Chicago Bears Continue Fight for Playoff Life in Prime Time

Two straight wins have the Chicago Bears in position to fight their way into the playoffs. The situation is extremely precarious and they will need help to do so. But the fact that it is even a possibility is nothing to sneeze at. That is especially true considering the disarray the entire team has been in for most of the 2019 season.

It has been an emotional rollercoaster for the Bears this year. They went from Super Bowl hopefuls with the betting-favorite for MVP at quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky to clinging to their postseason lives and Trubisky looking more like an anchor than a building block. MVP was always a longshot. But the rest illustrates how fleeting success in the NFL is.

Playoff Fight Continues in Prime Time for Bears

What a Difference This Year Makes

The Bears offensive struggles have gone on so long they completely missed out on benefitting from a confident Eddy Pineiro. He started out hitting nine of his first ten kicks. But it has gotten to the point where Bears head coach Matt Nagy is opting for risky fourth-down conversions over long, but very makeable kicks. This situation is still far from ideal.

Nagy and the rest of the team will look to the recent stretch from Trubisky as signs of growth from the quarterback who is often fodder for comparisons and not in a good way. Critics will point out that he only completed 47 percent of his passes against the Philadelphia Eagles 18th-ranked passing defense.

Chicago struggled against the Detroit Lions backup quarterbacks. And Carson Wentz, who is completing around 62 percent of his throws this season, completed 66 percent against the Bears. They allowed Los Angeles Rams runner Todd Gurley to gain 97 yards on the ground (just his third time over 90 yards this year) and 83 yards to the Lions Bo Scarbrough.

A return from Akiem Hicks (hopefully in Week 15) would shore up a suddenly suspect run defense. But it could also benefit the secondary. Hicks is the definition of a space-eater and his absence has hurt Khalil Mack more than any other player. A freed up Mack speeds up the opposing quarterback and leads to more positive plays from the secondary.

One Game at a Time

Playoff talk is, of course, moot if the Bears don’t win out. That means withstanding trips to face the Green Bay Packers next week and Minnesota Vikings in Week 17 sandwiching a visit from the Kansas City Chiefs and the 2018 MVP, Patrick Mahomes. The Bears have the toughest remaining schedule per Mike Clay of ESPN. They face the Dallas Cowboys next.

Dallas comes in on a two-game skid and was just embarrassed at home by the Buffalo Bills. They join the Bears in the .500 club at 6-6 but still lead their division. The Cowboys have the top-ranked passing attack in the NFL and the NFL’s leading rusher from the past two years looking for his first 100-yard rushing day in over a month.

To add injury to the threat of insult, cornerback Prince Amukamara came out of last Thursday’s win with a hamstring injury. Amukamara has been beatable but losing him would sting. It would thrust an inexperienced Kevin Toliver into the starting lineup. Not good with Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Michael Gallup on tap.

Defensively the Cowboys are just as talented as the Bears but have likewise had a down season by their standards. DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn coming off the edges against Charles Leno and Bobby Massie is still advantage Dallas. They join the Packers Za’Darius and Preston Smith as the only teammates in the top-10 in Pass Rush Win Rate.

The Blueprint

Trubisky rediscovered his connection with second-year wideout Anthony Miller against the Rams and it has led to 21 catches and 271 yards the last three weeks. Bills slot receiver Cole Beasley just lit his former team up for 110 yards and a touchdown. The Bears have lacked a consistent option behind Allen Robinson all year and Miller could be the perfect compliment.

Buffalo heavily utilized rookie running back Devin Singletary on the ground and in the air. David Montgomery caught his first touchdown in addition to his 75 yards on the ground. It’s more likely Tarik Cohen plays the bigger part in the passing game but the versatility of both will be key as will Trubisky’s legs. Bills quarterback Josh Allen ran for 43 yards last week.

Trubisky’s injury history suggests 10 rushing attempts is probably too many, but his legs were one of his best attributes last year. He has run more since Week 7 and will need to keep it up to avoid the pressure. The Bears have given up 51 quarterback pressures (tied for seventh-most) but have faced the fifth-fewest amount of blitzes.

If the Bears manage to account for the Cowboys trio of receivers, they still have to check for Elliott. Chicago has had troubles with running backs catching passes out of the backfield and Elliott just got 10 targets last week. The Cowboys also have talented rookie Tony Pollard playing a pseudo-Alvin Kamara role.

Prime Time Fight for Playoff Life

This is Chicago’s fourth appearance in prime time this year. They’re 1-2 in those games after going 3-1 last season. Trubisky is 4-4 for his career in primetime, completing just over 62 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns to 11 interceptions. This is a chance to show he can have success against teams other than the likes of the Lions and Washington Redskins.

A win is essential for the Bears to maintain their slim playoff viability. A loss opens up the possibility of the team quitting on Nagy and could lead to some ugly performances down the stretch. This team has probably stuck together through too much this season to fall apart like that but it is possible. In any case, the Bears can only worry about going 1-0 this week.

Prediction: The Bears emulate the Bills and give the Cowboys a heavy dose of Miller out of the slot and both Montgomery and Cohen out of the backfield. The defense gets a stop late to seal it. Bears 20 Cowboys 17

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