Lessons from Bears loss to Bengals, good or bad, impossible to sort out


Lessons from Bears loss to Bengals, good or bad, impossible to sort out

Upon reviews, bad games and performances are rarely as bad as they seemed at the time. And the good ones are likewise seldom as good as they were on first impression. 

That may be the case with the Bears’ 21-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. But how does anyone know? The 2015 preseason has become one of the most useless previews in recent recollection, regardless of wins and losses.

Apart from isolated individual good plays, it is difficult to envision mitigating details showing up on film that didn’t show up on the field of Paul Brown Stadium Saturday night.

But the real problem with assessing the state of the Bears (2-1) is the continuing flood of injuries, which have served to illustrate that some members of the depth charts are not starter-grade NFL material should they be called upon. (Special teams not so much, with that unit piling up five penalties of its own.)

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But if you thought the Bears were a bad team, Saturday confirmed it. If you believe they’ll be better than people think, you have injuries as a rationale for what you saw and didn’t see in Cincinnati.

The offense? Besides the projected top four wide receivers all out with injuries, what positive there was for a No. 1 offense that failed to score a touchdown in its third and longest appearance on the field lay in Jay Cutler remaining turnover-free even with a complement of wide receivers, all of which will not be in the NFL when someone starts keeping score for real.

In fact the Bears have turned the ball over just once (an interception of Jimmy Clausen at Indianapolis) in 171 plays. After Cutler led the NFL with a personal total of 24 and the Bears averaged one turnover every 34.7 plays last season, this is at least something. The fact that the Bears haven’t done much with the ball except hang onto it is another question entirely and one that won’t get a major test in game situations until the Green Bay Packers are at Soldier Field on Sept. 13.

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“I don’t want to take anything away from the [receiver] group out there [Saturday],” Cutler said. “What we asked them to do, they did well. Those guys went out there and played hard, they made some catches when I put the ball on them. We had a little bit of rhythm in that two-minute drive, and they did well. If we get guys back, great, and if not, I think all the guys we have right now did well.”

“Well” being a relative term considering the circumstances, in which Cutler clearly is grading on a curve.

The defense? The Bears lost two of their top three defensive linemen before Cincinnati had finished even one possession. The play of the secondary, which saw Andy Dalton and A.J. McCarron go 12-for-12 and convert 71 percent of third downs, traces to what is or isn’t happening up in front of them. 

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The defensive line, which opened with arguably its "hoped-for starters" for Week 1 – Eddie Goldman, Jarvis Jenkins, Jeremiah Ratliff – was without Goldman (concussion) and Ratliff (foot) even before the end of the first Cincinnati drive. Given that the line is the bedrock of either side of the football, critiquing the overall is an exercise in futility. 

Defensive backs and linebackers didn’t tackle well; easy evaluation. But until the Bears have something close to their best front, good luck finding meaningful conclusions, good or bad, in what’s played out so far.

Week 3 NFL picks: Over 90 percent of experts pick Bears to defeat Cardinals


Week 3 NFL picks: Over 90 percent of experts pick Bears to defeat Cardinals

The Bears aren’t going to take the Arizona Cardinals lightly on Sunday, but Chicago isn’t expected to have too much trouble with their Week 3 opponent.

The Cardinals have scored six points through two games, shutout last week against the Los Angeles Rams. Quarterback Sam Bradford has struggled and his offensive line has been a big reason for it, making another favorable matchup for Khalil Mack to continue his strong start.

Few experts expect the Cardinals to pull off the upset, with over 90 percent of NFL prognosticators picking the Bears to win, according to NFL Pick Watch.

Analysts from CBS and MMQB as well as the analytics from FiveThirtyEight are picking against Chicago this week, while every Pro Football Focus analyst picked the Bears across the board.

The Cardinals are nearly touchdown underdogs by Las Vegas betting lines, and sportsbooks see the game as one of the lowest-scoring matchups of the weekend.

Arizona hasn’t had much offensive success this season, but with talent like David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, an upset is only ever a few plays away. The Cardinals defense has done well in spite of the team’s struggles, and this game won’t be a walk in the park for the Bears on the road.

(Too) Bold Predictions: Big games for Leonard Floyd, Kevin White

(Too) Bold Predictions: Big games for Leonard Floyd, Kevin White

You've stumbled into (Too) Bold Predictions, a weekly column that is exactly what it sounds like! Here, we'll take nuanced, well-researched information and use to make wildly improbable predictions. Analysis! 


J.J. Stankevitz 


1. Leonard Floyd has a breakout game.

A year ago, Floyd had a monster game against Sam Bradford, dropping the then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback twice, one of which went for a safety. Floyd does the same on Sunday, recording his first two sacks of the season in his first game not playing with a club on his right hand. A reason for that optimism: Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries allowed 10 pressures in 70 pass blocking snaps in Weeks 1 and 2. This should be a good matchup for Floyd, and without the club on his hand, he takes advantage of it. We'll say the "breakout" game is at least two sacks and five total pressures.


2. Mitch Trubisky will hit multiple shots downfield.

Trubisky missed Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson on Monday night on throws that could've backed the Seahawks' defense off the line of scrimmage. Connecting on those deep shots is critical for freeing up more room for Jordan Howard, especially against a Cardinals defense that's had success stopping the run (3.6 yards/carry, sixth in the NFL). But the Cardinals' defense has been gouged through the air, allowing 9.8 yards per attempt (31st). Trubisky will complete two deep throws in the Bears' first two drives, which will lead to a much easier path for offensive success on Sunday.


Cam Ellis


1. Tarik Cohen will take one to the house.

 Cohen hasn't contributed too heavily to the offense yet, though you could make that argument for just about anyone not named Allen Robinson. That's less the case on special teams: after averaging 9.38 yards per return last season, Cohen's  jumped up to 17.17 this year (though it's still a bit early to be taking averages seriously). It's part of why the Bears have the 5th-best special teams according to Football Outsiders' S.T. DVOA. In honor of Devin Hester and the Bears' 2006 comeback in Arizona, my bet is that Cohen, who landed on the NFL All-Pro team last year for punt returns, breaks the game open with a  touchdown of 50+ yards. 


2. Kevin White will tie his career high in catches 

After playing 12 snaps in Week 1 (12%), White only played two snaps (3%) against the Seahawks in Week 2. Arizona has the 30th-ranked pass defense, per Football Outsiders, so there's going to be plenty of eating to go around. With all eyes on Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, Kevin White -- should he play -- is going to get a lot of one-on-one matchups. White snagged six catches in games against Dallas and Detroit in 2016, and he'll resurface for at least one game against one of the league's worst pass defenses.