It may be hard to believe but the NFL is heading into its final quarter of regular season games. Maybe it’s because for the first time since 2010, the Chicago Bears appear to be primed for a playoff run.
Either way, it’s been a quick moving season and one that any Bears fan at this point should be grateful for, as they currently sit at 8-4 and have a firm grasp on the NFC North. After a 2-2 second quarter, which included a two-game losing streak, they bounced back in the third quarter going 3-1 and could easily be sitting at 4-0. The good news? All three of their wins were against the NFC North, positioning them for a run at a divisional title in their final four games.
Just how good did the Bears grade out on their third quarter report card? Let’s find out.
All season, it’s been an up and down product from the offense. Despite an Offensive player of the Week performance from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in Week 9, he played just two games during this stretch after being hampered by a shoulder injury on his throwing side.
Because of that, they had to turn to backup Chase Daniel for these past two games, which included more up and down performances and a 1-1 record with both games being on the road. The team has also failed to get it’s running game going.
Currently, the team’s offense ranks like this:
- 5th in points (28.7)
- 16th in rushing (115.4)
- 14th in DVOA
- 20th in yards (351.6)
- 19th in passing (236.2)
- LT Charles Leno Jr.
- RB Tarik Cohen
- LG James Daniels
- RB Jordan Howard
- RG Bryan Witzmann
- WR Kevin White
Despite missing Trubisky for two games, the Bears overall offensive numbers haven’t dropped by much. Their points-per-game and rushing yards are down, but their overall yards remained close to the same and their passing yards-per-game went up slightly as well.
Right now, this remains a young offense that can score points on anyone. Even if it comes sporadically at times.
Daniels has been ever improving since taking over as the team’s starting left guard spot, which is a big development for now and the future. General manager Ryan Pace also said this past weekend that there’s still a “real possibility” that right guard Kyle Long will return from injured reserve for Week 17 and likely the playoffs.
The Bears should also have Trubisky back for their final four regular season games, which should be a boost as they’ll face a trio of bottom-half defenses over their final stretch of games.
Outside of Week 13, the Bears defense continues to boast the best defensive unit in football and it’s not because of one player like it was through their first four games.
Multiple players have stepped up and are having Pro Bowl, if not All-Pro type seasons. That has led to the Bears leading the league in turnovers, turnover differential and interceptions. Their sack numbers have gone down, but they are still getting to the quarterback enough to make them one of the more dangerous defenses in the league.
All in all, this is a championship caliber unit that the team can lean on if the offense has a bad game or two, down the stretch.
- 1st in Defensive DVOA
- 5th in sacks (37)
- 1st in defensive touchdowns (6)
- 1st in turnovers (30)
- 1st in turnover differential (+12)
- 4th in points (20.1)
- 4th in yards (317.9)
- S Eddie Jackson
- DL Akiem Hicks
- CB Kyle Fuller
Two More Studs:
- LB Roquan Smith
- OLB Khalil Mack
I tried to find any sort of duds on the Bears defense, but couldn’t think of any that could qualify in that category. After more though, I realized that they had two more “studs” that were worth noting, which is what I did.
To be frank, this defense is filled with star players and others on the verge of reaching that status. Whether it’s Smith and his fourth straight games of 10-plus tackles, Fuller leading the league in interceptions, Jackson having more defensive touchdowns in two years than most teams in the NFL since 2015, or guys like Hicks and Mack dominating the line of scrimmage, there’s really not much to be disappointed with.
This is the best defensive unit in the league and one that gives the Bears an edge as they inch closer to the playoffs.
For most of the season, this has been a pretty mediocre unit. They’ve had their good moments and quite a few bad ones as well but currently, there’s nothing that really stands out as either elite or horrendous.
Obviously Cody Parkey had a poor game in which he missed four kicks. Since that point, he’s made every kick and most have been right down the middle. Patrick O’Donnell is mediocre, but not crippling, and their coverage units haven’t been too bad through the past four games.
I’m not sure special teams coordinator Chris Tabor is the long-term answer here, but for the time being, he’s been just good enough.
After 12 fast and furious games, the Bears will buckle down for the final quarter of games, in which they should ultimately split (2-2) to end out the season.
Currently, the Bears have a two-game lead on the “lowest” playoff seed, which bodes well for their playoff hopes. Even if they experience a sizable collapse in the final four games, which feels unlikely. Because of their current record (8-4), divisional record (3-1) and conference record (6-2), they’ll hold a lot of tie-breakers in most playoff scenarios.
Even so, their schedule isn’t exactly daunting in the final four.
Vs Rams (11-1)
Vs Packers (4-7-1)
At 49ers (2-10)
At Vikings (6-5-1)
As you can see above, they play just two teams over .500 within that stretch, with their toughest test coming this Sunday night against the Rams. They’ll finish their 2018 home schedule against a struggling Packers team that has already fired head coach Mike McCarthy and appears to be in a downward spiral after losing to the lowly Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers appear to have gone into full “tank” mode and the Vikings can’t seem to string together a good stretch of football.
It may not be realistic to expect a 3-1 stretch in the final four, but a lot of that will depend on how they handle Week 14’s match up in prime time. Splitting their last four games will be good enough to get them to 10-6 overall, which would not only guarantee a playoff spot, but likely give them the NFC North crown. This would also give them at least one home game in the playoffs.
It’ll be a crucial last four games for the Bears, but make no mistake, they’ve positioned themselves well because of a damn-near perfect third quarter of the season. It’s very likely we could see the Bears clinch a playoff spot within the next two-to-three games.
Overall grade: A-