Matt Nagy’s Bears have been in this position before. But the task truly could not be any taller.
Last season, when Chicago fell to 5-7 after a humiliating collapse to the Lions, the pending schedule proved to be a welcome reprieve. Two of the NFL’s worst teams, in the Texans and Jaguars, and a team that is never going anywhere prestigious with Kirk Cousins as the starting quarterback in the Vikings, were all that stood between the Bears and an above .500 mark and a potential playoff berth. They, of course, clocked Houston and Jacksonville, and soundly beat the Vikings in Minnesota for the third straight year. Even with a difficult home task against the NFC’s No. 1 seed in the Packers in Week 17, the then-8-7 Bears were strong enough to play a “meaningful” January game.
There will be no such December cupcakes this time around.
At 4-7, the Bears are technically in the postseason hunt. Pigs might not have to fly for the Bears to qualify for the postseason, but they will have to learn how to speak. If they take care of business and get a lot of breaks, they could conceivably play in Arizona/Green Bay/Tampa Bay in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the NFC’s very best, smack dab in the middle of a No. 1 seed chase against each other, likely prevent such a scenario from ever happening.
This week, the Bears have the great fortune of playing against a now-healthy Kyler Murray and a buzzsaw Cardinals team that will not be letting their foot off the gas pedal any time soon. In glorious primetime at Lambeau Field, the following Sunday, Chicago travels to play the Packers and what suddenly looks like a complete Super Bowl contender. Two MVP candidates at quarterback (Murray and Aaron Rodgers). Two Coach of the Year candidates (Kliff Kingsbury and Matt LaFleur). That, and two stellar, attacking defenses predicated on making, say, an overwhelmed offensive staff’s life a living hell.
Hmm, sound familiar?
Both are a far cry from Deshaun Watson on a decimated roster, and Mike Glennon, of all people, to be sure.
With everything to lose from a defeat while both play for a weekend off in the playoffs, the Cardinals and Packers will surely not take it easy on the Bears. And with Chicago still bruised and battered — who knows when Allen Robinson, Akiem Hicks, Justin Fields, and Roquan Smith, among others, play next? — it’s difficult to see anything but two surefire blowouts at the hands of teams that can’t afford disastrous slip-ups in the standings.
If Nagy and the beaten-up Bears can pull this off, maybe this entire regime really does deserve to stick around another year. Well, I wouldn’t go that far. I mean, please no. But, it would make it interesting. I, for one, see nothing but humiliating forty burgers and a cemented (at least) 4-9 elimination in the near future.
I’d be happy to be wrong, if only because I like seeing December football that isn’t utterly lifeless for once.
Windy City Gridiron picks Bears-Cardinals and every other NFL game in Week 13.
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