think is going to get kicked inside and back up Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. Rashad Smith put up preposterous tackle numbers and can cover as well as play the run. I’d like to see Pierce make the team, especially if the Bears don’t intend to resign Tarik Cohen after this season. I think Ryan Pace’s ability to find quality running backs has been understated in his time here, and Pierce might make the team given where the depth chart sits today.

Final thoughts?

Wes: I feel like Mack was a nice nod to Khalil, and if there’s anything that will get him as motivated as possible it’s big brother on his ass all offseason in the same training program. I’m not sure if he can become a rotation player given what they have at the position, but he can win a job by going hard on special teams and showing some versatility – he’s smaller than Khalil so maybe a hybrid edge/coverage option in the middle.

I really, really like Pierce as well, the lightening to our fan favorite Ryan Nall’s thunder at OSU. I feel like overall there are some good opportunities for the guys drafted/signed to make this team one way or another. I’ll especially be keeping my eye on Pierce and Mooney as returner options and a path for either to make the team outright.

That’s all I have for now…which looks like quite a bit as I scroll back up this marathon. Great chatting you up about sports again with the uncertainty surrounding everything else right now. Stay safe out there, dear readers, and remember – fuck landlords and mortgage lenders #cancelrent Now!

Tony: It’s always a pleasure chopping up the finer points of this shitshow with you, Wes. Football was a nice distraction from the dystopian shithole our world is at the moment. I hope everyone reading this is making the best of it that they can, unless you’re a landlord expecting rent today. Happy May Day!

Football

AKA #Chuckstrong

The Bears dropped from the 1st overall defense in DVOA in 2018 down to 8th in 2019, the first year under Chuck Pagano’s watch. Why is that? Was it the offense constantly trying to get off the field as quickly as possible? Was it the key injuries to certain starters, or the loss of half the secondary in free agency? Was it due to the Bears playing Football Outsiders’ #1 toughest schedule of 2019, or simply just statistical variance?

I don’t know, if I did I’d be coaching the Bears defense (spoiler alert: I run a lot of 0 coverage so I’m sorry in advance). However, I did smoke a bunch of LEGAL weed and read PFF and Football Outsiders to get to the bottom of this hypothetical question.

The Good:

Roquan Smith is gonna be the fuckin dude in the middle, y’all. The Bears numbers against the run aren’t very impressive on paper, but metrics put the Bears as the 3rd and 6th overall defense from the Second-Level and Open Field metrics (runs beyond the defensive line). Pagano is letting his second level swarm to the ball, and the groundwork is there for the Bears to once again have the best LB corps in the league, provided they resign Danny Trevathan.

The defense looked good against the teams they should have. I know, that seems like a backhanded compliment, right? It’s not. 2018’s loss to the Giants (even with Chase Daniel at QB) was caused by a defense that could not stop Saquon Barkley and an awful Giants offense. This year’s Bears defense put shitty teams down and held them there, but of course the offense still managed to blow it against both LA teams, Oakland (debatable), and the first Packers game. As Bears fans, we gotta take pride in beating the teams they should beat because this franchise plays down to their opponents so much you’d think it was commonplace.

This is where I officially state my case for Leonard Floyd: he is absolutely a starting-caliber outside linebacker. His numbers as a pass rusher are not great, but Pagano utilized him in the best possible way: setting the edge in the run game. He was most certainly not worth the price the Bears paid for him in the draft, but if he walks the Bears will most likely downgrade with his replacement.

The Bad:

If we can expect variance to be part of the year to year process, we see it in turnovers. The Bears simply did not take the ball away like they did last year. The Bears averaged 1.2 takeaways per game in 2019, compared to 2.2 per game in 2018. The other defenses with a 1.2 takeaway per game average in 2019? Jacksonville, Atlanta, Cleveland, Philadelphia. The Eagles were the only team that made the playoffs that finished outside the top 13 in that stat. If the Bears defense wants to come back to elite status, here is where the change needs to come.

Pagano was touted as a man-blitz schemer, but these Bears only blitzed on 23.5% of snaps, the 8th lowest percentage in the league. Going back to the Leonard Floyd bit, Pagano needs to scheme this guy free with blitzes or some other wizardry, because he still has elite closing speed (though sometimes struggles to finish). The Bears have elite blitzers in the back 7 at all levels, and Pagano needs to bring that heat from weird places more often.

