The Chicago Bears dropped to (3-12) on the season after a 35-13 loss at Soldier Field to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday afternoon. While it might be their eighth straight loss, the draft picture is coming clear, and the Bears are set up in a great spot heading into the final two games of the season. Unfortunately for fans, we're running out of new talking points. The better news? The off-season should be one of the more exciting periods Bears fans have experienced in a while.
With just two more games until we can finally turn the page on the 2022 NFL regular season, we'll dive into another Bears loss. With key players dwindling each week due to injuries, how much of an evaluation can we really get from these final few games? We'll cover all of that and more in Week 16's 10 Bears Takes.
1. Don't let the score fool you. This Bears team continues to fight hard on a weekly basis.
If you missed the game on Saturday spending time with the family, it's understandable. Some may look at the final score and box score and not bother watching the game. That's also understandable. Make no mistake, though. The Bears once again fought hard and kept the game close for the majority of regulation and once again had their chances to try and win it.
It seems like a story as old as time, right? The Bears have followed a similar script most of the year. They jump out to a lead, keep it close and then blow it over the final quarter or so. It was a similar script on Saturday but against an excellent team. That shouldn't go unnoticed. I've seen enough to believe that the Bears are a well-coached football team. Sure, the in-game coaching, play calling, etc., needs to improve, but zooming out and seeing how hard this team continues to fight is a sign of a quality coaching staff. It's also something that should not be ignored as the season concludes.
Almost all season, the Bears have found themselves out-manned against teams that are vastly more talented than them. There's a reason why Vegas has had the Bears favored in only a handful of games this year. Despite that, this was only their third double-digit loss of the season. Considering they have 12 losses, that should be counted as a win.
I've said this a few times, and I'll repeat it. In Year 1 of an extensive teardown and rebuild, these types of moral victories are at least worth noting. Now, if we're still discussing the same narratives in a year or two, there's a problem. But for the time being, what the Bears have done, despite losing 12 games so far, has been impressive and not something many Year 1 coaching staff would be able to pull off.
2. While it wasn't a strong week for quarterback Justin Fields, it's hard to make too much of a game in which his offensive coordinator clearly had no interest in "testing" him.
It became clear after the first drive that offensive coordinator Luke Getsy had little interest in getting into an offensive shootout with one of the league's best offenses. While that's easy to understand, it feels like his play calling left quite a bit to be desired in a game that felt winnable for the majority of the 60 minutes the teams played on Saturday.
It must be noted that the Bears marched out their most "make-shift" offensive line of the season. They were missing both guards, Teven Jenkins and Cody Whitehair. In their places, Michael Schofield and Larry Borom got the starting nod. They were also missing three of their top five receivers, with Chase Claypool and Equanimeous St. Brown both missing Saturday's game. Despite that, Getsy's overall "run, run, pass" game plan did his second-year quarterback no favors.
I would by no means label Fields' performance as a "success" in Week 16. But against a top-notch defense, a skeleton crew of personnel, and a poor offensive game plan, it's hard to see how he would have ever succeeded on Saturday afternoon. The good news? Fields will close out the season against two bottom-half defenses. Hopefully, he can end the season on a high note and up the "feel good" vibes heading into the off-season.
3. Speaking of the offense, it appears a lot of the smoke and mirrors they were able to get away with earlier in the season have been figured out.
Heading into the regular season, everyone who has remotely followed this team knew the Bears' offense would not be breaking any NFL records in 2022. All you had to do is look at the offensive line and lack of play-making weapons to know Fields was not put in a position to succeed without his breakout moments. While Fields has done some magical things this season, and adjustments have been made, it appears that the better defenses in the league have figured out the Bears' offense.
That should not come as a big surprise and be somewhat predictable. Even so, it's something that has severely limited their ceiling over the past few weeks. As I pointed out above, they'll close out the season against two lesser defenses but don't be surprised to see both the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings take some concepts we've seen over the past few weeks to shut this offense down.
General manager Ryan Poles and his staff have plenty of work to do this off-season. They'll have plenty of money and are guaranteed to see many Top 7 picks in most rounds. That'll definitely help, but this offensive coaching staff needs to get into the lab and be ready to roll in August next year. Getsy and company have taken this offense about as far as it can go due to talent limitations, but the play calling and overall game plan have also left a lot to be desired as of late, too.
