Bears

Bears in good shape with Rodgers in Minnesota

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Bears in good shape with Rodgers in Minnesota

The Bears will need to take care of business first, but if they can get past the Lions in their season finale Sunday afternoon they stand a better than decent chance of making the playoffs.
That's because the second half of their "needs-to-happen scenario" involves Aaron Rodgers playing at 3:25 in Minnesota, where he has played as well as any venue, Lambeau Field included, the last three seasons.
Rodgers, who quietly is putting together an MVP-caliber season, leads the NFL in passer rating (106.2), is second in touchdown passes (35) and ninth in passing yards (3,930) despite being sacked an NFC-high 46 times.
He is 6-3 as a starter against the Vikings, including wins in the last five meetings; he's also gone on the road to beat Minnesota in each of the last two seasons. And in the last three contests against his division foe to the north, Rodgers has averaged 340 yards on 73 percent passing and nine touchdowns to just one interception, good for a scorching passer rating of 133.0.
The Packers have averaged 29 points in those three games, and it's Rodgers' poise and ability to exploit defenses on a fast surface that has led the way. In fact, Rodgers has played 17 games indoors in his eight-year career and has a passer rating of 114.7, more than 12 points higher than his passer rating outdoors (101.9).
Earlier this year, the Packers' defense forced two red zone turnovers against Christian Ponder to help them hang on to a 23-14 home win. The Vikings will grab the NFC's No. 6 seed with a win, while the Bears (assuming a win over Detroit) would earn the seed if Rodgers takes care of business.
The Packers have a stake in Sunday's game as well. With a win or a 49ers loss, Green Bay would secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a bye to the Divisonal Round. San Francisco also plays late (vs. Arizona), so the Packers won't know whether they have their seeding locked up when they take the Metrodome field. The Packers and Bears can not play until the NFC Championship game.
Lovie Smith and the Bears have noted all week that they are solely focused on their own matchup, and rightfully so. The Packers-Vikings result won't mean anything if the Bears can't shut down Calvin Johnson and co. on the road. But if they do pick up a road win and move to 10-6, the last game they need to fall right will be led by a red-hot Rodgers playing in one of his most successful venues.

Bears tight ends ranked among NFL's worst by Pro Football Focus

Bears tight ends ranked among NFL's worst by Pro Football Focus

The Chicago Bears have a lot of tight ends on their roster. Nine, to be exact. Of those nine, rookie second-round pick Cole Kmet is the most exciting, while veteran free-agent signing Jimmy Graham is the most baffling.

Tight end was one of Chicago's biggest weaknesses in 2019 and Ryan Pace did his best to fix the problem this offseason. Whether or not he accomplished that goal is up for debate.

According to Pro Football Focus' recent ranking of all 32 tight end groups, he didn't. The Bears came in at No. 26.

The Bears are taking a see-what-sticks approach to the position, as seven other players are competing for the last one or two spots, but this unit’s success will be determined by what Graham has left in the passing game and how ready Kmet is to be a viable contributor as a receiver and as a run blocker. Even with the hefty offseason investment, Chicago’s tight ends come with plenty of question marks.

Graham will be the most heavily scrutinized of the bunch in 2020. The Bears signed him to a two-year, $16 million deal in free agency following a season where it looked like Graham was better suited for retirement than a lucrative multi-year deal. He's a big reason why Chicago's tight ends are still viewed as weakness. As PFF aptly stated, the Bears are, at best, a question mark when it comes to the position.

If Kmet doesn't quickly adjust to the NFL game and make an impact early in his pro career, the Bears' offense will be hamstrung once again by its lack of playmaking tight ends.

David Montgomery could be facing make-or-break season in 2020

David Montgomery could be facing make-or-break season in 2020

Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery is entering just his second season in the league, and after a rookie year that included the usual ups and downs from a first-year player, the expectations are much higher for Year 2.

Montgomery ended last season with 889 yards and six touchdowns, but his 3.7 yards per carry left a bit to be desired. He ran hard; he ran determined. But in today's NFL, sub-900 yards just isn't good enough.

If he has another season with production like that, it could be his last in Chicago. Sure, that seems harsh. But take a look at the running backs who will be available in next year's free-agent market:

And it doesn't stop there. The 2021 NFL draft will provide teams looking to upgrade at running back with some pretty good options:

Montgomery will run behind an improved offensive line in 2020 with the addition of Germain Ifedi and the coaching upgrade through Juan Castillo. The quarterback play should be improved, too, even if Mitch Trubisky wins the job. The presence of Nick Foles will force him to bring his A-game every week. Those two factors will create bigger running lanes and a greater likelihood Montgomery will find his way to the second level of opposing defenses.

But if he doesn't? The Bears won't be hurting for options to replace him.