Prior to the Bears' current three-game winning streak, the best-case scenario fans could've hoped for was meaningful December football.
Entering Week 15's game against the Packers, Chicago is 7-6 and still alive in the NFC playoff race. Those playoff chances need some help via losses from the Vikings and Rams over the final three weeks of the regular season, but the Bears need to win-out before they can start watching the scoreboard. And if this week's collection of experts picks is any indication, scoreboard watching might never happen.
According to NFL Pick Watch, 93% of experts polled think the Packers are going to snag their 11th win of the season and send the Bears home for good on Sunday. It also means Green Bay would sweep the 2019 season series, giving its fanbase undeniable bragging rights and sending Bears fans hurdling into a brutal offseason.
Dating back to the 2016 season, Chicago has lost six of the last seven meetings against the Packers.
The Bears lost Week 1's matchup against Green Bay, 10-3, in a game that featured an undefined offense and a quarterback who didn't quite look like he belonged. Things have certainly changed over the last three weeks (all Bears wins), with Mitchell Trubisky being the obvious storyline.
Trubisky is riding a hot streak into Sunday's game and is fresh off his four-touchdown game (three passing, one rushing) against an above-average Cowboys defense.
Can he keep that momentum going in a do-or-die game against Chicago's most-hated rival?
The experts certainly don't think so.
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It's early (extremely early) in the 2020 NFL Draft process, and the Bears' team needs between now and when their first pick (No. 43 overall) is on the clock are certain to change. The general consensus right now is that offensive line, tight end and quarterback will be early draft targets, but edge rusher can't be overlooked.
Leonard Floyd's failure to emerge as the pass rusher the Bears need to complement Khalil Mack is a bigger problem than GM Ryan Pace or coach Matt Nagy want to admit. In fact, Floyd's ineffective style of play could cost Chicago a chance at becoming a truly elite defense and potentially limit the astronomical upside Mack has as a generational talent.
If the Bears decide to pull the fifth-year option from Floyd, they'll have no choice but to attack the position early in the 2020 draft. It appears like they're doing their homework for that scenario, too.
Bears scouts met with Tulsa edge rusher Trevis Gipson at length following Wednesday's Senior Bowl practice, an indication that the position is at least high enough on their wish list that extensive homework on pass rushers is being done.
Gipson helped his draft stock at the Senior Bowl and was an early winner among edge rushers at the game. His practice reps confirmed his tape; the dude knows how to get to the quarterback. He had eight sacks in 2019 and plays with a high-energy style that's certain to entice Chicago's coaching staff. He isn't an elite athlete, but he has an appealing frame (34-inch arms) and powerful hands.
Gipson began the week as a late-Day-3 prospect. He helped his stock and may have jumped a round or two along the way.
The Bears didn't have much of a rookie class in 2019. Last April's draft produced just five picks, two of which didn't appear in a regular-season game for the Bears.
But the production of running back David Montgomery was enough to carry the rookie class to a top-10 ranking, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Bears checked-in at eighth.
The Bears have a strange class. They had only five picks, none before Round 3, with three of those five selections coming after Round 6. As a result, their expected return was low. Running back David Montgomery was really the only Bears' rookie to play significant snaps, and he managed to provide enough return from his third-round selection to land them at No. 8.
It's pretty remarkable that Chicago's 2019 rookie class — essentially, Montgomery — garnered this much respect from PFF. Wide receiver Riley Ridley showed signs of life late in the season and cornerback Duke Shelley will be given an opportunity to carve out a role on defense next season, but with running back Kerrith Whyte, Jr. and cornerback Stephen Denmark making no impact whatsoever (Whyte is no longer with the team), the 2019 class won't be remembered as one that laid a championship foundation in Chicago.
Sure, Montgomery has a chance to become one of the NFL's more talented starting running backs (he ended his rookie season with 889 yards and six touchdowns), but if Ridley and Shelley don't turn into legitimate contributors in 2020 or 2021, the class will go down as an epic failure for GM Ryan Pace.
Remember: The Bears didn't have a first-round pick because of the trade for outside linebacker Khalil Mack. That's a win for Pace, but it doesn't change the fact that he had five selections at his disposal and ended up with what appears to be just one impact player after their rookie seasons.