4. Against another top-flight offense, the Bears' defense continues to impress over the past few weeks.
It's incredible to look at the Bears' defensive depth chart and imagine them not giving up 30-plus points per game. Although they ended the game with a 35-spot on the board, this defense once again played well above what they should have. For the second straight week, this defense forced three takeaways, including a pair of interceptions. Their six takeaways in two games against two of the best offenses in the league should not be overlooked.
Especially when considering how badly the Bears have struggled to get pressure on most quarterbacks throughout the year. This young secondary is playing well, and their fill-in linebackers have done a good-enough job. While we can expect quite the talent infusion into this defense during the off-season, the groundwork continues to be set as the Bears will enter what we hope will be an extended competitive window.
At this point in the season, we have to take the good from the bad. Over the past two weeks, the Bears' defense has been a pleasant surprise. That's worth being excited about, especially when considering how much better the talent on this unit should be next season.
5. A quality week for the rookies: Both Velus Jones Jr. and Kyler Gordon impress on Christmas Eve.
With injuries mounting and the losses stacking, fans must turn their attention to some of the more important aspects of their future that are currently on the roster. Two of those players shined bright on Saturday afternoon.
Just one week after having arguably his worst game as a professional, the team's third-round rookie turned in a quality performance in Week 16. Not only did he account for the team's biggest offensive play (a 44-yard catch), but he also averaged (28.3) yards per kick return. That included an impressive 40-yard return earlier in the game. I'm still not sold Jones Jr. will ever be the player the Bears expected when they drafted him, but if he can be a big-play guy offensively at times and provide needed value as a returner, they can make that work.
The more impressive performance of the week? An ascending second-round cornerback who has stacked back-to-back good weeks after a rough start to the season. Gordon's athleticism and overall upside are finally starting to show through. It's especially impressive, considering the Bears are missing two of their best secondary pieces in Jaylon Johnson and Eddie Jackson. With both players on Injured Reserve and done for the year, there's plenty of added pressure on the rookie. Over the past two weeks, he has delivered. Gordon added his second interception in as many weeks and locked down star receiver Stefon Diggs for most of the afternoon.
With many rookies hurt and not playing right now, bright spots can be harder to come by. That's why the performances of both players on Saturday afternoon were a welcomed sight. Especially with Gordon, who appears to be turning the corner of a struggling rookie.
6. The free agent offensive line market took a hit this weekend. Why having a lot of money in Free Agency isn't going to be a cure-all in today's NFL.
Over the weekend, a pair of top offensive linemen signed extensions with their current teams. First, Elgton Jenkins signed a lucrative four-year, $68 million deal. Jenkins' versatility is valuable, but his experience with Getsy would have very likely made him a top free-agent target in March. It's still shocking to see the Green Bay Packers come up with enough money to retain players, despite the Aaron Rodgers deal.
Shortly following the Jenkins deal came a Jack Conklin extension. While I would not label him as the best offensive tackle in free agency or even the most attractive, it still hurts the market that he was unable to hit free agency. The 28-year-old veteran reached a four-year, $60 million agreement with the Browns.
It's relatively uncommon for top-end starting offensive linemen to hit the market, but it does happen. It's also one of the Bears' biggest needs and a perfect off-season for them to spend on a pair of quality starters. With those two off the board, here are some of the top names still set to hit the market (for now).
- Orlando Brown (Kansas City Chiefs)
- Kaleb McGary (Atlanta Falcons)
- Mike McGlinchy (San Francisco 49ers)
- Jawaan Taylor (Jacksonville Jaguars)
- Yosh Nijman (Green Bay Packers) *Restricted Free Agent
Interior Offensive Line:
- Nate Davis (Tennessee Titans)
- Ethan Pocic (Cleveland Browns)
- Dalton Risner (Denver Broncos)
- Isaiah Wynn (New England Patriots)
- Isaac Seumalo (Philadelphia Eagles)
There are still plenty of quality options, but in a year when the Bears have well over $100 in cap space to use, it would be nice to not have to overpay for mediocre talent. We'll have to see if any surprising cuts are made in the coming months and who else comes off the board before March. At least in my estimations, the Bears will be looking for a minimum of two new starters, if not three.
7. Week 16 draft positioning update: Can the Bears make a late-season push for the No. 1 overall pick?
Yes, the Bears lost again. No, it's not all bad. On the contrary, actually. The Bears went from hoping to hold onto the No. 2 overall pick to the No. 1 overall pick being within reach. That dream became a reality after the Houston Texans' win against a reeling Tennessee Titans team on Sunday. With three four-win teams in play on Sunday and the (4-9-1) Indianapolis Colts playing Monday night, the draft picture for Week 16 is not yet complete.
