Bears

Against Lions, can Bears count on a three-peat from Matt Barkley?

Against Lions, can Bears count on a three-peat from Matt Barkley?

The axiomatic foundation of being a professional in any line of work is consistency, delivering a top-level performance time after time after time regardless of your mood, what’s going on at home or celestial alignments. Matt Barkley is at the point of establishing whether he indeed can qualify as a “professional NFL quarterback.”

Barkley shook off early interceptions to put the Bears in position to win late vs. Tennessee. He played a strong game last week against the San Francisco 49ers. Now?

As Ian Fleming’s James Bond once declared, “Once is chance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”

Barkley was given a second chance at an NFL career with the injuries to Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer. He’s had two successful starts (the Bears would've beat the Titans if Bears receivers had only dropped five passes instead of 10). Now Barkley at age 26 starts his first game on the road, his first game against a team with a winning record and his first game with game tape that opposing defenses can study.

“You go on the road and it's a different experience for a quarterback,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “He's starting a road game. He did play a little bit in Green Bay, but he was coming off the bench and he didn't take one practice rep. Now he's got a chance to own this game plan, have a full knowledge of it, what's going into it. We're excited to see how he goes out and plays.”

He’s not the only one.

The organization’s quarterback depth chart is in a molten state. Some decisions have been made but not all of them and certainly not all of them regarding Barkley, who is in a prove-it situation after failed stops in Philadelphia and Arizona under head coaches from the offensive side of the football.

Barkley took those experiences as motivation, not failures.

“I think it made me hungry,” Barkley said. “Seeing Carson (Palmer in Arizona) work gave me a new perspective on what it means to be an NFL quarterback. Coming from a vet with his experience and how he still works his butt off every day, harder than anyone else on the team, gave me a new perspective on the position and made me hungry to want to play.”

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And the winner is ...

Few Bears seasons have been more difficult to assess than 2016, in no small part because of the personnel carousel that has started with three different starting quarterbacks. The Bears have won games with each of the three but have proved capable of unexpected highs (Minnesota) and jaw-dropping lows (at Tampa Bay).

View from the Moon operatives predicted the Bears would win the first Detroit game, which they did. The Lions have been the NFL’s best comeback team of 2016, playing 60-minute games and winning them in the final quarter. But it has been difficult to trust the Lions and quarterback Matthew Stafford late in seasons. The Lions are tied for fewest giveaways in the NFL; the Bears are No. 31 with just eight takeaways, which bodes ill for the Bears.

“That’s probably our weak link right now,” coach John Fox said. “I think it affects our scoring offense. I think it affects scoring in general. Yards are important. There’s things you look at, the indicators. But ultimately, it’s points, whether it’s on offense or defense. But it’s something that we’ve preached. It’s going to be critical in this game just like it is in all games.”

The Lions are favored. View from the Moon will stay with its early prediction, anticipate a Stafford issue (he has thrown zero interceptions in seven of his last eight games — he’s due) and call for the upset.

Bears 20, Lions 19

View from the Moon 2016 record: 7-5

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen's rookie season with the Chicago Bears was an impressive blend of running, receiving and special teams play. He quickly became a household name. The combination of his diminutive frame and oversized personality made him a fan favorite, especially when he started gaining yards in chunks.

    In fact, of all running backs with a minimum of 80 carries last season, Cohen had the highest percentage of runs that went for 15 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Cohen will have a big role in new coach Matt Nagy's offense this season because of everything he offers a play-caller. He's a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield and can chew up yards on the ground like any traditional running back. He's a hold-your-breath talent who can turn a bad play into a touchdown in the blink of an eye.

    Cohen had 370 rushing yards, 353 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns in what can be described as a limited role last year. John Fox and Dowell Loggains didn't seem to ever figure out how to best use Cohen's skill set. That should be no issue for Nagy and Mark Helfrich, the team's new offensive coordinator, who both bring a creative offensive approach to Chicago.

    Jordan Howard will be the starter and will do most of the heavy lifting. But Cohen is going to have a much bigger role than he had as a rookie, and that should result in more big plays and points on the board.