Bears fans prefer Khalil Mack over Aaron Donald by wide margin

Bears fans prefer Khalil Mack over Aaron Donald by wide margin

While most of the attention around Sunday night's showdown between the Chicago Bears (4-5) and Los Angeles Rams (5-4) has been on both teams' struggling quarterbacks and underperforming offenses, the defensive side of the ball will provide fans with a rare opportunity to watch two future Hall-of-Famers: Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald.

Mack, who despite falling into a bit of a slump by his standards, remains the Bears' headline player. His 5.5 sacks through nine games put him on pace for just under 10 on the year, which would be the first time since his rookie season that he failed to reach double digits. 

Donald, meanwhile, is also experiencing a regression in his production. He had a remarkable 20.5 sacks in 2018 but is on pace for just under 11 sacks in 2019, which is actually right around his yearly average. And let's face it: last season was his career-year.

The analytics paint a clearer picture for how well Mack and Donald have played this season. Mack's 89.4 grade from Pro Football Focus ranks him seventh among edge defenders, but keep in mind that third place is currently held by 49ers rookie Nick Bosa with an 89.7. Mack can easily end the year at or near the top once again. 

Donald, on the other hand, doesn't have to make a run to reach the top of the interior defenders' list. He owns PFF's highest grade with a 92.9. In fact, Donald's grade is the highest for any defensive player in the NFL entering Week 11.

So, yeah, the Bears' interior offensive line trio of Cody Whitehair, James Daniels and Rashaad Coward have their work cut out for them.

But even with Donald having such a fantastic season and Mack struggling a bit over the last month or so, Bears fans are still all-in on No. 52. We ran a poll on Twitter asking which of these two superstars fans would rather have in Chicago, and the results were overwhelmingly in Mack's favor.

Is this a because of fan bias? Maybe. But the annual conversation about who will win the league's defensive player of the year always includes these two guys; it's not unreasonable to think 81 percent of Bears fans would prefer the edge rusher over the interior disrupter. Although, with the way the NFL's passing offenses are evolving, we're seeing more and more evidence that interior disruption is as valuable (if not more valuable) as pressure off the edge. Let's see how a poll like this shakes out a year from now.

Mack and Donald represent the worst possible reality for a struggling quarterback. The last guy Jared Goff wants chasing him down is Mack, and Donald busting through the offensive line is a nightmare-turned-reality for Mitch Trubisky. It'll be must-see TV.

Kickoff between the Bears and Rams is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. CST on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

Chris Simms says Bears are a dangerous team entering Week 15

Chris Simms says Bears are a dangerous team entering Week 15

The Bears have completely flipped the narrative of their 2019 season over the last three weeks, thanks in large part to Matt Nagy's offense finally resembling the 202-level that was promised last summer.

It may have taken quarterback Mitch Trubisky a little longer than expected to arrive this year, but if his last two games are an indication of his development in his second season under Nagy's tutelage, the Bears have a bonafide quarterback. And it's been a while since that could be said.

"Mitchell Trubisky is hot, there's no doubt about it," NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms said Thursday. "He seems so much more comfortable. Decisive. He's accurate with the football. Running around at the proper time. I don't think it was all Mitchell Trubisky's fault with the struggles of the offense, either."

Those struggles spanned the first half of 2019 when Chicago seemed incapable of sustaining drives or scoring points. It began with Week 1's three-point output against the Packers and continued through Thanksgiving Day when Trubisky finally got his mojo back, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions.

With Trubisky clicking, and the running game receiving a jolt from rookie David Montgomery's productive back-to-back weeks (in which he's averaged more than four yards per carry in successive games for the first time all year), the Bears appear capable of beating just about anyone. 

They'll need to. If Chicago wants to keep their weak playoff pulse going, they have to win out. And that includes games against the Packers, Chiefs and Vikings. 

The odds seem stacked against them, and it's their own fault. It took way too long to get the offense going, but it's better late than never. 

According to Simms, the Bears are that team no one wants to play.

"They're a dangerous team right now. They really are."

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Bears QB Big Board, 6.0: It's Mitch Trubisky's job to lose

Bears QB Big Board, 6.0: It's Mitch Trubisky's job to lose

Just when it appeared like Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky was entering his final half-season as the team's unquestioned starting quarterback, the last month happened.

Trubisky's play has steadily improved over the last five games and reached what may have been his watermark moment in Week 14 against the Cowboys. He completed 74% of his passes for 244 yards and three passing touchdowns while adding a season-high 63 rushing yards and a score on the ground. It marked the second week in a row that Trubisky's completed over 74% of his passes; he connected on 76% of his throws a week earlier against the Lions.

Trubisky's recent success is a far cry from the mentally broken player he was after the first month of the season. He has his confidence back. In fact, he's playing with more confidence than he's ever shown as a pro. His recent success is a direct and obvious result of his evolution between the ears.

The Bears were circled as a team that was likely to be in the quarterback market this offseason because of how terrible Trubisky looked early in 2019. And there's still a chance that GM Ryan Pace will look to add some healthy competition to the roster, but if Trubisky continues to play well, that competition will be for the backup job. 

It's also worth noting that one of the more appealing quarterback targets this offseason probably won't make it to the open market. Titans starter Ryan Tannehill continues to enjoy a remarkable comeback season and appears destined to sign a long-term extension with Tennessee sooner than later. After Tannehill, the discount quarterback rack includes names like Andy Dalton and Marcus Mariota, players who a month ago would've been viewed as marked upgrades over Trubisky.

It doesn't feel like that's the case anymore.

Barring a massive regression from Trubisky over the next three games, it's starting to feel like he's winning back Chicago's confidence one game at a time. 

With all that in mind, here's the updated Bears QB Big Board entering Week 15:

Bears QB Big Board (Dec. 12, 2019)

1. Mitch Trubisky (Bears)
previous: 2 (Dec. 3)

2. Andy Dalton (Bengals)
previous: 1 (Dec. 3)

3. Ryan Tannehill (Titans)
previous: 3  (Dec. 3)

4. Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma)
previous: 4 (Dec. 3)

5. Marcus Mariota (Titans)
previous: 5 (Dec. 3)

6. Teddy Bridgewater (Saints)
previous: 6 (Dec. 3)

Outside looking in (list cut down to three)...

-Jake Fromm (Georgia)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

-Jameis Winston (Buccaneers)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

- Cam Newton (Panthers)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

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