According to Football Outsiders, the Bears ranked 22nd in the league in pass rush efficiency, and I’d say that’s about right. The loss of Hicks and the preponderance of man-coverage fronts instead of the Fangio Man/Zone hybrids created less pressure from the Bears 4 man rush. As a result, this defense didn’t play up to the lofty expectations we all had.

The Weird:

Pagano let the DBs play their preferred style all year long, which is maybe a good thing or a bad thing. I’m not sure so I’m putting it here.

The Future:

Here are the names of the starting players on the defense with expiring contracts:
Trevathan
Clinton-Dix
McManis (special teams counts and you know it)
Kwiatkoski

You gotta assume at least two of these players leave, right? There’s no way the team splits their core special teams up entirely by getting rid of Kwit and McManis, so one of them stays. I think the Bears re-sign Danny and McManis, and they will look to get another one year prove it deal with a former first round safety. My money is on Karl Joseph.

Football

For the purposes of this article, I’ll be considering edge rushers as linebackers.

Roster/PFF Grade/Stats:

Kevin Pierre-Louis (90.5) 27 tackles, 0 sacks
Khalil Mack (86.2) 34 tackles, 9 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
Nick Kwiatkoski (72.6) 51 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception
Leonard Floyd (69.8) nice 32 tackles, 3 sacks
Danny Trevathan (61.9) 54 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
Isaiah Irving (61.1) 8 tackles
James Vaughters (60.0) 3 tackles
Roquan Smith (52.4) 76 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception
Joel Iyiegbuniwe (42.1) 2 tackles
Aaron Lynch (36.0) 2 tackles, 2 sacks

First, let’s parse out the data. Irving and Iyiegbuniwe aren’t on the team next year, Vaughters might be. Aaron Lynch needs to go, though. I can shrug off Irving and Iggy’s small sample size, but Lynch played in every game this year. He logged 244 snaps, about 15 a game, and he sucked. I thought he was only brought here to be part of Vic Fangio’s defense as an old friend from San Francisco, but they kept him around for another season and it was a season too long. As low as I am on Irving, I’d rather see him get some run, or see if James Vaughters can play with the starters for a spell. Lynch has to be gone next year, right? Right?

Roquan Smith started off slow, got hot in the middle of the season, and cooled off before his injury against Dallas in week 14. Opponents caught 75% of the passes he was credited as the primary defender on, which is about right given the amount of swings and dumpoffs he was required to stop. His tackling is still his best quality, and he maintained the same level of dominance there in 2019 as his stellar rookie campaign. His only two sacks both came against Detroit in week 13 against first-time starter David Blough, so take that with a grain of salt too. Chuck Pagano needs to make sure to scheme better for Roquan to move in space. If Danny Trevathan doesn’t come back next year, the pressure will be on Smith to do all the things he does so well while also being the main focus of all the second level blocking on inside runs. For what it’s worth, Smith was rated highly for his block-shedding coming out of college, so at least there’s hope.

If the Bears think they could do okay with replacing Trevathan with Nick Kwiatkoski, it would be Kwit’s excellent last few games that made his resume too much to pass up. He hadn’t played as many snaps as he did in 2019 since his rookie season, and the team and fans saw a kid who has developed from playing behind outstanding veterans and learned how to be a Swiss Army knife. He is a stud on special teams, but if the Bears end up letting Trevathan go and sign the cheaper Kwiatkoski, they might have to find a new replacement inside linebacker that can go make the plays he does on kick coverage. One of these two dudes leaves and is starting in a new uniform Week 1 of next year, it’s just a question of who. I personally think the Bears pay AR12 and let Danny walk, which hurts my heart but it is what it is.

I’m a sucker for Leonard Floyd but I kinda waxed too poetic about him in my team defense review, so I’m gonna skip it now. Just know, I say nice things about his ability to set the edge and I think the Bears should seriously consider re-signing him depending on how this year goes.

Khalil Mack is a hard player to write about because he really reminds me how amateur I am in all ways, even in talking about how awesome he is to watch. So many real journalists have poured over Mack that it almost feels pointless to say anything. His numbers could never truly represent exactly how much shit he ruins and how much his being on the field alters the very concept of the way the game is played. You know whenever any referee apologist says something like “well, there’s holding on every play” they’re right, but it’s kinda hard to focus on long enough to prove? Yeah, Khalil Mack gets chipped, double-teamed, and held on literally every single play. It’s like watching a created player in Madden that you just said “fuck it” on and made everything a 99 overall, but instead of shredding CPU lineman while quarterbacks takes seven-step drops, the AI actually gameplanned to stop Mack and half the time it still didn’t matter. The game would stop every play if they called holding on Khalil Mack the way they do for most other players, which is truly a blessing and a curse.

