Bears

Making the case for remaining optimistic about the Bears' 2019 season

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USA Today

Making the case for remaining optimistic about the Bears' 2019 season

I woke up on Friday morning with a bizarre sense of confidence that there was a way to make a compelling case for staying optimistic about the Bears’ season. It’s strange to be operating at this much of a panic while the Bears go into the bye week with a winning record – an objectively good thing. The Browns and Chargers are 2-3! Is this naive? Yeah! But let’s give it a go: 

The Defense

It’s still really good! -fin- 

Headed into the bye, they’re the fifth-best defense in terms of DVOA. And sure, last year at this time they were first, but they’re still a top-10 defense against both the pass and rush, and that’ll keep enough games close to keep the Bears in playoff contention. Not having Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols for almost half the season has hurt them on the ground (10th in DVOA) but – optimism! – it sounds like Nichols is close to returning. The same can’t be said about Akiem Hicks, but – optimism! – Nagy also indicated that his elbow injury isn’t season-ending. Nichols finished last season as the Bears’ third-best run-stopper on the line, per Pro Football Focus, so he’ll be a welcome addition back to a group that all of a sudden looks pretty deep again. 

The defense was historically great last season and Brock Osweiler put 31 on them in Week 6. NFL offenses can also be good. It’s not why they lost to the Raiders, but the challenges of taking a transatlantic red-eye and then trying to stop Josh Jacobs – who’s very good – without two of your best interior linemen and a limited Roquan Smith are not hard to imagine. They still have the NFL’s best pass-rusher, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Eddie Jackson, and Deon Bush all among PFF’s top-20 safeties. They haven’t even had The Eddie Jackson Game yet, which is not at all backed by any sort of predictive statistic but will absolutely still happen. 

The Schedule

It sucks! They have the second-toughest rest of the way, per Football Outsiders, and on the surface, games against the Saints, Chargers, Eagles, and Rams over the next six weeks make this the most daunting stretch of Matt Nagy’s tenure. But we’re still doing the optimism schtick – optimism! – so we forge on: 

- Teddy Bridgewater’s been great for the Saints, who have yet to lose since he started in place of the injured Drew Brees. Wins against Seattle (on the road) and Dallas make it look even better. But taking a look at the defenses that Bridgewater lined up against tells a slightly different story: 

 

TEAM

Overall Def. (DVOA)

Run Def. (DVOA)

Pass Def. (DVOA)

Seattle

13th

16th

19th

Dallas 

19th

20th

17th

Tampa Bay

22nd

1st (!!)

22nd

Tampa held Alvin Kamara to 62 yards, but Bridgewater torched a bad Buccaneers secondary for 314 through the air. New Orleans hasn’t seen a defense as balanced or talented as the Bears yet, and considering their own defense (20th overall, 20th pass, 17th rush) isn’t superb, there’s space for optimism here. 

- The Chargers have a whole bunch of injury issues, an average offense and a bad defense. Their only road win of the year so far came against Miami, and the Lions – who have admittedly looked good so far – held them to 10 points in Detroit. There's also all a fair bit of noise – should you choose to believe it – regarding just how miserable it is for West Coast teams to play in games that kickoff at 12 p.m. If the Bears still view themselves as title contenders, this is starting to feel more and more like a game they should be confident about winning. 

- The Rams have also looked aggressively average so far. Their defense has allowed the eight-most points (134), and rank towards the bottom of the league in first downs per game (21.2) and 3rd down completion percentage (41). And yeah, none of this means a lot if the offense continues to look like it has, but Mitch Trubisky is going to get plenty of opportunities against some very meh defenses if he’s back by Week 7. 

As you’ve surely heard by now, the Bears were 3-3 at this time last year. But so were the Texans, who finished 11-5 and won the AFC South. So were the Cowboys, who finished 10-6 and won the NFC East. The Lions were 3-3 this time last year and finished 6-10. This season, Antonio Brown lost $30 million guaranteed in a month around the same time Baker Mayfield was a MVP frontrunner. Things change fast in the NFL. 

The good news, as it pertains to these next eight weeks or so, is that the Bears are 7-2 at home in the Matt Nagy era. Both of those losses – last year against the Patriots in Week 7 and the 2019 opener against Green Bay – came by one touchdown. They keep their games – even against great teams coughRamsLastYearcough – at Soldier Field close, which in theory bodes well for tough upcoming home matchups against the Saints, Cowboys, and Chiefs. 

The bad news are the road games in Green Bay, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and apparently Detroit? While there are certainly a few L's to be had there, the Nagy-era Bears have also never lost a road game by more than one score. Maybe that changes this season, but Nagy's Bears have never given fans a reason to believe they wont win any given game. 

Obviously none of this matters if the offense doesn’t get any better, and there are only two quarters of gametape from this season that would provide any hope. The Bears were never going to turn into the Chiefs overnight, but they also don’t need to keep up with the Chiefs, either. There’s still a realistic path to the playoffs in front of them, you just have to squint a bit harder to see it. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Cowboys' Jerry Jones: 'Chicago took it to us. They deserved the win'

Cowboys' Jerry Jones: 'Chicago took it to us. They deserved the win'

The Bears dismantled the Cowboys on Thursday night to improve to 7-6 and all of a sudden it's Super Bowl or bust again.

Chicago took a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter and never looked back despite the Cowboys making things interesting down the stretch. 

But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave credit where credit is due while acknowledging the Soldier Field beatdown they were dealt.

"Chicago took it to us," Jones said, via the NFL Network. "They deserved the win."

Bears fans are jumping back on the playoffs bandwagon faster than kids hurdling fences to sneak into Lollapalooza.

Chicago is officially looking ahead toward a Bears-Packers game and the excitement level is at pre-Week 1 levels of hype after beating the Cowboys on Thursday night.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Anthony Miller thanks Bears fans after win over Cowboys, says Packers are next

Anthony Miller thanks Bears fans after win over Cowboys, says Packers are next

Entering Week 14's game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Chicago Bears' road to the playoffs was considered the most challenging in the NFL because of the opponents left on their schedule.

It kicked off Thursday night against the Cowboys, who the Bears thrashed 31-24 (the game wasn't nearly as close as the final score) and will continue in Week 15 against Aaron Rodgers and the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers.

Wide receivers Anthony Miller and Allen Robinson contributed to Chicago's big win Thursday and celebrated together in the Soldier Field tunnel on the walk back to the Bears' locker room.  And that's when Miller upped the ante, saying the Packers are next on Chicago's hit list.

Miller finished Week 14 with three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown, while Robinson caught five balls for 48 yards and two scores. The duo was a big part of Mitch Trubisky's signature game of 2019 in front of a national audience.

The Bears are in the midst of a series of one-game seasons at this point, and there'd be no better way for them to continue their quest to the post-season by upending the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.