Bears

ICYMI: The Bears lose in OT, the Bulls season nears, the Blackhawks make history

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USA TODAY

ICYMI: The Bears lose in OT, the Bulls season nears, the Blackhawks make history

The Bears suffered a heartbreaking defeat (that makes two of those), but the Bulls are days away from the start of a new season and the Blackhawks did something that has never happened before in sports history.

Bears

The Bears had a slow first half, failing to score against the shorthanded Dolphins, but picked things up in the third quarter. It all fell apart late in the fourth quarter and then again in overtime in a 31-28 defeat. Miami went up against the Bears without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but Brock Osweiler threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns. What does that say about the Bears' defense?

Matt Nagy was a bit chippy with the media after the game, but there were still positive signs from the offense.

Plus, Dwyane Wade was there and repped the Bears on the road.

Bulls

The Bulls wrapped up the preseason Friday with a 98-93 loss to the Nuggets. Wendell Carter Jr. and Bobby Portis both showed well in the preseason finale and Jabari Parker flashed his potential as well.

With the preseason complete, Mark Strotman graded each player on the Bulls roster. You may not want to calculate the team GPA.

The roster is being finalized as well, with Ryan Arcidiacono making the team and local product Tyler Ulis getting picked up off waivers.

Blackhawks

Saturday was an eventful day for the Blackhawks. First, it marked the 1,000th career game for Duncan Keith. Keith talked about the emotional night after the game.

As for the game itself, the Blackhawks beat the Blues 4-3 in overtime. That was the second time the Hawks beat the Blues in OT this season, adding to a 5-4 OT win in St. Louis on Oct. 6.

Unbelievably, that was the fifth straight OT game for the Blackhawks. Every game has gone to overtime this season, and not one of those has even gone to a shootout. No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Overtimes are more rare in other sports, but that also holds true for the NBA, NFL and MLB.

The Hawks don't play against until Thursday, when the host Arizona.

What’s at stake for the Bears in Sunday Night’s pivotal NFC North battle

What’s at stake for the Bears in Sunday Night’s pivotal NFC North battle

The Bears aren’t viewing Sunday night’s game against the Minnesota Vikings as an opportunity to make a statement. But this also isn’t just another game — it’s the Bears’ best opportunity to take control of a division in which they’ve been mired at the bottom for the last five years. 

“You could say whatever you want in these situations,” outside linebacker Khalil Mack said. “Ultimately, it’s all about getting a win — playing as a team and getting a win. You can’t really get too caught up in the hype. You gotta let that stuff roll off your shoulders and go out and ball, and that’s the mindset of this team, we’re going to go out and ball.”

The Bears enter Sunday with an 86.7 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders. Their chance of winning the division is 68.9 percent, and the most likely playoff seed they’re in line for is No. 3 (35 percent). The Vikings, meanwhile, have a 43.8 percent chance of making the playoffs, and only a 17.4 percent chance of winning the division.

If the Bears win, here’s how the top three in the NFC North would look:

Bears: 7-3
Vikings: 5-4-1
Packers: 4-5-1

The Bears would be 1 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota and 2 1/2 games ahead of Green Bay. But how could that play out with these teams’ remaining schedules?

Bears: 

@ Detroit (Thanksgiving)
@ New York Giants
vs. Los Angeles Rams
vs. Green Bay
@ San Francisco 
@ Minnesota

Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, and the Lions, Giants and 49ers won’t lose the rest of their games this year (especially at home). But at worst, the Bears can reasonably expect to win two of those three games against divisional bottom-feeders, and then one of three games against the Packers, Rams and Vikings. That almost seems like the worst-case scenario, and in it, the Bears get to 10-6. It’s easy to see how, with a win over Minnesota on Sunday night, 11-5 or even 12-4 could be in play. 

The Vikings, meanwhile, have a difficult road ahead:

vs. Green Bay
@ New England
@ Seattle (Monday night)
vs. Miami
@ Detroit
vs. Chicago

The Packers’ path is considerably easier:

@ Minnesota
vs. Arizona
vs. Atlanta
@ Chicago
@ New York Jets
vs. Detroit

But Green Bay probably can only afford one more loss. There’s a very real scenario in which the Bears knock the Packers out of playoff contention with a win at Soldier Field Dec. 16. 

As for the Vikings — a loss to the Bears Sunday night drops them to 5-4-1, though they could hang in the division race by taking two of three from that Green Bay-New England-Seattle stretch, then sweeping their final three games. 

The flip side to all this is what happens if the Bears lose: The Vikings would slide past the Bears into first place with a 6-3-1 record. It wouldn’t knock the Bears out of the NFC North race, not with the way each team’s schedule lines up. 

But psychologically, the effects of losing to the Vikings for the Bears could be longer-lasting than merely losing first place by half a game. Just as psychologically, the effects of beating the Vikings could have a longer-lasting impact than padding their lead in the division to 1 1/2 games. 

“We know it's a big game coming up,” left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said. “But all we've got to do is take care of our job. Do our job, block all the noise out and take care of business.”

Bears-Vikings is most tightly contested game of Week 11

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USA TODAY

Bears-Vikings is most tightly contested game of Week 11

With so much parity in the NFL, every week on the schedule has close matchups. This weekend, though, the Bears and the Minnesota Vikings are expected to play the closest.

NFL experts trying to predict Sunday night’s matchup are torn on who they think is going to win, but Chicago has the slight advantage according to NFL Pick Watch.

55 percent of experts are picking the Bears to extend their NFC North lead, the closest margin of predictions for any game this week.

Even Monday night’s contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams has a larger majority supporting Jared Goff and company at 60 percent.

The analytics are also in agreement in support of Matt Nagy in prime time. Microsoft Cortana, FiveThirtyEight, Number Fire and Pro Football Focus analytics are all among the majority picking the Bears.

Our own J.J. Stankevitz predicts they could have statement game to establish themselves as a legitimate contender this season.

Chicago is favored by a slight margin on Las Vegas sportsbooks, but in the battle for first place in the division, anything can happen.