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Bears mailbag: Are the 2018 Bears the 2016 Cubs? Deon Bush’s big chance and upcoming playoff match ups.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
NFL: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Well, Bears fans. It’s official. The Chicago Bears are the 2018 NFC North champions and are on their way to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. What better way to clinch the division than doing it at home against the Green Bay Packers? I’m not sure many fans could have asked for anything more.

In those eight years since their last playoff berth, there’s been plenty of disappointment and more recently, it felt like we would never see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Despite winning just 14 games combined in their previous three years, this team finds themselves at (10-4), with an outside chance of securing a first round bye. Obviously that will take some help and also require the Bears to win their final two games. Even so, this magical season feels like it’s just getting starting.

All in all, it’s been a season to remember for the Bears. With just two games left in the regular season, we’re close to turning our attention to the playoffs. With that in mind, let’s dive into Week 16’s mailbag.

When looking at this entire team, I’d say it’s been quite the turnaround. Especially when you look at their starting talent and what general manager Ryan Pace has been able to do over these past few weeks.

With that being said, you bring up a good point with role players. It’s hard to believe, but Sherrick McManis is actually the team’s longest tenured player. He’s been one of, if not the best special teamer for the past few years, but he’s now getting his chance to start (at nickle) with Bryce Callahan’s broken foot. When looking at McManis, I think it’s a huge testament to Vic Fangio. He’s stuck with him and allowed him to get snaps with the defense in different sub packages. His first six quarters in that role have been more than impressive.

As far as Josh Bellamy and others go, we’re starting to see why the team has opted to keep players like this around. While they may not be starting caliber players, they are role players that can help the team on special teams and in certain situations. We’re starting to see how a team looks when they aren’t relying on guys like Bellamy, etc to play big roles. I’m not sure I would credit the coaching staff with this, but more Pace, for finally getting enough starting talent to let guys like this play roles that are better suited for them.

I actually think this is a pretty fair question.

For those of you who haven’t turned their attention to the off-season yet, the Bears will be working with limited cap space and four key free agents. Adrian Amos, Bobby Massie, Aaron Lynch and Callahan. The likelihood of them retaining all four is probably pretty low.

Which brings in an interesting scenario with Deon Bush over these next two games. With the injury to Eddie Jackson (who is expected back for the playoffs), the team will now have two in the box players starting at safety. That poses an interesting dilemma, but one that could help the team determine if Bush is good enough to replace Amos, should he walk in March.

My guess is that Bush will be OK, but nothing more than adequate. Make no mistake, the Bears gave him a shot all off-season to push for playing time to ultimately see what he had, and he didn’t do enough with that chance. He’s limited in coverage and overall, he just doesn’t appear to be a very good starting caliber player. The good news for him? He has two weeks to show what he can do. I’m not sure that will be enough time to truly impact the team’s decision, but it can’t hurt.

I’d assume that the Bears will still try to keep both Amos and Callahan around, but it will all depend on how the free agent market pans out.

This is another great question and one that has surprised many people, including myself.

Right now, I really think this comes down to what receivers coach Mike Furrey talked about a few weeks back after the New York Giants game. In this offense, receivers have to not only know the offense, but understand their roles as route runners. Anthony Miller was one of those players that Furrey singled out during that conversation.

He talked about Miller dominating at the college level, but that he did it with improvisation, which is something that doesn’t work in this offense. I think in some ways, Miller has somewhat hit a rookie wall. Sometimes it’s easy to forget, but most rookie receivers don’t do much in Year 1. Even so, Miller has contributed and I would expect that continue, even if it’s in a limited role.

He’ll be one of those players that will be expected to take a sizable leap next year, especially if they want to see this offense take the next step.

EDITOR: Also don’t discount the fact that Adam Shaheen is back and the Bears are more comfortable running 12 personnel (2 TE).

Full disclosure, I’m not a Cubs fan. So I may not be able to relate to this as well as a lot of Cubs fans can.

