Bears

Off-week musings: Intriguing shifting tides on Bears first-place schedule

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USA TODAY

Off-week musings: Intriguing shifting tides on Bears first-place schedule

As seasons play out, most good teams improve. Some pretenders fall off. Some surprises emerge. So while the Bears were idle in their off-week (not “bye” week – a bye is when you advance in a tournament without playing, as in “first-round bye in the playoffs”) – their first-place schedule underwent some genuinely intriguing twists.

And this is all before the Green Bay Packers host the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football.

At roughly the one-third point of the season, elements of the Bears’ schedule, the preseason fifth-hardest based on combined 2018 winning percentages of their opponents, have come into some interesting focus – some parts more difficult, some not so much.

Toughening up

The New Orleans Saints (Oct. 20), who some prematurely wrote off after quarterback Drew Brees tore a ligament in his right hand, gathered even more downhill momentum with Teddy Bridgewater, in place of Brees. Simply put, Bridgewater has consistently played like the No. 1 pick he once was in Minnesota with his career on the Pro Bowl trajectory it was before his catastrophic knee injury in the Vikings’ 2016 training camp.

The 5-1 Saints’ 13-6 win over Jacksonville was their fourth in four Bridgewater starts, with him completing nearly 70 percent of his passes with seven touchdown passes vs. two interceptions over those starts.

Meanwhile, the Vikings (Dec. 29), the same Minnesota Vikings whom the Bears seemingly extinguished a couple weeks back, put 38 points on the Philadelphia Eagles to reach 4-2 with quarterback Kirk Cousins throwing for four touchdowns, three to Stefon Diggs.

Why this particularly matters is that Cousins has completed 44 of 56 passes over his past two games and suddenly looks like anything but the supposed weak link in a team with Super Bowl aspirations and talent. If Cousins is in fact emerging as the quarterback the Vikings thought they were getting, this is a serious concern the Bears.

The Vikings already run the football better than the Bears. They are the equal of the Bears on defense. If they’ve now gained an edge on the Bears at quarterback… .

Out (AFC) West

On the hopeful side, the once-thought-invincible Kansas City Chiefs (Dec. 22) lost for the second straight week to a team that committed to running the football. On its 41 rushing attempts, Houston netted 192 yards and three touchdowns, which are nearly as many yards as the Bears have rushed for in their last three games combined, and one more touchdown than the Bears have rushed for all season.

The Texans-Chiefs game was the first meeting between the quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) that coach Matt Nagy was involved in drafting at Kansas City, and the quarterback (Deshaun Watson) that the John Fox staff thought it was getting until informed otherwise by general manager Ryan Pace a couple hours before the 2017 draft.

After a playoff finish in 2018, the L.A. Chargers (Oct. 27) fell behind the lowly Pittsburgh Steelers and a third-string quarterback 24-0 in the third quarter and through six games have lost as many games (four) as they did all last season.

The Super Bowl Curse, which causes Super Bowl losers to miss the playoffs the following season, may be claiming the L.A. Rams (Nov. 17), who sagged to 3-3 with a 20-7 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

The NFC L’East

The NFC East suddenly looks eminently beatable, playing its way into being the only NFL division with exactly zero teams above .500.

Besides the doormat Washington Redskins, who were out-tanked by the Miami Dolphins, and defense-lite (five of six games allowing 28 or more points) New York Giants (Nov. 24), the Philadelphia Eagles (Nov. 3) were on the receiving end of Cousins’ efforts in the 38-20 thumping in Minnesota. That was followed by the Dallas Cowboys (Dec. 5) struggling against and losing to the New York Jets – yes, the JETS.

Chicago native Rob Ninkovich details his snowball fights with Bill Belichick

Chicago native Rob Ninkovich details his snowball fights with Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick apparently loves a good snowball fight? 

The surprisingly-human fact about the NFL's most robotic head coach comes courtesy of Rob Ninkovich, who played in New England for eight seasons, winning two Super Bowls. On the latest episode of NBC Sports' Sports Uncovered podcast, Ninkovich lays out the time he found himself taking cover from Bill's lobs:

So I’m walking out after the game, walking to my truck. All of a sudden, a snowball comes flying in, and I’m like, ‘Who the heck is throwing snowballs?’ and it was Bill throwing snowballs at guys. It was just kind of like a fun moment where you were like, ‘He’s not so bad ... he’s not so bad’    

(So this was clearly after a win, right?) 

Ninkovich, along with others like Doug Flutie, Rodney Harrison, and Charlie Weiss, helped peel back the layers and provide a look into Bill Belichick that most people don't get to see. You can listen to the entire conversation right here, or in the embedded player below: 

Under Center Podcast: Bears haven't talked extension with Allen Robinson

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Bears haven't talked extension with Allen Robinson

JJ Stankevitz, Laurence Holmes and Cam Ellis discuss the Bears not talking to Allen Robinson about an extension and what that could mean for him and the team. Later, the crew discusses other deals that were made around the league, the stacked free agent running back class that Tarik Cohen finds himself in, and Laurence tells the story of finding a peacock and a chicken in his backyard.

(1:55) - Will 2020 be A-Rob's last in Chicago?

(7:10) - With no preseason, which QB (Nick Foles or Mitch Trubisky) will win the starting job?

(13:00) - Will the NFL even have a season this year?

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bears news and analysis.

(20:00) - The 2021 running back free agent class isn't good for Tarik Cohen

(30:00) - Laurence's encounter with a peacock and chicken

Listen here or below.

Under Center Podcast

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