The Bears are 15-35 since the beginning of 2015, and haven’t been over .500 in four years. So this team is in no position to feel overly confident about any game — even if it’s against a team that’s played horrendous football the first two weeks of the season.
After all, the Bears were in a similar position a year ago to the one the Arizona Cardinals face this week: An 0-2 team, coming off a brutal loss with its veteran quarterback struggling, is a 6 1/2-point home underdog in Week 3.
The Bears, facing those circumstances, beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-17 in overtime a year ago. That Steelers team went on to win the AFC North and make the playoffs.
The point being: “Any Sunday, I’m sure you guys heard that a million times — any Sunday somebody else could win,” as defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. “That’s why they’re dangerous.”
The Cardinals are hardly bereft of talent. Chandler Jones led the NFL in sacks last year with 17, while fellow edge rusher Markus Golden (12 1/2 sacks in 2016) could be back on Sunday. Running back David Johnson was one of the NFL’s best offensive players in 2016, though he’s struggled to get going in Arizona’s first two games this year. And wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald looks likely to make his season debut against the Bears, too.
The potential/expected returns of Golden and Fitzgerald could provide some answers for a teach desperately needing them.
“When you see a team whoever it is in whatever sport, they’re struggling, typically those are the teams you obviously need to be very careful of because of the fact that they’re looking for answers,” Nagy said. “In this league, teams are too good, coaches are too good to figure out what the answers are.”
By the numbers, though, the Cardinals through two games look like a team that’ll battle the Buffalo Bills for the No. 1 overall pick in 2019’s NFL Draft:
Scoring offense: 3 points per game (32nd)
First downs: 19 (32nd)
Third down conversion rate: 20 percent (32nd)
Yards/play: 3.7 (31st)
Total penalties: 18 (30th)
Scoring defense: 29 points per game (25th)
Passed defended: 4 (31st)
Sacks: 5 (15th)
Yards/play allowed: 6.1 (28th)
Point differential/game: -26 (31st)
So on the surface, this trip to Glendale should be a good opportunity for Mitch Trubisky and the Bears’ offense to effectively move the ball, while Vic Fangio’s defense should be teed up to clamp down on a bad offense for four quarters.
But as last year’s Bears-Steelers game proved: Mismatches on paper don’t always lead to mismatches on Sunday. Nagy, though, has been pleased with his team’s effort this week after back-to-back primetime games against high-profile opponents.
“The nice thing with our guys, I think from what I could tell this whole week of practice, was they kept the same energy all week that they had the previous two weeks in practice,” Nagy said. “So we need to translate that to the playing field. It's way too early in the season right now to worry about somebody's record and how they're playing. we can't do that and if we do that we're in trouble. I feel very good about the mindset of our team and their focus.”