Not unlike Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky, it's Year 2 of First and Final Thoughts. Insider JJ Stankevitz and producer Cam Ellis talk about what's on their minds between games.
Final Thoughts on Week 9
J.J. Stankevitz: Let's talk about the defense for a bit here. What we saw against the Eagles was, as Cam wrote after Sunday's game, a microcosm of what they are in 2019: Good, but not elite. Opposing offenses will have trouble scoring touchdowns against this group, and it's good enough to force a handful of important three-and-outs over the course of a game.
But it's not getting the kind of game-altering plays it so frequently came up with in 2018. Eddie Jackson is halfway into his third year in the NFL and doesn't have an interception. Khalil Mack has one sack in his last four games. Akiem Hicks' absence has proven to be even more massive than initially thought both against the run and pass.
So what you get is not only a defense that can't get off the field on four third downs on the Eagles' final drive, but doesn't come up with a turnover or forced fumble to flip the game in their favor. This'll probably be a defense that finishes in the top 10 or 12 in DVOA, but that's proven to be more than enough regression to sink the Bears from NFC North champions to, potentially, last place in the division.
Cam Ellis: Between the 53-yard catch on Sunday and the three-touchdown performance against Washington, it's easy to see what kind of weapon Taylor Gabriel would be in a good offense. Overall, his season stats are underwhelming – but he's some missed time and also so are everyone else's. It's hard to say that any part of Bears' offense matches up well against even bad defenses, but the Trubisky-Gabriel deep ball is clearly one of the few things that's working for them. Maybe the key to getting some of that much-discussed confidence back is hitting on some of those early against the Lions.
First Thoughts on Week 10
Stankevitz: Speaking of last place: Do we think the loser of Sunday's Bears-Lions game is destined for last place in the NFC North? The Bears or Lions have finished last in the NFC North in 13 of the division's 17 years in its current existence.
The Lions are 3-4-1 and still have Washington, Tampa Bay and Denver left on their schedule (the Bears' only other "easy" game left: At home against the New York Giants). The guess here is Detroit finishes with at least a 6-9-1 record; if the Lions beat the Bears on Sunday, it'd probably relegate the Bears right back to the basement of the NFC North for the fifth time in six years.
Ellis: It certainly feels like the Bears and Lions are playing on Sunday with the distinct honor of finishing last in the NFC North on the line. The Lions seem beatable on paper – ranking 13th and 24th in offensive and defensive DVOA, respectively – but then again, so do the Bears. Matt Stafford is quietly having the best season of his career, currently ranked 4th in passing yards (2,499). Statistically speaking, the Bears' pass defense (7th in DVOA) has regressed less than the run defense (12th), so you can lean on that for optimism if you're feeling up to it. Technically speaking, there's still a path to the playoffs for the Bears, but it's hard to see that being the case after another divisional loss. Who wants to officially go into Spoiler Mode, and who wants to keep pretending for a little longer?