Editor: For the first three parts of Peter’s series you can click here, here, and here.
The end of the regular season is here and the Chicago Bears are sitting pretty at the moment.
On a 4-0 run, Chicago has inserted themselves square into the playoff picture, which has shaped up like this:
- Green Bay Packers (9-3, 2-1)
- Los Angeles Rams (8-3, 3-1)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4, 2-1)
- Philadelphia Eagles (7-4, 2-1)
- (WC1) San Francisco 49ers (8-3, 3-1)
- (WC2) Chicago Bears (7-5, 1-2)
- (WC3) Washington Commanders (7-5, 1-2)
Now let’s not waste anymore time. There are six weeks left in the regular season and the Bears play in five of them. Can they hold on to a wild card spot? Let’s find out.
Week 13: Packers - Without the crunch of playing at Lambeau, I think a lot of the problems with the Packers’ roster will come through this week. A receiving core possibly worse than the Bears’ (which is saying something) and a new offensive coordinator (who was an internal hire, so this effect is mitigated a little) implementing his system will be interesting storylines to follow through the Packers’ season, and it is what the Bears will need to exploit to take down their northern rivals.
In the end, I think the Packers still take this game, but it will be much closer than their week two matchup in Green Bay. Hopefully with this being their second look at the Packers’ offense, Eberflus, DC Alan Williams, and the rest of the defensive staff should be able to come up with a plan to slow down Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and co. However, the Packers defense is darn good, and seemingly gets overlooked every year (the team has finished top 10 in the least amount of yards allowed in both of the past two seasons). They’re gonna give the Bears fits moving the ball, no matter how far the offense progresses through the season. So the Bears will put up a good fight and show Green Bay they’re no push over, but the Packers keep their streak alive (Bears haven’t beat the Pack since 2018). Most importantly, the Bears show that if a playoff matchup is in the cards, it won’t be as easy to predict as some might initially say.
Record after Week 13: 7-6
Week 14: Bye Week - Real quick in regards to some of the noise about the Bears having a late bye week this year; I kinda like it. Sure, playing 13 straight weeks of football to open the season is rough, but having a week to rest up before the final stretch of the season is never a bad thing. Especially if that final stretch is gonna be vital to a team’s playoff push, which for the Bears it will be.
Week 15: Eagles - The Eagles are very similar to the Commanders in that I just don’t know what to think of them. On one hand, they had what could be considered the best offseason. They added offensive firepower by acquiring A.J. Brown, bolstered the defense by signing James Bradberry and getting quite possibly the steal of the draft in Nakobe Dean, and all this is being added to a team that already made the playoffs last year.
I think my skepticism for the Eagles is mostly based on the fact that I’m not as high on their players like so many others are. I do not think Jalen Hurts is a QB capable of leading his team to the promised land, and while his dual threat nature might’ve thrown defense off initially, I think now that everyone has seen a full season of him team’s will be quicker to counter him. A.J. Brown was a good get for the team, but like his QB, I’m not as high on him as others are. He’s never crossed the 1,100 yard threshold, so is he the savior that the team has been waiting for for the receiving corp? That is yet to be determined, but for reference, Brown had very similar numbers to Darnell Mooney last season. I’m also not a huge fan of the Eagles run game, as Miles Sanders is one of those guys who never really plays as well as I expect him to.
The Philly defense will be a tough one to crack for sure, but I don’t see this team being too much of an improvement over last year’s squad that was whooped by Tampa in the Wild Card round. Because of that, this is a game the Bears need to win. How do they do that? It’s gotta start with containing Hurts’ two way game. The offense will have a tough enough time getting past Fletcher Cox and the rest of Philly’s defense, so shutting down Hurts, which should effectively cut off the Eagles’ offense, will be huge. Sitting the linebackers back to make sure Hurts A.) has a hard time finding open passing lanes and B.) can’t break off for a big run might be the answer. The Bears take care of Hurts, they take care of the Eagles offense, and should be able to scrounge up enough points to pull away with a big win.
Record after Week 15: 8-6
Week 16: Bills - At least the Bears have home field advantage?
Yeah, I wouldn’t hold your breath on this one. At risk of spoiling my AFC champion for both this hypothetical season and in real life, I think the Bills are going to Super Bowl 57. They have one of the best all-around rosters in the league, led by a MVP favorite in Josh Allen, who is throwing to a top-tier wideout in Stefon Diggs, and all that is without mentioning a defense that led the league (by a decent margin too may I add) in least amount of yards (4637) and points (289) allowed last season. So yeah, this is a good team.
