For a brief recap; the Bears started their 2022 season going 2-2. They dropped their season opener to a tough 49ers squad, who use their stout defense to shut down a Bears offense still finding chemistry with each other. Then, in week two, the Bears can’t overcome the challenge of Lambeau and the Packers on Sunday Night Football and fall to 0-2. However, the Bears are able to climb back to .500, beating up a rebuilding Texans team in week three, before manhandling Daniel Jones and the Giants’ offense for win number two in week four.
Now, before we move forward, let’s get a quick look at the NFC playoff standings through week four:
- New Orleans Saints (4-0, 3-0)
- San Francisco 49ers (3-1, 2-0)
- Washington Commanders (3-1, 1-1)
- Minnesota Vikings (2-2, 2-0)
- (WC1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1, 0-1)
- (WC2) Philadelphia Eagles (3-1, 0-1)
- (WC3) Dallas Cowboys (2-2, 2-0)
Not seen in the playoffs are of course the Bears. At this point, the Bears currently sit third in the NFC North due to losing the head-to-head with the second place, 2-2 Packers, but they stay ahead of the last place Lions, who sit at 1-3.
All that being said, let’s get into weeks five through eight.
Week 5: @Vikings - The Vikings are always an interesting team to try and predict. They always have a good team at first glance, and this year’s iteration looks no different; Kirk Cousins puts up solid numbers at the QB spot, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen form a good 1-2 punch at wideout, Dalvin Cook is one of the league’s premier running backs, and the defense has solid talent with the likes of Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, and the recently added Za’Darius Smith. But the Vikings always find a way to underachieve, or at least make things more interesting than they should be. Last year, Minnesota sported a pretty similar roster, but finished with an underwhelming record of 8-9. Things could be a little different this year under new head coach Kevin O’Connell, but that is yet to be seen. Games between the Vikings and Bears are always close affairs (three of their last four matchups have been one possession games). I think the first meeting between the two is a bit of a toss-up, with home field advantage helping the Vikings out, and the Bears struggling to get something going against an always tough Minnesota defense.
Record After Week 5: 2-3
Week 6: Commanders - The Commanders are one of my biggest wildcards for this year. On one hand, Washington has quietly built up one of the more well rounded rosters in the NFC. Their defense is oozing with both talent and potential, with Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat, and Kendall Fuller among others. Offensively, I think the Commanders have a solid supporting cast. Antonio Gibson is a reliable back, Logan Thomas has shown great potential at TE, and Terry McLaurin is one of the most underrated wideouts in the league despite not having consistent QB play.
But that right there is why I think the Bears can gut this one out. No QB on Washington’s depth chart instills the most confidence. Cole Kelley is a 6’7” rookie, so that’s cool, and Sam Howell has some potential down the road but probably won’t get many snaps this year. Then you have the two guys actually competing for the starting spot. Taylor Heinicke is a great story, and has shown some moments of brilliance. I mean, in a spot, playoff start, he almost led a 7-9 Washington team to victory over a Tom Brady led Buccaneers team who would go on to win the Super Bowl that year. Since then, Heinicke has been serviceable, but by no means great (3,419yds., 20-15 TD-INT, and a rating of 85.9 last season). Then there’s Carson Wentz. Wentz has had one of the greater downfalls in recent memory, going from an MVP candidate in 2017, to having his Eagles career derailed by injuries, to being on his third team since March, 2021.
Defense is the way to win this game. It is gonna be hard for the Bears to get something going against that Washington defense, and the same can be said for Washington against the Bears’ D. In defensive battles like this, it always seems to come down to what quarterback can finally break through and make that one play his team needs to win. Between the three quarterbacks we might see this game, I will take Fields over both Wentz and Heinicke to pull off that play thanks to his athleticism and versatility. Bears grind this one out in a low scoring affair thanks to a late drive and effort from Fields.
Possible Cairo Santos game-winner?
Record After Week 6: 3-3
Week 7: @Patriots - If this was at Soldier, I’d put a bit more thought into this. The fact of the matter is the Patriots are statistically the best home team in the league (their 102-20 record at Gillette is the best home record in the NFL since 2002). Much like their trip to Lambeau in week two, it is gonna be extremely hard for this Bears team to go pick up a win visiting a team who plays especially well at home turf.
To be fair, even if they played in Chicago, I still think New England comes away with the W. I can already envision Belichick out strategizing the rookie Eberflus, and that N.E. defense always finds a way to fluster opponents. Of course, most of the headlines will be on the matchup of second-year quarterbacks Mac Jones and Fields. While I still believe Fields will be the better QB when all is said and done (his ceiling is higher than most of his contemporaries), Jones had a much more solid rookie campaign (3801yds., 22-13 TD-INT, 92.5rtg.), and seems to have found a nice groove in a Patriots systems that regularly makes players better. Essentially, Jones has largely found his footing already, while Fields is still working on it. With all that in mind, and the Patriots dominance at home, I think New England puts the Bears back below .500.
Record After Week 7: 3-4
Week 8: @Cowboys - Another tough road match for the Bears. The Cowboys should at least be decent this year barring any major injuries; they just have too much talent not to be. Their offense has a plethora of lethal weapons capable of putting major points on the board. Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard are both more than capable backs, Ceedee Lamb and Michael Gallup help shape up a good receiving corp, Dalton Shultz had himself a bit of a breakout year last season, and who can forget Bears’ legend Ryan Nall (didn’t expect a Ryan Nall namedrop did ya?).
The defense is a bit of an enigma. Dallas has no shortage of talent. DeMarcus Lawrence, Dante Fowler Jr., Leighton Vander Esch, Micah Parsons, Malik Hooker, and Trevon Diggs are all capable of playing at a high level. However, the team ranked in the bottom half of yards allowed last season, but did allow the seventh least amount of points. Basically, they seemed to have adopted a “bend don’t break” mentality. The struggle for the Bears will most likely be finishing drives if the Cowboys play in a similar fashion this upcoming year, so expect a lot of drives finished off by a Santos field goal.
What I think this game will really come down to is what Dak Prescott the Bears get. Some days, he looks like one of the league’s best (he finished the 2021 regular season with a five touchdown, zero interception performance against the rival Eagles). Other weeks, Prescott will post a rating below 60.0, like he did twice last year against Kansas City (11/21) and Washington (12/12). If the Bears get lucky and catch Prescott on one of his off days, they have a decent chance to put up just enough points on the board to beat out the Cowboys. But I predict Prescott has a good game against a young and unsure Bears secondary. Bears should put up a good fight no matter what though, and show they can at least hang with some of the conference’s better members.
Record After Week 8: 3-5
Playoffs aren’t looking likely at this point for the 3-5 Bears. How are they gonna get back in the hunt? Come back for part three to find out.