As the calendar turns to December and the Bears crawl into a cave to hibernate for the winter, this week’s Ten Thoughts column will serve as a Top Ten list for teams to cheer for down the stretch. The main goal at this point in the year, we can all agree, is to cheer against Green Bay and have some fun along the way with an adopted team. Here’s your guide:
10 – At Least it’ll be Entertaining
The Chiefs are starting to get things figured out and the fact that no AFC team has run away with the conference means that Andy Reid’s squad is still in the thick of it. I know Chiefs fatigue is setting in as they’ve made the final four teams the last three seasons, but they’re entertaining if nothing else.
Former Bears guard Kyle Long was just activated to the active roster, they have a receiver named Pringle, and a defensive back nicknamed Honey Badger. Admit it, it could be worse.
9 – Come to the Darkside
Stick with me here. Bill Belichick can flat out coach. I know the narrative went against him a bit last year when Brady ran down to the pirate ship to win #7 but Belichick has for years delivered a master class in coaching NFL football. His teams are incredibly well coached and disciplined and his game plans are tailored to exploit the opposing team’s weaknesses better than anyone else in the league.
This is certainly a contrarian approach but just remember, Mac Jones’s real name is McCorkle. Wait…not sure that helps or hurts.
8 – A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Buying into the Rams right now would be quintessential post-hype sleeper. Losers of three straight, the Rams went from NFC frontrunner to a broken mess in the blink of an eye. Can Matthew Stafford regain early season form? Can Sean McVay coach himself out of this mess? What about the defense that has given up 28, 31, and 36 points in the last 3 games? I don’t know, but the bandwagon is starting to get roomy.
Former Bears OLB Leonard Floyd is having another solid season with 7.5 sacks. SoFi Stadium will host the Super Bowl this year, setting up a possible home game Super Bowl for the second straight season. If nothing else, they’re good enough to take out GB if they get hot.
7 – Lean into Chaos
What if we just gave Tom Brady one more Super Bowl – would he walk away? I enjoy watching the Bucs play as they’ve stacked one of the most interesting rosters in recent memory. I also really enjoyed watching them take out the Packers last year. Teams winning back to back Super Bowls are rare and the Bucs are an interesting enough group to make a second run.
Bruce Arians is the most interesting coach in the league (go read his book, The Quarterback Whisperer, if you haven’t) and he has two coordinators likely to land HC jobs soon. They have a ridiculous number of players that could wind up in the Hall of Fame and a few young players starting off on an excellent trajectory. If you’re into football history, this team definitely feels like we’ll be talking about them far into the future.
6 – Once upon a midnight dreary
Lamar Jackson is awesome and capable of putting on an incredible performance any given week. If he can string together a playoff run, it could be a lot of fun to watch.
That’s it, that’s the argument for the Ravens.
5 – Derrick Henry in the Playoffs?!
Watching the Titans feels old school Bears-esque most weeks. They’re tough and are willing to punch you in the mouth. They like to run the ball and ugly the game up. They will not go down without a fight. They do seem a bit lost without all-world RB Derrick Henry but there is at least some hope that he can get back for the playoffs. With games against Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Miami, and Houston left on the schedule, the Titans should coast into the playoffs, searching for their first SB win.
If they can get a healthy Derrick Henry back for a playoff run, they’ll be a team no one wants to play. A lot of Bears fans can get behind their approach too.
4 – Bolt Up
San Diego LA Chargers need some help. They play 17 road games this year because every game they play at home, the opposing fanbase outnumbers their own fans. The former small market team plays second fiddle to the Rams despite having a fantastic young QB with plenty of exciting players littering the lineup. Great route running wide receiver? Keenan Allen is your guy. Versatile running back? Take a look at Austin Ekeler. Elite Pass rusher? Joey Bosa. Agent of Chaos on the back end? I’d like you to meet Derwin James.
Another team searching for their first Super Bowl championship, the Chargers offer a lot of exciting young talent to cheer for. Plus, jumping on the Chargers bandwagon is also Covid-friendly - there’s so much room that you can continue to social distance!
3 – Cinderella Wears Stripes
How would you like to cheer for a team that the Bears beat? The Cincinnati Bengals are 7-4 on the year in a competitive AFC North. Joe Burrow has the offense clicking with Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and rookie Ja’Marr Chase forming one of the best WR trios in the league. The Bengals defense, built mostly through free agency, has performed above expectations.
The Bengals have never won a Super Bowl but it appears as though they have the foundation of something sustainable with Burrow and Chase rekindling their connection from LSU. They have a running back named Pooka on the practice squad and contributors with cool last names like Awuzie and Ogunjobi that will make you sound smart when you learn how to pronounce them.
2 – Join the Bills Mafia
You don’t have to jump through a table to cheer on the Buffalo Bills, you just have to appreciate good defense with a dynamic quarterback making wow-plays. The Bills currently sit a half game back of the Patriots in the AFC East with two games in the next few weeks against their rival. If they can put together a couple of wins against Darth Hoodie, the Bills should be in a solid position to make a playoff run.
The Bills have never won a Super Bowl despite making four straight in the 1990s and have one of the best point differentials in the league. Former Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky backs up Josh Allen, former Bears all-world camp performer Tanner Gentry is on their practice squad, and they have a guy named Boogie Basham at defensive end!
1 – The Red Sea
What if I told you there was a team that used to play their games in Soldier Field when the Bears played in Wrigley? What if that team had the best record in football and an exciting quarterback, an all-world wide receiver, and one of the most underrated defenses in the league? The Arizona Cardinals, who just so happen to be coming to their old stomping grounds this weekend to play the Bears, may be the best hope to prevent GB from getting to the Super Bowl and you just might have the most fun cheering for them.
Kyler Murray is one of the most exciting young players in the league and the Cardinals have never won a Super Bowl. We can all cheer on the Bears for the upset this weekend, but if the game doesn’t go well for Chicago, take the red birds out for a test flight and see what you think the rest of the way.
What are your thoughts on the NFL this week? Sound off below in the comments and be sure to find me on Twitter @gridironborn.