Hopefully at this point of their season, the Bears at least make this interesting and aren’t blown completely out of the water. But to keep this short and sweet, I don’t really see them slowing down arguably the best dual-threat QB in the NFL, and at the same time, get past what looks like what’ll be one of the stingiest defenses around.
Record after Week 16: 8-7
Week 17: @Lions - Trap game alert. If you remember my blurb on the Lions for their week 10 trip to Soldier, I predicted the Lions to be actually competitive this year. Not necessarily good record wise (I have them finishing 6-11 in this hypothetical season), but they could cause some headaches for clearly better teams with a sneakily good young core. And now that they’re taking on the Bears at Ford Field, where the Bears always seem to struggle to pull out the W (the last four games between the two in Detroit have all been one-score, Bears’ victories), this game could easily become a lot harder than it should be.
Originally, I actually had this game swinging in favor of the Lions, but it turned into one of those games the Bears absolutely must win if they want to taste the playoffs, so I needed to switch it to a win. On paper, it should not be hard for the Bears to pull this one off. Despite the youthful potential of the Lions, the Bears have a few more established players plus a QB people are actually hopeful for, rather than Jared Goff, a clear placeholder until the Lions get their franchise QB (to be fair Goff actually finished the season playing pretty well, posting an above 115.0 QB rating in three of his five final games). The key here for the Bears is to not fall into the trap they always seem to do when playing the Lions at Ford, which is let the game become a lot closer than it has any right to be and having to then rely on some late game heroics (or dumbfounding penalties in the case of last year’s unforgettable Thanksgiving matchup). If the Bears go into Ford, play clean, well-executed football, they should not have any trouble taking care of the Lions.
But knowing the Bears in Detroit, it’ll probably come down to a last second field goal.
Record after Week 17: 9-7
Week 18: Vikings - Fun fact; dating back to the 2016 season, the Bears have concluded their regular season against the Vikings five times, going 2-3 in those games.
Bears are gonna need to even that record out if they want to make the playoffs here.
I had the Vikings winning the first game of the season, and I think round two will provide another close matchup between these two, but with the Bears coming out on top this time. In my bit about their week five game, I mentioned how the Vikings defense would likely win that game, eating up a Bears offense still getting their feet under them in Getsy’s system. I kinda feel like we’ll get more of an offensive showdown in week 18. The Bears have now had a full season to figure things out and (if they want to make the playoffs) should be firing on all cylinders by this game. Meanwhile, I need not restate how lethal the Vikings offense can be, and now they have an offensive minded coach in Kevin O’Connell (who’s coming from a Super Bowl winning team) to put everything together. And this brings us to the biggest x-factor of this game, and what I think will ultimately decide it; Mr. Big Game himself, Kirk Cousins.
It’s no secret the Vikings QB has garnered a reputation as being unable to produce in the spotlight. And while I think the “Kirk Cousins is bad in primetime games” narrative is a little overblown, his record against above .500 teams certainly is not. Cousins is 10-40 since entering the NFL against winning teams. So how do the Bears add another tally to that L column in week 18?
Stop the deep passes. As obvious as that may sound, it’s key with Cousins, who is sneakily one of the leagues better deep ball chuckers. He ranked eighth last year in air yards per attempt with 8.2, ninth in percentage of passes of 20+ yards at 13.98%, second in percentage of passes to a receiver 20+ downfield that were on target at 52%, and he’s tied for first in most 30+ yard completions since 2016 at 135. The point is the Kirk can hurl downfield, and pairing him with one of the league’s best receivers in Justin Jefferson helps a ton. So it’s going to be key for the Bears secondary to shut down those long throws and for the front line to pressure Cousins and not give him enough time to find his weapons down field. If the defense can accomplish this and effectively turn the Vikings into a checkdown/running offense, that’s gonna take a ton of pressure off the Bears’ offense. It won’t be easy, but the Bears should be able to take this one at home.
Record after Week 18: 10-7
So how is the NFC playoff picture looking after the regular season?
- Green Bay Packers (13-4, 4-2)
- Los Angeles Rams (12-5, 5-1)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5, 4-2)
- Dallas Cowboys (10-7, 4-2)
WC1. San Francisco 49ers (12-5, 5-1)
WC2. Chicago Bears (10-7, 3-3)
WC3. Washington Commanders (10-7, 4-2)
And just like that, the 2022 Bears are in the playoffs! Piece of cake, right?
But we’re not done just yet. We still got the playoffs to get through if the Bears want to pull off a Super Bowl appearance and win. For all that, make sure to come back for part five.