Jeff Berckes: Welcome to 2019, the year the Bears rebuild was supposed to take shape and give us hope for a playoff run for 2020. Looks like we arrived a little early and I’ll say, reaching goals ahead of schedule feels pretty good. I’m inspired - maybe this is the year I lose weight, write a book, and learn how to dance the floss (although I’ll settle for not gaining weight, reading more, and remembering to floss more). What are your New Year’s resolutions?
Patti Curl: Good question. I’ve been resolved to lose weight since I made the mistake of stepping on a scale in November, so I don’t think I can count that as a new year resolution. New Years eve definitely led me to resolve to never go to a crowded bar again. Thinking about it now, I’m deciding to also resolve to get less annoyed by people talking trash about our precious Biscuit.
Speaking of Trubisky, how do you expect him to handle his first playoff appearance? Feel free to talk trash since I’m not allowed to get annoyed...
JB: Most resolutions fail and fail early - 80% by February - so I’ll be impressed if you can avoid annoyance at the Trubisky haters. Here’s the thing, those haters are always going to be there because there are people in the world who just can’t be happy. It has nothing to do with Biscuit and everything to do with the empty space where their heart used to be, once upon a time, before they lost faith in humanity. That empty space becomes a receptacle for bile and vitriol and builds up like mercury in the bloodstream until one day, they go mad as a hatter and we all laugh at their ridiculousness. To paraphrase - ain’t nobody got time for that.
If we want to shrink the pool of mad Biscuit hatters and haters, the best way will be for our hero to just keep winning games. I am confident that Nagy will continue to put Trubisky in a position to succeed and with the beat up Eagles secondary, he’s got a great chance to put up big numbers this weekend. Assuming Allen Robinson II is back at full strength, the weapons should be able to overwhelm the likes of Cre’Von LeBlanc. I’ve got a really good feeling about Robinson and Taylor Gabriel this weekend - I think they both go over 100 yards receiving.
The Bears finished the regular season at 7-1 at home and Trubisky hasn’t lost a start since October - so why is it that I keep reading the Eagles are the hot team coming into the playoffs? Am I crazy for not being afraid of Nick Foles?
PC: Probably. The man can certainly rise to an occasion. The problem for him of course is the higher he rises, the farther he’ll fall when Khalil Mack slams him to the grass. I personally hope his rib boo-boos don’t get any worse and he can give us an interesting game. Watching a quarterback squirm for four impotent quarters is fun when it’s a division rival, but will get boring for a second week in a row. I’ll say Foles will be good for at least one threatening deep pass, which will be caught by either Alshon Jeffrey or Eddie Jackson. Either way, it’ll be a one-time Bear. Beyond that, watching the Eagles recent successes, their offense relies a lot on yards after the catch. The Bears aren’t likely to offer them that luxury.
What do you think of the coaching match-ups? Doug Peterson and Matt Nagy know each other well. I’m trying to remember what happened the last time Nagy played against a coach he knew well...
JB: I like the coaching match up a lot. From a pure fan standpoint, these two guys seem like they’d be a lot of fun to play for. Seriously, who calls a play like the Philly Special at that point in the Super Bowl and what kind of guy is willing to throw to a backup linebacker on a 2 point conversion? I’ve long marveled at the Bill Belichick machine out in New England, but that system seems like a meat grinder where everything down to the last piece of athletic tape used to spat their shoes is calculated for cost-benefit. Coaches like Nagy and Pederson are having fun and willing to let it fly and we can’t underestimate the value of having fun on the job. I mean, I’ve been told having fun in your job makes it a lot more enjoyable and I’ll assume that’s true without personal experience to confirm. In a way though, the mentality of the two guys coming into this postseason would be different. Pederson is one year removed from reaching the pinnacle and I think he might just be relieved he snuck into the playoffs. Nagy, on the other hand, is new to the playoff experience but is basically playing with house money at this point. One has experience, one has novelty. For Nagy, I don’t know if coaching against someone he knows provides an advantage, but you do wonder if he might take a risk and try something clever because he expects it from Pederson.
I know we’re both on the Bears to win this weekend, so let’s not raise suspense on that account, but I want to know how you think it will happen. I think the defense dominates - and I mean dominates - by scoring more points off their turnovers than they allow. I think they get to Foles early and often and take the ball away from him at least 3 times. At that point, it’ll be on Trubisky and Nagy to grind clock and turn short fields into points. I’ve got our beloved Bears winning comfortably, let’s say by 17. What say you?
PC: I like your vision of this game, but unfortunately I can’t shake the feeling that the Eagles will find a way to move the ball—just not as well as the Bears do. Last time the Eagles faced the Bears, their defense ruthlessly exploited the flaws in John Fox predictaball. I expect Nagy to orchestrate a more effective attack. Ideally, it will be one that barrages the Eagle’s weakness at corner back with an onslaught of beautiful sideline rainbows to Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson. I have no doubt they’ll be attempted. I’m just crossing my finger’s they’ll connect. If they do, a comfortable 17 to 37 point win sounds appropriate.
JB: I like your resolve, Patti... Happy New Year, everyone!