With that being said, I’d be lying if I didn’t seriously pay attention to their turn around and the run they’ve been on, so I think I can at least answer this somewhat accurately from an objective standpoint.

Obviously the two sports are different, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in sports, it’s that when bad teams become good, it can be a magical time. I think in a lot of ways, the Bears followed a similar path, in terms of rebuilding. It took them a while to get the pieces in place, but once Pace was finally comfortable and landed his second head coach, he was able to spend more in free agency and make some big acquisitions.

When looking at each team’s rise, I think it’s important to notate one thing. Winning a championship is hard, regardless of the sport. Now, obviously the 2015 Cubs saw their rise into the playoffs, but ultimately fell short. They followed up 2016 with their first World Series win in quite some time, so I could see something similar happening for the Bears this year and then following up with a championship the next year.

Expectations (for me) have changed. It’s not just about making the playoffs anymore. It’s about winning a game at home. Similar to the Cubs in 2015, I think that a “series” win or two would be a huge win for the 2018, overall. For the Bears, they have it tough because they will likely play two straight games on the road in order to make the Super Bowl, which is never easy.

If all goes well, this will be a momentous year that stretches into the playoffs and they will use that experience from this year to win it all next year. Obviously, that is much easier said than done, though.

This has been a topic of discussion in a few groups I’ve been in and here’s my take.

Chances are (because of the Rams latest loss) that either the Bears will go into Week 17 with something to play for:

  • If the Bears win, they’ll remain (at worst) a game back of the Rams.
  • If the Bears lose, there’s a good chance the third seed will still be up for grabs.

If we’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that the NFL and it’s fans love chaos in the final week of the season. That means, it’s likely that the schedule makers will move games around to make sure as many teams have something on the line as possible. Now, I’m not saying that means a Sunday night game, but it could mean a later start, depending on which team is fighting for what.

On top of that, there’s a decent chance that the Bears may ultimately control who they play in the Wild Card round, assuming they don’t get a first round bye.

All in all, there are just too many scenarios and most of them lead to the Bears with something to play for heading into Week 17’s road match up against the Minnesota Vikings.

Long story short, I’d be pretty surprised if something isn’t on the line for this team in Week 17.

Maybe I’m a bit biased here, but I feel like the Bears are a team that nobody in the NFC wants to face. The reason why? Elite defenses usually travel, while offenses sometimes don’t. I think we’ve seen plenty of examples of that over the last few weeks, with teams like the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, with their offensive production falling off.

The Bears defense has more than enough to limit the Saints offense, but the bigger question has and will be; how will quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and this offense do in the playoffs? Last year, they went into the Superdome and played the Saints extremely close. That was with a stone age offense, a rookie quarterback and a defense that was not nearly what it is this year.

So yes, it’s very possible that the Bears could beat the Saints, even on the road. Outside of playing on the road, the one thing that really works against the Bears this year will be experience from the majority of their roster. That is something that absolutely favors New Orleans right now but either way, I truly believe the Bears can beat any team in the league right now.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. At this point in his career, I don’t think the Bears can win a Super Bowl because of Trubisky. I do think that they are more than good enough to win a Super Bowl with him, though.

By this, I mean that I don’t think he’s playing at a level where his play can overcome a poor defensive performance, etc. But I do believe that he is playing well enough to compliment an elite defense and brand new offensive system. Really, the key for the Bears having any post season success will hinge around him playing on at least an average level.

With all of that being said, I still think the Bears are a year away from actually tasting real success. Yes, I believe they are a Super Bowl contender this year. But the combination of a young quarterback and team, with a first year head coach and more importantly, a team that mainly lacks post-season experience, seems like a lot to overcome once they reach the playoffs. The Philadelphia Eagles did it last year, but I’m not sure lightening can strike twice in a row.

Either way, I feel like this team’s future is extremely bright.