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10 Bears Takes: Worst Game of the Season? Should Fields play? And Looking to the Offseason and Draft

The Chicago Bears suffered their worse loss of the season on Sunday, getting blown out 41-10 at the hands of a division rival. Digging deeper after the team’s most lackluster performance of the season.

Chicago Bears v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

With one week remaining in the 2022 NFL regular season, the Chicago Bears find themselves on a nine-game losing streak after their 41-10 blowout loss at Ford Field on Sunday. While the Detroit Lions continue to hang in the playoff picture during the last week of the season, the focus for the Bears continues to be much different as the regular season concludes.

In a game that most (including myself) expected to be close and to threaten their quest for the highest draft pick possible, the end result was quite the opposite. The Bears hung well for the first quarter, and things quickly got away from the after. Yes, the Lions were still fighting for a playoff spot but considering the Bears had just played two top-tier playoff teams much closer, it’s hard not to chalk this game up as one of their worst of the year.

All but one game in the toughest year of an extensive rebuild has been completed. Let’s dive more into Sunday’s game and what Bears fans can expect following the season in this week’s 10 Bears Takes.

1. Barring a miraculous win in Week 18, the Bears will go winless in the NFC North for the first time since 2017. Which is also the last time the Lions swept their season series.

As most probably remember, the Bears went (5-11) that season and ended up firing former head coach John Fox at the end of 2017. Barring something completely unexpected following next Sunday’s game, the Bears will not see many (if any) changes to the coaching staff heading into 2023.

Even so, it shows the importance of winning games within your own division. Assuming the Bears do end up losing in Week 18 (for the sake of this exercise), they’d hold an NFL-worst (1-11) conference record. A rough season was expected in Year 1 of a full-on rebuild, but one of their biggest focuses in 2023 needs to be improving within the division and conference. While it means very little to a team contending for the No. 1 overall pick, those records play big parts in tie-breaking scenarios when it comes to playoff spots and seeding. We’re seeing that play out in both conferences right now.

Chicago Bears v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

2. It’s time to sit quarterback Justin Fields. The risk outweighs the reward, and continuing to play the second-year quarterback is simply reckless at this stage of the season.

At this point, everyone needs to ask themselves one simple question. What do the Bears have to gain by allowing Fields to play any more this season? His supporting cast is arguably the worst in the league. He’s been sacked nine times in two games and hit close to twice that number. His receivers aren’t getting open, and this offense isn’t working anymore.

So, again I’ll ask: What benefit(s) do the Bears stand to gain from starting Fields again in Week 18? To me, not many, if any, at all. Not only does it provide a threat of beating a Vikings team that could rest their starters (if they don’t value the second seed), but his long-term health has to be considered, as does his confidence and any bad habits he might have picked up over these past few games.

It’s clear that NFL defenses have figured out this smoke-and-mirrors offense. Yes, Fields could break the NFL rushing record for a quarterback but is that worth risking his long-term health? I don’t think so, and despite head coach Matt Eberflus saying that Fields would play “if healthy,” I’m not convinced the Bears will see enough value to march him out there for one more meaningless game in 2022, either.

3. In a season full of one-score losses, this one just felt different. Has the weight of this rebuild finally worn down a once hard-fighting team?

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Bears have found a way to hang around in almost every game this season. Even against considerably better opponents than what they saw against the Lions on Sunday. So, what gives? That’s something this coaching staff will need to ask themselves as they review the game film from Week 17’s game.

In some ways, Sunday’s game started similarly to most this season. The Bears’ offense found success on their opening drive of the game. After a few drives in, it appeared we were on our way to an old-fashioned NFC North offensive shootout. Then the offense stopped scoring points. The issue? The defense kept giving up touchdowns, and from a fundamental standpoint, everything crumbled.

It didn’t help that they lost a pair of interior offensive linemen in the first quarter. Their health has done them very little favors over the past six weeks (or so). Despite that, the Bears have been hanging in games against top-tier teams, but they couldn’t on Sunday. To me, it has become clear that this team is simply tired. They are tired of losing, they are tired of the injuries, and frankly, I think they are tired of being outmatched.

