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10 Chicago Bears takes with them now in the Wild Card driver’s seat

The Chicago Bears were once again victorious on Sunday. With one game left in the season, they are back in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot. What more could you ask for in such a strange season? All of that and more.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Somehow, some way, the Chicago Bears are back in the driver’s seat for one of those final playoff spots after a 41-17 victory to get them to (8-7) on the season with one game remaining. It didn’t exactly start out pretty as they went into halftime with a 13-10 lead, but they came out firing on all cylinders in the second half in route to their second blowout in three weeks.

1. With just one game remaining, the Chicago Bears control their playoff destiny.

If you would have told me this would be the case prior to the start of the Bears’ new three game win streak, I would have laughed and blown it off. Yet, here we are and it’s actually been a pretty fun ride.

Has this three-game run been fool’s gold? Only time will tell, but despite the quality of opponents, the Bears offense is humming and this team seems to have a certain feel to it that we have not seen since 2018.

This past weekend was an interesting one. It started with an upset in Arizona as the San Francisco 49ers knocked off the Arizona Cardinals by a score of 20-12. It ended with a Bears second half surge that resulted in another blowout win for the good guys.

So now what? Well, it’s quite simple... Win and you’re in. We’ll have more on Week 17’s scenarios later.

2. I’ll never be able to prove it, but I’m convinced Matt Nagy was back to calling plays on Sunday.

I know there’s been a rash of the blame/credit game going on in regards to the team’s offense. Anything that goes good? Bill Lazor gets the credit. Anything that goes bad? Blame it on Nagy.

With that being said, the Bears’ offensive identity looked much more like a Nagy ran offense than it did anything we’ve seen Lazor run the past few games. They failed to commit to the run game until the game was pretty well in hand. They got “cute” on a few different plays in the first half, including that idiotic Cole Kmet run. There were also minimal quarterback rollouts, which have become quite the staple in this offense’s success.

Again, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to prove it, but for the majority of the game, it felt like a much more Nagy influenced offense than we’ve seen in the past few games. The good news? They woke up in the second half and pounded out 41 points.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

3. Speaking of the offense, I’m still not sold on the Bears extending quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

I know, I know... I’m not sold on Trubisky, huh? What a shocker... Just give me a minute to explain though.

There’s no denying that Trubisky’s confidence is at a whole new level. His command of the offense has been better and by and large, he has been a more decisive quarterback. With that being said, Trubisky is still prone to general accuracy issues and that one or two mind-boggling decisions a game that almost always hurt the Bears in some fashion.

The truth is simple. He’s still a work in progress with plenty of untapped potential. With that being said, he’s still making consistent mistakes in Year 4 that you wouldn’t expect to see outside of a quarterback’s rookie year. While we can expect to see some growth, for the most part, I truly believe that for the most part, Trubisky is who he is at this point.

While I’d say he’s playing at his 2018 level, is that really something the Bears want to hitch their wagon to for 2021 and beyond?

4. Running back David Montgomery has been the unsung hero of this offense’s resurgence.

It has seemed like for the better part of Nagy’s three years as the team’s head coach, there hasn’t been a consistent rushing attack. First, it was Jordan Howard not fitting, then it was blocking and coaching. Yet, all of a sudden, Nagy gives up play calling and the running game was averaging over 150 yards-per-game heading into Week 16. That number took a bit of a hit, but Montgomery now has his first 1,000 rushing year.

Over the past five games, Montgomery’s impact has been massive. Not only is he averaging over 100 yards-per-game as of late, but he’s scoring touchdowns at a regular rate and also carrying a fair load as a pass catcher.

In a lot of people’s minds, Montgomery has gone from a potential platoon back to someone who likely should call for 20-plus carries per game to be at his best. More importantly, he’s someone who is gaining confidence and confidently hitting more holes and finding success doing it.

5. Speaking of unsung heroes... How nice is it to finally have an automatic kicker in Cairo Santos again?

I know it seems like I’m consistently spotlighting the team’s kicker, but how remarkable is it that Santos has tied Robbie Gould’s franchise record of 24 field goals made in a row. Santos has been one of them team’s more important players when points came at a premium. Now that they are scoring in bunches, fans know they can rely on him to get the job done.

Speaking of Gould... His three misses on Saturday night accounted for 7 “missed” points. Luckily for the Bears, it didn’t end up being a factor in the 49ers’ 20-12 victory against Arizona.

Also, since we are on the topic of former Bears kickers... Cody Parkey missed another kick (extra point) for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. The former Bear has now missed four kicks in three games.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

6. After being snubbed out for a Pro Bowl bid, Roquan Smith’s All-Pro bid cannot go as overlooked.

Earlier this week, the 2020 Pro Bowl results were announced. Although Khalil Mack and Cordarrelle Patterson made the list at their respective positions, there was one big name omitted from the NFC’s roster. It was Smith.