Here's how things stand heading into Christmas day.
- Houston Texans (2-12-1)
- Chicago Bears (3-12)
- Denver Broncos (4-10)
- Los Angeles Rams (4-10)
- Arizona Cardinals (4-10)
- Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1)
- Atlanta Falcons (5-10)
These six teams are the only teams that have any impact on the Bears' draft positioning for the remainder of the season. If the Bears win their last two, the worst they'd pick is No. 7 overall. That assumes that the Falcons or Colts don't win a game down the stretch, which is a big assumption.
More importantly, the Broncos and Rams square off on Sunday. The best-case scenario is a tie. That would essentially make both teams a "better" four-win team due to the tie and what it does to their win percentages. It would also mean that if the Bears won a game down the stretch, they'd still finish with a worse winning percentage, which would give them the No. 3 overall pick (at worst) as a (4-13) team. The Cardinals could also win a game over their final three, but things appear to be deteriorating quickly in Arizona.
The ideal situation for the Bears is simple. If they can lose their final two games against the Lions and Minnesota Vikings, they'd settle into either the No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick in April's draft. The Texans have been playing considerably better as of late and face the (7-8) Jacksonville Jaguars and the (4-9-1) Colts in their final two games. Long story short, the No. 1 overall pick is not out of the question if the Bears find a way to lose out.
8. NFC North Check-in: The Minnesota Vikings' unreal string of luck continues, the Detroit Lions humbled, and the Green Bay Packers three wins short of a likely playoff berth.
Somehow, some way, the Vikings are a perfect (11-0) in games decided by one score this season. That string of luck continued on Saturday as they won on a last-second 61-yard field goal from Greg Joseph in the game's final seconds. Their record-setting 33-point comeback was a storybook ending last weekend but coupled in with Saturday's win, things have gone ridiculously right in Minnesota far too often (from the mean) this season.
After winning six of their last seven, the Lions' playoff hopes were dashed on Saturday after being dominated by the Carolina Panthers. Detroit's defense was once again an issue, but the bigger issue was their lack of offensive success. The Bears will head to Detroit next Sunday in what could end up being a high-scoring affair.
The Packers have yet to play, but their playoff hopes are very much alive heading into their Christmas afternoon game against the (8-6) Miami Dolphins. The Seattle Seahawks, Washington Commanders, and Lions all lost Saturday. With a win, the Packers would be just a half-game back from Washington for the seventh and final seed in the NFC. The biggest issue for Green Bay moving forward? Their remaining schedule. They'll play Miami on the road, then host the Vikings and Lions in back-to-back weeks. Running the tables isn't impossible, but a win against the Dolphins is a must.
9. Week 17 look ahead: The (7-8) Detroit Lions are coming off their worst loss of the year.
The Lions had a prime opportunity to not only gain group in the NFC Wild Card race but would have taken over the seventh seed with an expected win on Saturday. Unfortunately for them, it did not happen, but their playoff hopes are not dead quite yet. In some ways, they control their destiny. There's a good chance that if they win out, they'll sneak into the playoffs.
In their way? The Bears. It sounds weird to say, doesn't it? Yet, as of late, the Bears have been one of the toughest outs in the NFL and a team that nobody wants to see. At best, it's a hard-fought game for the opposing team that results in a win. At worst, it's a tough loss at a time when on-the-bubble teams cannot afford them. That's where the Lions will find themselves at Ford Field next Sunday.
Despite each team having similar goals, given their current statuses in their respective rebuilds, next Sunday's results will impact each team greatly. I expect an action-packed game with plenty of emotion. It would also be the first time since 2017 that the Bears were swept in the season series if they cannot find a way to win.
10. I hope everyone has a great holiday season and an even better New Year.
The holidays can be a great time of year for some and a tough time for others. Even though we all root for the same team and want the same thing regarding the Bears, our lives can all lead us to different mindsets this time of year. That's why I hope that following this team and reading my thoughts throughout the season can either bring joy or even a distraction to the not-so-good things in life. Despite these rough few seasons, sports can be a great outlet to escape our realities in the real world.
Wherever you may be reading from, I hope you all have a great holiday season and a safe New Year. May your Christmas wishes come true and your New Year's resolutions last longer than mine usually do!