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Bears Mailbag: Trey Burton’s role, Leonard Floyd’s fifth-year option, playoff scenarios and much more

Week 14’s mailbag is another loaded edition, as we’ll look at future off-season plans and what the Bears need to do to position themselves for a playoff run.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

In what has felt like an extremely quick season, the Chicago Bears find themselves heading into their final four games of the 2018 regular season.

The good news? They are currently (8-4) and still hold a (1.5) game lead in the NFC North.

The bad news? They are coming off a tough loss and now head back home to face an (11-1) Los Angeles Rams team that has been near impossible to beat.

Much like their Week 11 meeting with the Minnesota Vikings (that also happened to be flexed into Sunday Night Football), this will be yet another good measuring stick for a team that is looking to go from worst to first in the matter of one season.

The playoffs are coming quick and currently, the Bears are positioned very well. Even with a loss on Sunday, that still wouldn’t change. But it could make things a little more tight.

With a big game on Sunday and plenty of cautious optimistic still in the air, let’s dive into Week 14’s mailbag.

One could argue that Trey Burton’s lack of production over the past three games stems from a change at quarterback and that could be right. But even so, in Mitchell Trubisky’s last game against the Minnesota Vikings, Burton had just one catch for nine yards.

Over his last three games, he has five catches for 37 yards and no touchdowns. While it’s not ideal, it’s also key to remember that the Bears offense features new primary pass catchers each week. Although I’m sure the quarterback situation has not helped, Taylor Gabriel has also seen peaks and valleys throughout the season as well.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

I really think that more than anything, the Bears have plenty of weapons on the offense, and from a week-to-week basis it will just feature different players. Don’t be surprised to see Burton’s production spike back up over the next few games. So the short answer here would be it’s the design of the system more than the players. It’s not likely something that will change any time soon in terms of sporadic production from skill players in this offense.

This is a good question and one that is somewhat hard to answer right now. Even so, I’m leaning toward not picking up Leonard Floyd’s fifth-year option at the moment.

That’s not because I don’t think he’s a player worth keeping around, but the price of this past year’s option for an edge rusher was $14.2 million for the 2015 draft class. That number will jump up slightly when looking at what Floyd will cost, so it will likely be over $15 million.

A few things to keep in mind with this option. It only guarantees players that figure IF they get injured. So, it’s possible that they could opt to exercise that option and then pull it before next year’s free agency, if he’s healthy. The problem? 2018 would be the first year that he hasn’t finished the year on injured reserve, which makes picking up his option even more risky.

If I were general manager Ryan Pace, I’d swallow my pride and roll the dice on Floyd by declining the option. Let him play out the final year of his rookie deal and assess the situation from there. He’s a valuable member of the defense, but heading into the final four games of the season, he has just two sacks. That doesn’t mean he’s been bad by any means, but you also don’t pay a non-sack artists that type of money, even for one season. Especially when you’ll likely have to work out some sort of team-friendly deal with Aaron Lynch in the coming months and have Khalil Mack making an average of $23.5 million-per-year.

If the Bears finish the season on a (1-3) skid, it’s likely they’ll still make the playoffs. The problem? They’d likely be playing on the road to open up the wild card round and coming off a (1-4) stretch. That’s not exactly ideal on multiple accounts.

I’d be very surprised if a (9-7) record won the Bears the division, which means they’d either be on the road against the Vikings or the winner of the NFC East (likely the Dallas Cowboys). That wouldn’t be a death sentence by any means, but like most teams, the Bears have played much better at home.

My best guess is that one win in their final four games likely gets them the sixth seed and they would play Minnesota in back-to-back weekends on the road. Another situation the Bears simply don’t want to be in.

With all of that being said, I still think it’s more than realistic to expect a (10-6) finish and a home playoff game. Whether or not that’s hosting the Vikings is a different story, but it would be a much more ideal scenario for them heading into the playoffs.

I absolutely think that Jordan Howard is playing in his last few games with the Bears. I’m sure that some may still disagree, but I simply don’t feel like Howard is a good fit for this offense and have had that feeling dating back to March.

I think it’s becoming pretty evident that the light isn’t just going to click on for this team’s current running game. I also don’t think all of the struggles in the running game have been on Howard, but I do think they could benefit from having a more athletic back.

As far as potential replacements go, I would assume that a well-priced free agent and/or a mid round draft pick would do the trick. I’m not sure Le’Veon Bell makes a ton of sense, purely based on financial ramifications.

They could choose to sign a more affordable free agent like Tevin Coleman or even a guy like Mark Ingram, but only time will tell on that. There are two things I’m pretty confident in: Howard being dealt this off-season and Bell not being a Bear.

I wouldn’t expect Trubisky’s best game on Sunday night. That is for sure. Whether that’s rust, the Rams defense getting better with Aqib Talib back or even the big stage of Sunday Night Football.

With that being said, I do think that Trubisky’s health shouldn’t be a concern moving forward. Much like Allen Robinson and Mack a few weeks back, the Bears chose to play it safe, which means the second-year quarterback should be as close to 100% as one could be coming off an injury.

The Rams have an excellent front seven. So the Bears will have their hands full, especially on the interior. Unlike Chase Daniel, Trubisky’s athleticism should play a big role on Sunday night’s game and should allow him to escape some of the pressure Wade Phillips and his unit will bring.

The same as it did heading into the season.

I’d be shocked if he was back next year. He’s been a healthy scratch more than he’s played and general manager Ryan Pace made it pretty evident they had little faith left when they choose to spend big resources on a trio of receivers this past off-season.

It’s unfortunate for Kevin White, but at this point it’s time for the Bears to cut bait and move on.

I’d still be surprised to see Vic Fangio actually land a head coaching job in the NFL, personally.

Over the past few years, I have spoken with a few people that have all echo’ed the same thing. While Fangio is a very good coordinator, his personality and age don’t exactly make him a sexy head coaching candidate. Couple that with the league wanting offensive minded candidates and it doesn’t bode very well for him, period.

By the off-chance he does land one of the many jobs that will be upcoming (good for him if he does), I’d assume that Todd Bowles and even Mike Pettine (pending his future in Green Bay) would be two primary candidates that have relationships with head coach Matt Nagy.

Pettine was someone who was a prime candidate this past off-season if Fangio was not retained and it’s been well documented the type of relationship Bowles and Nagy have. The good news? The Bears have a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball, even if Fangio leaves, either one of these two names should be able to come in and find similar results.

I’d be very surprised if Trubisky didn’t play on Sunday night.

At least the way it was explained to me and how Nagy has approached it during his press conferences is that they’ve had a plan all along. That plan has been that they’d rather be overly cautious (sitting him at 80-90% against the Giants) than rush him back.

I do believe he could have played in Week 13 with a full week of practice, but the Bears made the decision much earlier that they wouldn’t even let him throw the ball until this past Friday. It’s a decision many will question and that’s totally understandable but even so, the plan appears to always have been having him back for this Sunday night.