Bears

Bears in the playoffs? They don't need to be good, just less bad than other teams

Bears in the playoffs? They don't need to be good, just less bad than other teams

Turning the corner — and the page — in their 2016 season, the Bears and fans are entitled to a comprehensive look at their year, specifically whether playoffs are even a discussion point. That is, after all, the first objective of a regular season, arguably one notch above player development, which would probably run concurrent with any playoff-grade stretch, but that’s for another conversation.

The Bears in the playoffs? The obvious answer is not yet. But wait, there’s more.

First of all, as noted here in the past, whether or not the Bears are “good” is a meaningless debate. It doesn’t matter. The NFL is all about grading on a curve. The Bears (no pun intended) are one of those two guys around the campfire when a grizzly barrels in on them. The first guy yells, “Run!” The second guy hollers, “No way! We’re not faster than a bear!”

“I don’t have to be faster than the bear,” the first guy yells over his shoulder. “I just have to be faster than you!”

The Bears don’t have to be good. They just have to be better — or even just less bad — than the other guys.

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And right now the Bears are better, or less bad, than the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, the two teams the Bears have managed to beat in this otherwise abysmal season. The Lions might be more vibrant right now, but the Bears did beat them. Meanwhile, the Vikings have lost three straight; and the Packers have lost three of their last four games, the only win coming against the Bears with Matt Barkley in at quarterback.

Consider: In nine of the past 10 seasons, at least one team and more commonly two or three have reached the playoffs with records of 9-7 or worse. Teams have won divisions with 8-8 records and even 7-8-1 marks. Point being: The bar is not prohibitively high, at least in absolute terms.

“You can spend a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror driving your car,” coach John Fox said. “If you spend too much time looking back, then you wreck.

“So our focus is in front of us now. A couple of those games go the other way, we’re 4-4 instead of 2-6. It sounds a little better, no doubt. But we can’t change that. We are what we are. Right now we can be 10-6 or 2-14; that’s the reality, math-wise. Hopefully we can move more toward the first one.”

But whether the Bears have even a remote chance to reach 9-7 is clearly the far greater unknown. They would need to win seven of eight, this by a team that has failed to win more than two straight games since the improbable 3-0 start in 2013 under Marc Trestman. Little in the John Fox tenure has suggested an ability to sustain any sort of winning football for more than a couple of games.

The Bears’ remaining schedule is a true mixed bag: a lot of winnable games (which every team is looking at the Bears as), but also five of the eight games coming against teams with .500 or better records — Giants, Lions, Packers, Washington, Vikings. Then again, the Bears have beaten two of those five.

All of which means pretty much nothing, because the only thing that does matter is whether the Bears can take a second step toward respectability as of next Sunday. And if they can’t, then the win over Minnesota was just a spot of comic relief and of interest only as part of any Jay Cutler conversation.

“We’ve got a whole half of a season left,” Fox said. “Like the second half of a game, a lot can happen. There’s not as big a difference sometimes as people on the outside might think. We look at the tape and we evaluate things.

“It’s there for the taking; it’s just a matter of being a little fortunate as far as injury wise and the way the ball bounces, and how we do our job.”

Saints’ QB Teddy Bridgewater expected to have a hefty price tag in free agency

Saints’ QB Teddy Bridgewater expected to have a hefty price tag in free agency

The NFL off-season is gearing up this winter, with trade and salary rumors running rampant among analysts and fans. GM Ryan Pace has his work cut out for him, with a decently sized to-do list before the 2020 season, including finding competition under center for QB Mitch Trubisky. From Tom Brady to Philip Rivers, there are plenty of quarterback options, but one player may have gotten too expensive for the Bears.

ESPN’S Jeremy Fowler reports that Saints’ QB Teddy Bridgewater is expected to rake in big money in free agency. With a projected salary to the tune of $30 million per year, Bridgewater could land a lucrative deal if he doesn’t resign with the Saints.

It makes some sense that Bridgewater could come with such a hefty price tag. Bridgewater earned above-average rankings in adjusted yards per attempt (15th), QB Rating (11th), TD Rate (13th) and completion rate (6th) among 38 QBs to start at least five games in 2019. If Drew Brees decides to keep playing, the Saints will have to choose between Bridgewater and Taysom Hill as their backup.

Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer previously reported that if Brees were to retire, the Saints viewed Hill as their new franchise quarterback, leaving Bridgewater free to explore other options.

It has yet to be seen how Brees and the Saints will proceed, but it’s certainly a reality check to see how expensive the QB market will be this off-season. 

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Bears could use a quarterback like the XFL's standout passer

Bears could use a quarterback like the XFL's standout passer

The XFL is two weeks into its inaugural season, and there's one player who's standing head and shoulders above the rest as a viable NFL prospect at the game's most important position.

Houston Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker has taken the league by storm. His three touchdown passes in Week 1 set the table for another impressive performance in Houston's Week 2 victory over the St. Louis Battlehawks, and looked every bit the part of a dual-threat playmaker that's quickly become the modern-era prototype.

Take a look:

Walker tossed another three touchdowns while looking like the best player on the field (and in the entire XFL) for the second week in a row. Whether his game can translate to success on the NFL level is a big unknown at this point. He spent two seasons on the Colts practice squad without seeing any regular-season action.

Walker's early-season success is a great example of how developmental leagues like the XFL can serve as a feeder for the NFL at positions of need. Quarterback is no exception, especially in Chicago where Mitch Trubisky is in the most uncertain offseason of his career. 

This isn't to suggest that a player like Walker is appealing enough to be the guy GM Ryan Pace adds to the roster as potential competition for Trubisky. But as a possible QB3 behind Trubisky and an established veteran added in free agency? It isn't the worst idea in the world, especially after seeing the kind of playmaking ability he has when given a chance to get on the field.

XFL players can make the jump to the NFL after the 2020 season concludes. The championship game Is scheduled for April 26.