Basically, this linebacker corps has studs in all spots and maybe two quality backups. This offseason is gonna be a tough one, but hopefully the Bears linebackers go into 2020 being their strongest unit once again. That’s a special feeling that makes all Chicagoans do three things: look for that old Bears starter coat in their closet, pretend for one fleeting moment that Mike Ditka wasn’t a hardcore right wing drunken buffoon, and just vibe, baby.

Football

Well, the Bears won. Somehow. Just barely. The local boys escaped Ford Field victorious and are now the least convincing .500 team in the league at 6-6. Are we going to spend another week and a half pretending this win is symbolic of a team finally putting it all together? The offense looked better than it did almost all season, save a handful of stupid penalties. Anthony Miller feasted on a pisspoor Lions defense, Allen Robinson looked good, and Mitch made a handful of great throws. The gameplan was solid, but once again it’s hard to differentiate between a mediocre team looking good because they planned well and a team who just happened to beat a far inferior team. Mitch went 29/38 for 338, finishing his line with 3 TDs and 1 INT, but still made a handful of head-scratching plays. That 3rd down in the red zone where he decided to run laterally instead of get the almost assured key first down? Great QBs don’t do that unless their name is Lamar Jackson.

The Bears came out making David Blough look like the next great Jeff Driskel-esque QB, but after the first 14 points that Detroit put up in the first quarter, they managed 6 the rest of the way. The Bears bent but didn’t break, and it was nice to see them bring pressure in key moments. It’ll be interesting to see if Prince Amukamara comes back healthy, because any serious winning streak will require a healthy defensive backfield since Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, and Minnesota are the teams left on the schedule.

The Good: Mitch looked great, the wide receivers played outstandingly (even Javon Wims put up good numbers), and David Montgomery runs HARD. If the Bears invest heavily in the offensive line this offseason he could put up some incredible numbers next year. Nick Kwiatkoski looked great again, and it makes me wonder if this is indeed the last season Danny Trevathan will be playing for the Bears. Kyle Fuller saved the game with a key third down tackle inside the 5 yard line, holding Detroit to a field goal. He played great all game. Eddie Jackson is back in the stat column and everything feels right.

The Bad: The Bears were determined to lose this one in the 4th, didn’t it seem? Bad penalties plagued the last Detroit drive before Roquan and Eddie teamed up to end the game, and though the Bears committed only one more penalty for four more yards than the Lions, it sure seemed like they came at the worst times. Once again the line play was uneven, and the Bears couldn’t bring consistent pressure with the front four once again.

The Ugly: I had to watch this game with my family who I love but also my mom’s friend who was pretty much yelling “OMG SPORTSBALL DID WE WIN” for the entire second half. I need a fucking nap.

If this team wins 10 games, they deserve to make the playoffs because the changes they’d need to make to get there would signify a serious righting of the ship and who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Football

Tony Martin: Today’s matchup post is going to look a little different than usual- since this year has been anything but normal, we are having to seriously discuss how to spend our Sunday afternoons. I just started a new job, I’m still in grad school, and I still play in multiple bands- that time of the weekend would be perfect to spend it on anything other than shitty football that I’m emotionally invested in.

Yet I know for a fact that I’ll be parked on the couch this Sunday, watching the lifeless Bears play against the Giants. I’m not sure if I’m watching to see if they have something to prove or if I do it out of sheer tradition. I feel like if there was a Dawn of the Dead style zombie apocalypse, instead of lurking to the mall you’d find my dead ass sitting on the couch with a half cashed bowl and a LaCroix within arms reach of my rotting arms, waiting for the Bears to come on.

What do the Bears have to prove over these last few games? Is this just a talent evaluation process by now? It could be. I’m thinking they need to assess what options they have at so many different positions- both sides of the line, tight end, linebacker, kicker, and the defensive backfield. At this point, let’s see what this team has going forward. A lot of what Pace and Nagy should be focusing on where the holes in this leaky sink are coming from, because even though Mitch is the most glaring problem, the reason we are where we are is deeper than bad QB play. If Kyle Orton can win games as a starting QB, so can Mitch, but the franchise needs to build and play to his strengths. A great game plan can help mitigate a lot of deficiencies if done right.