I firmly believe that this coaching staff has done a good job of building the right culture. That same culture will help them weed out non-fits this off-season. Even so, a group of players can only take so much before the feeling of defeat sets in. I think that’s exactly where we are at this season. Thank God there’s only one game left because I’m not sure many of us could sit through another few games as we all saw on Sunday.

4. Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy’s post-mini-bye week was impressive and worked well for five weeks. But when peeling back the shell on the rest of the season, it creates a much cloudier picture heading into 2023.

At the time, it felt like Getsy’s mini-bye-week offensive revelations were too impressive to be questioned. For a five-game stretch, they averaged over 29 points per game. The issue? Outside of that fun stretch, they’ve averaged exactly 15 points per game in their other 11 games this season.

While it would be nice to simply focus on the impressive five-game stretch, we must also acknowledge that the other 11 games in which they’ve averaged 11 points have been much more of a regular occurrence. Now, they must figure out what the root cause of their issues is.

My best guess is that their supporting cast around their young quarterback has not been remotely close to being good enough. They have one of the league’s worst offensive lines and, due to injury, without question, the worst group of pass catchers. Once they drastically improve that situation, Getsy must examine whether or not going with such a strong run-first approach is setting them up for as much success as he believes. In games where the Bears have rushed for over 200 yards, they did win two of their three games. Yet, for a team that has averaged more rushing yards per game than any other team in the league, they still find themselves in the bottom half of the league in points per game.

It’ll be an off-season of self-reflection for Getsy and one where things should drastically change in terms of personnel. He should be set up with a prime opportunity to land a head coaching job in 2024, but the success of his offense will play a large role in whether or not that becomes a reality.

5. Speaking of the offense, this offensive line continues to prove that subjective statistics like “Pass Block Win Rate” rarely reflect the true story of an offensive line’s overall performance.

I’ve fought this battle all year, as we’ve continued to see the Bears’ “Pass Block Win Rate” number consistently in the top half of the league. Yet, if you’ve consistently watched this team play, you’d quickly realize that this offensive line struggles in true pass sets. This is why comparing this analytic to what you see on tape each week is such a confusing exercise.

Simply put, the Bears need to overhaul their offensive line. That might not be easy, but the good news is that the team’s general manager (Poles) and assistant general manager (Ian Cunningham) are both former offensive linemen. Now, you could wonder how these two men would think what they put around Fields was “good enough.” Then again, that would not be taking the full picture of this past off-season into account.

Fields not only survived but thrived more often than not, and we can safely check “yes” on the box that asks whether or not he’s the team’s quarterback for 2023 and beyond. Now, they must figure out how to not only fix the offensive line but drastically upgrade the pass catchers around their soon-to-be third-year quarterback.

6. With all but one game complete in the regular season, the Bears’ needs have become clear. So has the reality that this will take multiple offseasons to fix completely.

Injuries have taken their toll, and the Bears have been fielding some pretty rough-looking active rosters since the mid-point in the season. With that being said, this is a team that severely lacks talent at almost every spot on the depth chart. That’s pretty normal for a rebuilding team, but the reality that this might take multiple years to truly turn this around needs to be realized.

There’s always a chance they can have an impressive turnaround and contend for a Wild Card spot next year. We’ve seen teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants have improbable turnarounds over the past few years. The biggest difference between those teams and the Bears? Chicago has not had multiple years of high first-round picks to help build their team up. They’ve had just one first-round pick dating back to 2019, and that was Justin Fields.

This is not meant to discourage fans or paint a doom and gloom type of picture. It’s meant to say that while this will likely be the toughest year to watch, their troubles are far from over, and the growing pains will continue through next year. Yes, the Bears will have close to $110 million in true cap space to work with, and they’ll also have plenty of high picks in each round. Even so, it will take time to build this thing back up. Not only do they need 10-plus above-average starters, but they also need to add to their depth, and that usually comes through the draft.

I still expect the Bears to drastically improve their team this off-season, and depending on how well the off-season goes, I could see them winning eight or nine games. But again, patience is going to be required, and this is not going to magically fix itself overnight. It was the Bears’ only option, and it’s always the best option if done right.

7. Week 17 draft positioning update: With one week left to go, the Bears’ draft picture is down to four slots.

The top four in the draft did not change in Week 17. Here’s where things stand heading into the final week of the season.

