For all the focus this week on Mitchell Trubisky throwing seven passes and the conservative gameplan the Bears deployed last weekend, there’s a potentially season-altering possibility on the horizon: If the Bears beat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, they’ll be 4-4 halfway through the season, which coincides with their bye week.
“It’s huge,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said. “Everybody understands the importance of this game moving into the bye week, getting a chance to start fresh after the bye. It’s huge for us.”
Beating New Orleans, of course, remains a significant hurdle to that .500 record. The Saints have won their last four games and rank fifth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA; the Bears, despite wins in back-to-back weeks, rank 27th.
But as long as the Bears’ defense continues playing as well as they have the last few weeks — the last touchdown they allowed was in the third quarter of Oct. 9’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings — this team will have a chance against even one of the NFL’s best offenses in the Saints.
A win on Sunday would be no small feat, too, given it would give the Bears a .500 record against a relatively difficult first-half schedule: The average DVOA ranking for the Bears’ opponents in their first eight games is 13; in the second half, the average opponent DVOA ranking is 16, with games against San Francisco (30) and Cleveland (31).
So if you’re the optimistic type, you can start to convince yourself that the Bears could find themselves in playoff contention, no matter how ugly or sloppy these last few wins may have seemed. Beating New Orleans isn’t a requirement for that, but it would be massive for this team’s confidence that they can at least give themselves a shot at playing meaningful games in December.
“Just get us back to zero-zero, and then it’s all full speed from there,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “I want to win every game, I’m trying to be greedy this year. But I know it takes one game at a time and it takes putting in that work and really believing in that work that you put in and pushing these guys and getting that extra work, extra film. These guys have really bought in. I’m really proud to be a part of this defense and a part of this team.”