Despite coming into Week 16 in the Top 5 in tackles and tackles-for-loss, he was left off the list. The good news? He came out Sunday with a team-leading eight tackles and a pair of interceptions. Simply put, Smith has been one of, if not the Bears’ best defensive player in 2020. Even more, he has been one of, if not the best off the ball linebackers in the league. The Pro Bowl is known for egregious snubs, but the voting for All-Pros usually get it right. Right now, you’d be hard pressed to find any NFC linebackers that have had a better overall year than the former No. 8 overall pick.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

7. Looking to Week 17, the path to the playoffs for both the Bears and Cardinals is one in limbo.

Now, the moment some of you have probably been waiting for while reading...

The Bears have two paths to the playoffs in Week 17.

  1. A Bears win. This is the easiest to understand and the best way to get there.
  2. A Cardinals loss. Regardless of what the Bears do, if Arizona loses, that’s it. The Bears are in.

The Los Angeles Rams will play the Cardinals in Los Angeles in Week 17. The problem? It appears the Rams will be without starting quarterback Jared Goff (broken thumb) and top runners in Darrell Henderson (ankle) and Cam Akers (Ankle). That means we are likely looking at a situation where John Wolford plays quarterback and Malcolm Brown starting at running back. Wolford has never played an NFL snap but made some fans in the AAF.

The Bears will have land in one of three different scenarios in the final week of the season.

  1. A Bears win, Rams win and an Cardinals loss. This gives the Bears the 7th seed.
  2. A Bears win, Cardinals win and a Rams loss. This gives the Bears the 6th seed and the Rams find themselves at home for the playoffs due to the three-team tie-breaking procedure.
  3. A Bears loss, Cardinals win and a Rams loss. This leaves the Bears out of the playoffs due to the head-to-head tie-breaker against the Rams. The Cardinals would slide into the 6th seed and the Rams would be the final team in.

Because of the Seahawks Week 16 win, the Packers cannot clinch the No. 1 seed without a Week 17 win or a Seahawks loss. The good news? Their playoff spot is clinched and all that is at stake is seeding. Granted, the No. 1 seed is up for grabs. There won’t be quite the same sense of urgency as the Cardinals’ Week 17 game, but Green Bay absolutely still has something to play for.

On the other side of things, the Rams now find themselves in a spot where they are fighting for their playoff lives. With their Week 16 loss against the Seattle Seahawks, they’ve lost the division and as we’ve covered above, the Rams would lose out in a three team tie-breaking scenario. That means that they have everything to play for and less to play with, versus the Packers who do are in but will be vying for the top seed in the NFC.

8. Looking to the AFC, there’s going to be a double-digit win team sitting at home for the playoffs.

That seems like a shame to me. Take the Browns for example. This is their first 10 win season since the 1990’s and they face a scenario where if they lose in Week 17, they could be sitting home for the playoffs.

Regardless, there will be a single 10 or 11 win team sitting the playoffs out. Whether that’s the Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, Browns or Miami Dolphins, we’ll find that out on Sunday. Compare that to a scenario where the NFC East winner will be a maximum seven game winner and there’s a scenario where two of the three Wild Card winners could be less than double digit win teams, as well.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Chicago Bears Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

9. Looking to the near-future, the Bears have many important decisions to make.

That’ll start with their President in Ted Phillips, General Manager in Ryan Pace and Head Coach in Matt Nagy. By all accounts, it appears that Nagy is safe. There’s been plenty of fan frustration around Phillips and there’s been talk that they could look to move him out of football operations or remove him from the organization as a whole. Pace is going to be the interesting one. By all accounts, it appears that he’s going into the final year of his current deal and most professional organizations do not leave “lame duck” situations out in the open like that. It’s possible Pace received an extension at some point to widen his timeline but if he didn’t, I doubt he’ll be doing his duties on the last year of a deal. Which means a short-term extension or a parting of ways.

Let’s just assume everything stays the same in that department — because frankly, that seems like the most likely scenario. Will the coaching staff remain the same? Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano’s job could come into question. The defense has not looked the same since the bye week and there’s far too much talent for that to be the case.

Outside of that, the Bears will have big decisions with Trubisky, Allen Robinson and even Cairo Santos to make as soon as the season is over. As we all know, that could be next Monday or in February. Either way, this will be a very interesting off-season in which they’ll be operating with minimal cap resources and plenty of money they need to allocate.

10. I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend and enjoys what will be a thrilling Week 17 finish to the NFL regular season

Whether you celebrate Christmas or something else, I truly hope everyone had a great holiday. I also hope everyone enjoys New Years week and all the anticipation for what the Bears will end up doing on Sunday. It’s been a tough year for so many out there and it’s been nice to have the distraction that sports can bring us. Thank you for reading and I wish continued health and safety for everyone out there.