  1. (2-13-1) Houston Texans (At Indianapolis Colts)
  2. (3-13) Chicago Bears (Vs Minnesota Vikings)
  3. (4-12) Denver Broncos (vs Los Angeles Chargers)
  4. (4-12) Arizona Cardinals (At San Francisco 49ers)

These are the only teams that matter now for the Bears’ draft positioning. This also means that the worse the Bears can do is the No. 4 overall pick, which is a great spot to be in but far from their best scenario.

There are five ways things can break come Sunday, and we’ll go over each one of them here.

Scenario 1: (No. 1 overall pick) Texans win and Bears lose.

Scenario 2: (No. 2 overall pick) Bears and Texans both lose.

Scenario 3: (No. 2 overall pick) Bears, Broncos, and Cardinals all win.

Scenario 4: (No. 3 overall pick) Bears win, one of the Broncos or Cardinals win, and the other loses.

Scenario 5: (No. 4 overall pick) Bears win and both the Broncos and Cardinals lose.

The top two scenarios seem like the most likely, but as we’ve seen, the last week of the season can always draw some interesting results. By all accounts, the Texans have been playing considerably better than the Colts. The Colts (disregarding record) might be the worst team in football. The Bears are also playing a Vikings team that will very likely play their starters as they will be fighting for the second seed. The second seed would guarantee Minnesota a pair of home playoff games, assuming they win in the Wild Card round.

Things get a little more worrisome if the Bears win. It’s possible but highly unlikely that both the Broncos and Cardinals would win next weekend as well. The Broncos may have the best chance since the Chargers have clinched a playoff spot with little to play for. The Cardinals will be facing a 49ers team that is still in the running for the first seed while currently holding the second seed.

If the Bears lose, the worst they can do is No. 2 overall. If they win, they could fall two slots to No. 4 overall without a win from the pair of teams in front of them. It’s also worth noting that the Colts, despite having four wins, do not factor into this due to their Week 1 tie. Buckle in. This is going to be a very interesting Week 18 for reasons most Bears fans are not used to.

8. Examining potential trade down partners in April’s draft.

With the team’s draft placement becoming more apparent after Sunday’s results, we can start to safely start projecting if and where the Bears could potentially trade down and add more picks.

Their best bet for a lucrative trade down would be at No. 1 or No. 2. So, simply put... If the Bears lose, they’re going to be in a great spot to either trade down and land a potential franchise-changing draft-day haul or land an elite defender. If they do end up at No. 3 or No. 4, there’s still a chance for a trade, but their chances go down drastically.

If the Bears land one of the Top 2 picks in the draft, they’ll be looking at quarterback-needy teams. It’s possible that the third quarterback could end up going No. 3 or No. 4 overall, so we’ll include the same group for those picks as well.

Without going too much into detail before free agency and any trades, let’s take a look at teams that could make sense in a trade-down scenario.

1. Houston Texans (if the Bears land the No. 1 overall pick)

This could be the best-case scenario, assuming Houston has a strong feeling for one of these quarterbacks (presumably, Alabama’s Bryce Young). The Bears could deal down one spot, possibly pick up Houston’s 2nd first-round pick (or a 2024 first-round pick and another high 2023 pick), and see where they stand at No. 2 overall.

2. Indianapolis Colts

It feels like general manager Chris Ballard has to make a move for a quarterback, right? I’m not talking about a trade for another veteran like Derek Carr. I’m talking about a long-term, expensive swing at a quarterback in the draft. It’s quite possible that the Colts could pay a premium to jump in front of a divisional rival like the Texans to land that quarterback. The good news? If the Bears lose on Sunday, they could hold the keys to the Colts’ only real shot at one of the Top 2 quarterbacks, and that’s a good spot to be in. The Colts (currently sitting at No. 5 overall) would likely stay there (barring a Broncos or Cardinals win), which means the Bears could deal down and still sit in the Top 5. That would require multiple picks and could cost multiple first-rounders (on top of a Day 2 pick in 2023).

3. Detroit Lions

Jared Goff has played surprisingly well, and Detroit could end up staying with him for another year or two. That said, it makes a lot of sense for them to land their quarterback now and start that developmental process without a ton of pressure for them to rush a rookie into the mix. The Lions currently hold a pair of 2023 first-round picks (No. 6 and No. 17 currently). The Bears could find a way to land both of those picks, among another future pick or two.

