Welcome into First and Final Thoughts, one of our weekly columns with a title that's a little too on the nose. Here we'll have Insider J.J Stankevitz and Producers Cam Ellis and Paul Aspan give some insight into what's on their minds between games.
Final Thoughts on Week 11
Paul Aspan: “Who do you block?” That was Akiem Hicks’ response when asked about the Bears defensive dominance against the Vikings. Khalil Mack & Eddie Jackson continued to add to the Bears NFL-leading 27 takeaways, but it was Hicks who (continued to) set the tone from the very first drive by blowing up a 3rd and inches and forcing the Vikings into a 3 and out.
The Bears put everyone on notice on the national stage that yes, they are for real and in control of the NFC North, in a 25-20 win that wasn’t even that close.
Monday & Tuesday did bring an unwelcome surprise with the news that Mitchell Trubisky’s status is in doubt for Thursday’s short turnaround against the Lions. Anytime the franchise QB lands on the injury report is unnerving but the good news is that Matt Nagy is at least saying it’s not a long term concern. So even if Mitch misses Thursday, he’ll have 10 more days to rest up for the final month.
Cam Ellis: Based in tiny part to his incredible play but mostly due to this hilarious mic'd up video, this seems like the time and the place to give Akeim Hicks his due. If the Patriots hadn't spent the last 20 years getting rid of their best defensive talent far too early, it'd almost be surprising that they let Hicks walk after the 2016 season. In the first year as a Bear, Hicks put up a career-best 8.5 sacks, and he's been one of the highest-rated defensive linemen in football this season:
He's probably headed to the Pro Bowl this season, and if not for Bryce Callahan, Hicks would probably be considered the best defensive player not named Khalil Mack.
JJ Stankevitz: Three guys, basically, made the Pro Bowl on Sunday night between Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack and Eddie Jackson. Mack was probably going to the Pro Bowl already, but what Hicks did with five (!) tackles for a loss and a sack should earn him his first career Pro Bowl bid. And Jackson's pick-six made a statement to a national audience about the safety's ball skills, both before and after he creates a turnover. Making the Pro Bowl matters to these guys, and there's no better way to state your case than with a big game in front of a primetime national audience. That's exactly what these guys did against the Vikings.
First Thought on Week 12
Aspan: So Chase Daniel huh? The 85 hour turnaround was always going to be a challenge but that certainly adds another wrinkle if Trubisky is forced to watch from the sidelines. But this is still the same Lions team that allowed the Bears six sacks just two weeks ago. That doesn’t just fix itself. This is also the same leaky secondary - that despite beating the Panthers - allowed D.J. Moore to catch 7 passes for 157 yards and a TD, one week after allowing Anthony Miller and Allen Robinson 100 yard days.
The Bears are clearly the better team, regardless of who’s playing quarterback. This game will probably be closer than it should be, but here’s to counting on the Bears to back up Sunday night’s showing with another W.
Ellis: While having a QB show up on the injury is never a good thing, the Bears' situation is about as good as you can expect, given the circumstances. The Lions have the the 29th ranked overall defense by DVOA, so theoretically a Chase Daniel offense could hand the ball off enough to not lose. The 30th ranked secondary in the NFL isn't going to be *that* much better against Chase Daniel than they would Mitch Trubisky. Next week? The Giants have the 27th ranked pass defense and are the 20th ranked rush group. All things considered, it could be a lot worse. There's a reason Daniel is one of the highest-paid backups in football.
Stankevitz: The Bears exercised caution with Allen Robinson and Khalil Mack earlier this year, opting to hold both players out of games against bottom-feeding opponents when they weren't 100 percent. While the Lions are 4-6 and not necessarily the same kind of bad the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills are, they're not as talented a team as the Bears, so perhaps there's a certain calculus for Matt Nagy here. If Trubisky isn't 100 percent -- and, more importantly, if his play will be affected by his shoulder injury and/or there's a risk of the issue getting worse with playing -- then perhaps resting him against the last-place Lions, and potentially the last-place New York Giants on Dec. 2, fits with the cautious pattern this team has used this year. And that's not to criticize it: The Bears have been remarkably healthy this year, and plenty of credit goes to the plan put in place by Nagy, Andre Tucker, Jen Gibson and the Bears' training staff. Perhaps resting Trubisky on Thursday would fit with that.
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