This team absolutely has a playoff core, but Pace/Nagy need to spend the offseason figuring out what the identity of the franchise actually is and then building towards it. The end of last season covered up a lot of the problems with this roster from an identity standpoint on offense. They had a bruising running back and then a scatback, an all-star caliber wide receiver and a bunch of undersized speedsters, and a tight end that was not worth the money. All they did was replace the running back with a much better prospect that fits the offense, but they get away from running as soon as they fall behind, even if it’s by something as small as a first half field goal. Now might be the time to find those things to build upon, but it’s going to be boring as shit from a fan perspective to see it.

To wrap this part up, I’ll tell you what I’m looking for as the Bears play us off (insert Bill O’Reilly impression here):

-Is there an NFL-caliber tight end on the roster?
-Is Anthony Miller consistent enough to warrant a spot as the starting slot WR?
-Which defensive linemen could create pressure on their own in the absence of Khalil Mack?
-Does Leonard Floyd still play for this team?
-Eddie Goldman somehow has a grade of 74.3 so far from PFF- how much of 2018’s 88 rating from PFF was aided by the presence of Akiem Hicks?
-Do the Bears look to extend any of the following players: Danny Trevathan, Haha Clinton-Dix, Aaron Lynch, Nick Williams, Nick Kwiatkoski, or Roy Robertson-Harris?
-Are the Bears interested in taking a harder look at Javon Wims or Ryan Nall?

 

Wes French:Tony, I have to admit – If there is a Dawn of the Dead style scenario, I’d like to come find that couch and help you finish off your party favors. Barring a Hollywood situation on Sunday, though, I think I’m checking out on the Bears for a week.

It’s the Sunday before what’s basically a holiday week – yeah, I’ve got to work a few days at the beginning, but am I REALLY working? Fuck no. And the fact the Bears don’t really seem to be working the last month+ makes me unsure about investing another 3-4 hour block of my weekend, especially against a putrid trash heap like the New York Giants. I guess this might be the BEST time to check in, since the Bears should be able to get a W against the rookie-QB led G-Men, but the last time we had that narrative was all of two weeks ago against Detroit and that game was about as entertaining as a wet fart. Plus we’ll get that same wet fart four days later, bright and early before we’re all stuffed.
Am I interested in another slog between trash teams trying to sort out how exactly to best use the players they employ? No, no I’m not. Tony outlined plenty to look for in terms of WHY you may want to check in to this game on Sunday, and beyond the Bears sorting themselves out for a hopefully more spirited run in 2020 I could see you being mildly interested in who this Daniel Jones character is playing QB for NYG and wanting to see the sometimes electric Barkley do what he does. Outside of those two, the Giants have nothing to hold the interest of anyone but the diehards in the Big Apple and even those dummies are probably on to other things by week 12 of a 2-8 season. The Giants are pretty terrible and deserve no one’s attention, and in the immortal words of Local H – And Fuck New York, Too.

So what else should you be doing on Sunday? I’m going to play hockey and casually catch a nice dose of Red Zone with NINE noon games. Why the NFL can’t sort themselves out enough to have a better division of games through the day (there are only TWO late afternoon contests, but one is DAL @ NE) remains a mystery, but I digress. There are some strong teams on bye this week (KC/MIN), but while the schedule at first glance looks like a mirror of Bears/Giants, I’d say we’re in for a noon slate of some wild football with goofy fun matchups galore: 
– SEA @ PHI: The best game on paper at noon, Seattle looks to keep the Eagles down as they chase the 49ers for the NFC West/#1 seed. The Eagles are maddening, but always capable of a breakout performance and still have a shot at their own shitty Division
– TB @ ATL: Human Turnover Machine/Piece of Shit Jameis Winston goes into Hotlanta, quietly one of the best defensive units in the league since Week 5; I’ll guarantee at least 3 INTs and a DEF TD
– DEN @ BUF/ OAK @ NYJ: On the surface, the Bills and Raiders should cruise, but the Broncos have proved a difficult out and the Jets are scoring in bunches of late. The Bills and Raiders also remain the Bills and Raiders, so place those bets cautiously
– PIT @ CIN: A once fierce rivalry reduced to Mason Rudolph against Ryan Finley. I’ll be honest, this one excites even less than the Bears, but it does produce a decent opportunity for the Bungals to get their first win…it could totally be worse, Bears fans
– CAR @ NO: This sees two teams heading in wildly opposite directions, with the Panthers looking like they might be onto their third QB of the season and just about dead in the NFC at 5-5. Saints are aiming for NFC’s top spot. Divisional games can be weird, though
– MIA @ CLE/DET @ WSH: These two matchups pit four of the leagues worst franchises (of late, at least) against each other, and while on the surface the matchups look shit you should NEVER discount a game between the worst of the worst. How will Cleveland respond after the brawl to end last week’s game? Can Miami make it 3 wins in 4 after starting 0-7? Will the Lions continue to be the tonic that aids young/under-performing QBs for Dwayne Haskins and the Racial Slurs???
TUNE IN TO FIND OUT
Football

