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Bears mailbag: Mitchell Trubisky’s status, playoff talk, Jordan Howard’s future and much more

The (8-3) Bears are rolling and optimism as the playoffs approach are high. See if your questions were answered in this week’s mailbag.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of the week again. Another win and another fun mailbag upcoming before the Chicago Bears Week 13 match up against a three-win New York Giants team.

At (8-3), the Bears have set themselves up perfectly for a playoff run over the final five weeks of the season, despite the recent right shoulder injury to quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Everything seems to be going about as good as possible for this team, but these next five games will be crucial to any hopes they have of playing meaningful football in January.

For more on this week’s mailbag, let’s dive right in.

For the long term? I wouldn’t be very concerned at all.

For the most part, Matt Nagy has been about as clear as any head coach in the league when it comes to injuries with the media. So, I tend to believe him when he says they’ve ruled out anything long-term or anything that would threaten his season.

The Bears and their training staff have played things very safe this year. Whether we like that or not, a lot of credit has to go to them at this point, because the proof is in the injury reports each week. It wouldn’t shock me if Trubisky played on Sunday, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise if they choose to sit him for another week. That’s why I’d classify this weekend’s game as much closer to 50/50 than leaning heavy one way or the other.

The good news? It doesn’t sound like rushing back “too soon” could cause any further damage. Even so, the team’s tendency has been to play things safe and if that means sitting him out an extra week to insure he’s as close to 100% as possible for these last four games — plus (possibly) the playoffs — you take it. It helps that the Lions and Giants are both sub .500 teams, much like the situation with both Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson II.

If we don’t see him back against the Giants on Sunday, he should be more than ready next Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams.

I’d say the chances of the Bears finishing as one of the top two seeds in the NFC are pretty slim. While I’m not saying it’s impossible, they’d not only have to win out but get some help along with the way against either the Rams or New Orleans Saints.

A win next Sunday night would go a long way against the Rams but even then, it would require the Bears winning out and the Rams to lose another game, which doesn’t seem overly likely at this point.

At this point, I think that as long as the Bears continue on their current track, they should finish good enough to solidify that third seed but I’d be pretty surprised if things fell into place well enough for them to secure a first round bye.

Going into the season, I had them at (10-6) but that was assuming they split within the division and lost all three of their road games. Now with their win on Thanksgiving against the Detroit Lions, I think that it’s more than possible that they finish around (11-5) this year.

That would mean wins against the Giants, San Francisco 49ers and one of their other three games. The most likely win, would be against the Green Bay Packers in their Week 15 home match up. It’s possible they could finish better than 11 wins but their schedule tightens up after this weekend.

As far as Vic Fangio goes, I still maintain that the league doesn’t view him as a viable head coaching candidate. Obviously that can change, but he’s had two interviews in his career and both have been with his current teams after the head coach was fired.

I do believe that Fangio is a very good defensive coordinator, but I’m not sure he’s all of that interesting as a head coaching candidate. Whether it’s his demeanor, age or the fact that most NFL teams are opting to go with young, innovative offensive minds, I just don’t see it as all that likely that he gets many (if any chances) to become a head coach this year or in the future. But don’t be surprised if he gets an interview or two.

At least in my opinion, the odds of Jordan Howard being a Bear past this season aren’t very good. Yes, in theory it would be creating another hole but their run game has been terrible this year and at least to me, I don’t think Howard is a great fit. Now, this isn’t to say the struggles have all been on him but I do think they need someone who is more well-rounded and athletic. Not sure the compensation will be great but I expect a new “lead back” next season.

As far as needs go, the Bears have three big free agents heading into the off-season: Bryce Callahan, Adrian Amos and Bobby Massie. You could also count Aaron Lynch as a somewhat important piece as well.

The Bears cap situation isn’t nearly as flexible as it has been but they are still looking at around $25 million or so if they roll over around $3 million of their current space and the cap jumps around $10 million like it has the past few years. There’s some flexibility with cutting guys like Dion Sims ($6 million savings) and they also have decisions to make on Kyle Long and Sam Acho. All in all, Pace is going to have to be creative but he could easily back load a few deals and make things work. This team doesn’t have many holes moving forward in the next few years, which is a testament to general manager Ryan Pace.

As of right now, I think it has to be the tribute to Motown with Prince Amukamara as the front man. Not only did that clip bring Anthony “Spice” Adams to essentially make a contest out of it, but it was so well choreographed.

I think my runner up would have to be Anthony Miller’s rowboat scenario. Obviously it was funny but they got their arms going so fast, that it almost liked time was sped up on it.

On a side note, it’s amazing to me how fun this team has become. Last year, teams were doing it against them, and now it’s the Bears not only doing it to other teams, but actually leading the charge in creativity. It’ll never cease to amaze me how Josh Bellamy ends up in every single one of them, though.

Absolutely. Kevin White been inactive more than anyone would have expected, but even when he’s on the field he’s not getting many snaps or making any plays.

It’s honestly a sad situation. He goes from being a junior college standout, to a No. 7 overall pick and then had three seasons in a row where he ended the year on injured reserve. It’s possible that he could go on to have a solid NFL career, but it won’t be with the Bears.

Had it not been for his contract being fully guaranteed, I’d be willing to bet Pace would have cut bait with him at the start of the season. For his sake, I hope he leaves Chicago and is able to find a role where he can stay in the NFL and play for a few more years. The reality? Likely much different. I’d actually be surprised if he’s in the league three years from now.

I actually had two similar questions to this, so I’ll do my best to answer this in two parts.

First, I think it’s key to address this coming off-season, which was Nick Mau’s question that isn’t pictured here.

The Bears are currently looking at around $25 million or so. This is counting Mike Glennon’s $2.5 million cap credit, around $3M in rolled over money and an assumed cap of $190 million, which would fall in line with recent year’s increases.

They also have Sims ($6 million savings), Long ($5.5 millon savings), Acho ($2.5 million) and possibly (but not likely) Danny Trevathan ($6.5 million) that could all save money with minimal dead space.

My guess is that they cut Sims and ask players like Long and Acho to take pay cuts and their cap space will be closer to $32-$35 million. On top of that, their draft class will be relatively cheap with no first or second round picks. It would be smart for Pace to get creative with structuring and try to slightly back load a few deals and wait out other veteran contracts in coming years. I’d also assume that they’ll keep at least Callahan, maybe even Amos and Aaron Lynch. It will just be a matter of structuring the deals, and them valuing the Bears’ culture over being paid more on the open market.

From a long-term standpoint, the cap will continue to rise and players like Robinson, Amukamara and other pricey veterans will run out of guaranteed money. That’ll make it easy for pay cuts or even roster cuts, but long-term they are still in pretty good shape. Obviously not paying a quarterback $30 million will help that along for the next two and a half years (fifth-year option won’t be as expensive).

It’s key to keep in mind that cap space within the NFL is very fluid and sometimes teams can make it look like a fairy tale. Spending will be limited in comparison to past off-seasons, but the Bears still have more than enough flexibility to not only retain their players, but add to their roster too.