4. Las Vegas Raiders

It appears Carr’s time with the Raiders is finally over. He was “benched” for the final two games and is not even around the team. The biggest reason for the benching, according to reports? Injury guarantees. You only worry about that when you plan on a player not being around for the next season and beyond. The Raiders are in a weird spot, but they do currently pick No. 7 overall and have a regime in its first year. This would be another “power move,” but one that could yield a desperate return.

5. Carolina Panthers

Will the Panthers finally get their quarterback situation solved? April will mark the second anniversary which they passed on Fields. They’ve traded for Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield, but neither has panned out as they had hoped. Darnold has been playing better as of late, but it’s pretty clear he’s not the type of quarterback that can lead them to a Super Bowl. Wouldn’t it be something if the Bears ended up landing a King’s Ransom in return for a pick that they’ll use on a quarterback, just two drafts after passing on Fields? Carolina currently sits at No. 9 overall. They also fired former head coach Matt Rhule earlier in the season, but their late-season run has pushed them into a tough spot come draft day.

6. Atlanta Falcons

At No. 8 overall is another interesting team. They were yet another team that passed on Fields in favor of Kyle Pitts at No. 4 overall in 2021. They signed Marcus Mariota this past off-season, but he was later benched for rookie Desmond Ridder, who performed poorly in his short stint as the team’s starter. Head coach Arthur Smith is a good offensive mind, but he needs a quarterback to get this team over the hump. They fall into a similar category as the Panthers but could try Ridder for another year before making the jump for a quarterback.

7. Washington Commanders

Finally, we’ll touch on the Commanders. It feels like they’ve been trying to piece together their quarterback position for years without much success. What was once an impressive season quickly came crashing down when both quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke and Carson Wentz failed to get the job done down the stretch. Now that they are eliminated from the playoffs, they might want to make a big move to salvage a top-end defense that is doing nothing but getting older.

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers Photo by Kayla Wolf/Getty Images

9. NFC North Check-in: A pivotal Week 18 divisional matchup to potentially decide the NFC’s final Wild Card Spot.

The Vikings could be riding high heading into Week 18 had they not been blown out on the road by the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon. Instead of fighting for the first seed, they’re stuck hoping that they can beat the Bears and that the 49ers will lose to a struggling Arizona Cardinals team. Minnesota has no path to the top seed in the NFC anymore.

The Packers and Lions head into a pivotal Week 18 matchup. Both teams are still in the running for the seventh seed (final Wild Card spot). If the Packers win, they are in. If the Lions win, they would need the Seattle Seahawks to lose. Despite the Seahawks currently holding the lead (due to a three-way tie), they’ll need a win and a Packers loss to make it in.

The Bears are the lone team fighting for a top draft selection, but we’ve already beaten that into the ground.

If the Packers win and the Vikings grab back the second seed, the two teams would meet for a third time on Wild Card weekend in Minnesota. Despite splitting the season series, I can’t imagine the Vikings would be feeling too good about that matchup.

10. Week 18 look ahead: The (12-4) Minnesota Vikings who are playing for the second seed in the NFC.

Heading into Week 17, the Vikings were still in the running for the top seed in the NFC. After an embarrassing 41-17 blowout loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field, things appear much different. If the 49ers win their Week 18 matchup, Minnesota is locked into the third seed, no matter what they do against the Bears. With a 49ers loss, they could take back the second seed with a win on Sunday at Soldier Field.

For the Bears, it’s all a matter of who ends up playing on Sunday. Eberflus did say that Fields would play “if healthy,” but with the number of hits Fields took on Sunday and the continued issues he’s having with his legs, they could very easily play it safe and sit him for the final game. That still feels unlikely, but with Teven Jenkins and Michael Schofield unlikely to play Sunday, is it in their best interest to risk injury to their franchise quarterback? Only time will tell.

All in all, most Bears fans are just hoping the Vikings will play their starters for the entirety of Sunday’s game. Right now, that seems likely. If so, it’s hard to see how the Bears pull off a win against a 12-win Vikings team still playing for something. Either way, try to enjoy the game because this will be the last “meaningful” football the Bears will play for close to nine months.