Rams (5-4) vs. BEARS (4-5)

Kickoff: 7:20pm

TV: NBC

Radio: 780 WBBM

You ever see the movie “Big Fan”? It’s a wonderful film, and at the end (no spoilers), the main character played by Patton Oswalt is looking at the newly released schedule for the NY Giants (his favorite team), and says aloud “it’s gonna be a great year.” I remember looking at the Bears schedule before the season and marking this game down as the game where the collective fanbase could know what type of team we were looking at by how they played against the cream of the NFC’s crop. This, my friends, is why I don’t write about football for a living.

Both the Rams and the Bears hobble into this game starkly different than they were when they battled at Soldier Field nearly a year ago, despite not many major personnel changes save for the addition of Jalen Ramsey. The places these teams find themselves is a testament to the parity of the modern NFL, when two teams that were primed to be perennial playoff contenders last year now look at the playoffs from the outside if the season ended today.

That said, these two teams have stumbled to a position where they can ride a mid-season surge to relevancy and possible Wild Card spots, but both need a win to do that. A win here for the Bears could be a signature one, and with their next two games at home against the Giants and at Detroit, the best case scenario for Nagy and the boys would be a 3 game win streak before the season ending gauntlet of Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, and Minnesota. A 7-5 Bears going into that last 4 game stretch could be confident knowing that going .500 and catching a break or two along the way could get them into the playoffs, where anything can happen. This paragraph is the last of my optimism for 2019 about this team save for a convincing win on Sunday in front of America and Carrie Underwood.

The Rams need this one badly too, since while their remaining schedule has Arizona twice, they also go against Dallas, Baltimore, Seattle, and the 49ers. Both teams are looking for a big win to prove the same thing: the best moments of last season were not just flashes of what could be, but honest reflections of who these teams are when they get hot. Both teams also look at a potential loss as the moment when hopes for this season are dashed hopelessly against the rocks like Lady fuckin MacBeth did it herself. Admittedly, the Rams can lose this game but the Bears absolutely cannot.

I wholeheartedly believe an embarrassing showing by the Bears puts Matt Nagy on the hot seat, less than a year removed from winning Coach of the Year, a mind-blowing take that really encapsulates exactly how far this franchise has fallen. Both the Bears and Rams have been trainwrecks, but not even especially fun to watch trainwrecks.

Todd Gurley has been underutilized this season, and the Rams as a whole aren’t taking the league by storm in terms of how effectively they run the ball, which I believe was a big reason why play action was so essential to their success last year. Gurley has 104 carries on the year, while David Montgomery has 129. Monty also has more rushing yards than Gurley, which blows my mind considering I believed that he had been underutilized for most of the beginning of the season.

Unfortunately for Sunday, this is the time of the year when offenses buckle down and start to rely on the run game to prepare for the postseason and I believe that is a major strength for Los Angeles. Danny Trevathan is out, Akiem Hicks is out, and the Bears are weak up the middle. Nick Kwiatkoski has filled in well, but this game is a big test. Zone blocking techniques have found success against this defense (Oakland, anyone?) and I fear this might be a breakout game for Todd Gurley. It’ll be interesting to see if an offensive line missing a starting Tackle (Rob Havenstein) and it’s Center (Brian Allen) can find consistency against the Bears.

One key element of the Rams offense that is playing this week and didn’t last year is Cooper Kupp, Goff’s favorite target. He was shut out last week, but still ranks 7th in the NFL in catches and yards per game. Expect the Bears to pay extra attention to Cupp while also trying to contain Robert Woods, who is coming off a 7 catch, 95 yard performance in last weeks drubbing by the Steelers. Woods hasn’t scored yet this year, but he should still be considered a threat.

