A week ago, the Chicago Bears broke a 14-game winless streak with their 40-20 win over Washington. For many of the players on this team, the streak was only four games, as they were not with the Club in 2022. Regardless, for the Front Office, Ownership, and fans, the streak was far too long.
While that win was important, it will become less meaningful if the Bears don't continue to win some games. The next two games are very important to this franchise in that they are both home games against opponents that they should be able to beat.
This Sunday, the Bears host the one-win Minnesota Vikings, followed by a game versus the two-win Las Vegas Raiders on October 22. Winning both of those games will silence the talk about a coaching change and drafting Caleb Williams with the first pick in the Draft.
Using coach speak, let's not even talk about Las Vegas right now. Sunday's game against the Vikings is the most important game of the season. The Vikings have not been playing well, and they come into town without their most valuable player, as wide receiver Justin Jefferson will be out for at least the next four games with a hamstring injury.
The loss of Jefferson will help the Bears defend the Vikings, but don't forget the Bears have a bunch of injuries themselves. The Bears' top three running backs will likely miss the game.
Right now, the Bears offensive backfield will be made up of three players who weren't even active and, in one case, even on the team the last three games. D'Onta Forman will be the lead running back, and he hasn't dressed since game two. He will be backed up by Darryton Evans, who was signed off the Dolphins practice squad on Tuesday, and probably Robert Burns, the UDFA running back who had a strong pre-season. Burns will more than likely be elevated from the practice squad for this week's game.
The rest of the offense is in good shape and coming off two straight strong performances in which they averaged 34 points per game. Quarterback Justin Fields has played the best football of his young career the last two weeks, and the hope is that his strong play will continue. The only thing the offense needs to do better is get wide receiver Darnell Mooney more involved. If that happens, it takes the pressure off DJ Moore to produce every game.
The offensive line played well last week, and with left guard Teven Jenkins back to full strength, it should be even better this week. Yes, left tackle Braxton Jones is still on injured reserve, but backup Larry Borom played well against perhaps the best defensive line in football last week. The Viking DLine is good but not close to the caliber of Washington's line.
The key to victory won't really be the offense but rather the defense. The problem the defense has had in the early part of the season is not only having to play without several key players, but also the front seven is just about all new players who weren't with the Bears in 2022. They have been trying to learn how to play together, and last week they did.
Add to that the fact that the secondary has been made up of mostly backups because of injuries, and it's easy to see why the defense has struggled.
Last week, the group started to play well, and this week, there could be some key players back in the lineup. Both corner Jaylon Johnson and safety Eddie Jackson should be back in the lineup, and if that is indeed the case, the defense will be playing with their starting 11 for the first time in weeks.
Even with Jefferson out for Minnesota, the Bears front seven must put pressure on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins is a savvy veteran who gets the ball out very quicky and with accuracy. History has shown that if he can get pressured and hit early, his play falls off. With an extra three days' rest coming off a Thursday night game, I feel the Bears' defense will be ready to go.
Why is win important? The win last week gave both the team and fans a feel good, at least temporarily. A loss, especially to a weak Minnesota team, will bring the same negative narratives we have heard since opening day back. Remember, for the fans, the team is only as good as its last win.
A win keeps a positive momentum going. To use the 2022 Detroit Lions as an example, they lost six of their first seven games last year. The fans were calling for a coaching and QB change like we saw early this year in Chicago. The Lions, though, after that horrendous start, turned things around and won eight of their last ten and made the Playoffs. This year, the Lions are one of the better teams in the NFC. There is no reason this Bears team can't do something similar. The key is to keep improving and stay healthy.