Do the Bears have what it takes to build another win streak and set themselves up for a December run? There is certainly going to be an opportunity to do that on Sunday night. The Rams are not playing at their best, but at the same time do we really even know what the best version of these Bears looks like?

Prediction: Bears 16 Rams 14

Statistics from Pro Football Reference @ pro-football-reference.com

Football

So, is there anything to be gleaned from an actual win? Or just too much effort to get past a Lions team with no Matthew Stafford?

Brian Schmitz: What I really liked was the success we saw when Nagy went no huddle and got Mitch outside of the pocket. I’ve been screaming for it all year. It’s the only way this team has a chance to be successful. Another positive was the “touchdown to checkdown” mentality we saw from the QB.

Do they lose to a Lions team with a healthy Matt Stafford? Probably? But a win is a win.

Tony Martin: Yesterday was ugly. Yesterday was the type of date you go on where you would qualify it as a success, but it didn’t feel good in any way whatsoever. Bears fans and their 2019 team went to Olive Garden and had the most authentic Italian food that Chicago had to offer, went to the finest Bar Louie location in the city for that big city corner bar experience, and then we all went back to their place and had consensual sex, but every step involved lacked passion. This Bears team is not a team you bring home to meet your folks, this is the team you call when those highlight videos of the 2006 team just don’t do it for you like they used to. I apologize for the overly erotic metaphor, but this team has been fucking me since September and I haven’t even sniffed the unlimited salad and breadsticks.

Wes French: I think the Bears (and maybe Capitalism/social constructs?) have finally broken Tony, and after a win no less.

To me it was a lot more of the same, papered over with the fact that Matt Patricia is a bad head coach and was without his QB1. Sure, we got a decently competent looking Trubs for a stretch, and hopefully there was enough there to build off of. The offense still only produced 226 yards, while the defense gave up 357. The first four possessions for the Bears saw three three-and-outs and another that gained all of 12 yards before a punt. seven of 12 drives ending three-and-out is not exactly a recipe for success.
The bookend TDs before and after the half were great to see, but Nagy still couldn’t get the right game plan or execution to put the game away fully and we had to watch as the Lions nearly came all the way back to tie the game late. The defense gave up a four-play, 81 yard TD drive with a few minutes to play, then were aided by an offensive PI call to help close out the game as the Lions drove deep into Chicago’s end on the final drive.
A win’s a win, but it wasn’t real encouraging.
Tony: I’m frequently jostled from sleep trembling, shaking, in a cold sweat. I’ve been out of work for 21 days, my money is running out- I feel like Tarik Cohen taking an RPO up the middle on 1st and 10. Scrambling, nervous thoughts fill my days as I email and call potential employers. Mitch Trubisky haunts my indecision about taking a job offer in Freeport; am I just checking down when the Allen Robinson of jobs is just breaking free downfield? Did I make the right choice? Or am I Matt Nagy: unable to take criticism and adapt to a rapidly changing landscape?

The 2019 Chicago Bears have been playing this season like a depressed 33-year-old, and it took me until Week 10 to realize it.

(Off the record: I’m good, y’all. Just leaning in a little bit)
How big of a problem will Danny Trevathan’s absence be going forward? This was already a team hurting down the middle of defense without Akiem Hicks…
Wes: Not as big of an issue as all the other problems? The Nicks (Kwiatkoski and Williams) stepped up on Sunday, but Roquan is still MIA for the most part.  Trevathan and his intangibles will be noticeably missed, but the Bears could do worse than giving the load to Kwiatkoski. Maybe Roquan can use this opportunity to turn his season around, and that would be a welcome positive storyline in a season full of shitty ones.
Tony: I feel for Danny on more of an existential sense than for what his loss means for the team, because let’s be real, without Hicks both Danny and Roquan have struggle to consistently fill the gaps like they’re used to.  I’m afraid this is the last time we’ll see Danny Trevathan in a Bears uniform, because as we know his contract expires at the end of this season. I think how the organization handles Danny’s contract situation will tell us a lot about where they think they are in the championship window. Hoping they bring him back and he retires a Bear.
Brian: The defense will probably be worse off, but it’s not like the unit is a world beater right now. They are having trouble getting to the QB, and although Trevathan is a beast, he, like most of the defense, isn’t having as good of a year as last. God forbid anyone on the team from UGA decides to step up and be as good as they were supposed to be.