The Chicago Bears Still Have a lot to Play for on Sunday

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The Chicago Bears (5-10) were officially eliminated from postseason contention a couple of weeks ago but they still have plenty to play for come Sunday. It is important to note when they were “officially” knocked out because anyone watching this team would have told you they were cooked long before that.

There is a large pocket that will say they are a year beyond their expiration date. That date was extended thanks to backing into an expanded playoff field last season.

This year there will be no such luck.

But, as we have heard repeatedly down the stretch, and again in recent remarks regarding embattled head coach Matt Nagy, this team knows they still have reasons to be heavily motivated against the lowly New York Giants.

The Chicago Bears Can Still Have a Strong Close to Their Wayward Season

Nagy’s Future

Bears head coach Matt Nagy’s future was a common topic in NFL circles outside of Chicago coming into the year. Not only has it crept into the local mediasphere, but it has made it into the Bears locker room as this season hit the skids. We even had reports that there have been fractures among players fighting the urge to mail it in. 

There is even a reported split over who to support within the organization.

The situation has all of the hallmarks of an imminent dissolution of the current regime. And, even though nothing has been confirmed, players have been pretty consistent in their messaging.

Regardless of what you (or they, to be honest) may think about Nagy as a coach – the Bears metrics speak for themselves – he will finish his tenure in Chicago with a winning record (currently 33-30). He would be just one of seven Bears coaches to do so and the first since Love Smith with Marc Trestman and John Fox failing spectacularly.

His players also seem to hold him in high regard. That is one of the reasons many cite for his holding on as long as he as.

Just this week, Eddie Jackson spoke his mind on Nagy.

The safety has dealt with his fair share of criticism. But he called Nagy one of the best ‘player coaches’ he’d ever been around and that “he cares” about them. No, those aren’t football traits necessarily. But, in a sport that can be mercilessly cruel, it isn’t hard to see their value.

Good Tape

Many players should be looking at this as their last two games to put something positive on film this season. This roster could (and should) look drastically different next season regardless of who is calling the shots. They currently only have about half of their roster under contract for next season.

Most have made peace with the idea that wide receiver Allen Robinson will likely be elsewhere next season. Two years of failed negotiations culminated in his worst season as a pro outside of 2017. He played in just one game that season before tearing his ACL. 

Robinson has dealt with hamstring injuries, struggling to connect with Justin Fields even when healthy, and a battle with COVID that caused him to lose 10 pounds.

The Bears also have their starting right guard James Daniels headed for unrestricted free agency. Chicago has run the ball well. But they have struggled to maintain a consistent pocket despite their three interior linemen starting every game. Some of that blame has to go to Sam Mustipher, an early-rights free agent after the season, and Cody Whitehair as well.

Daniels is the one looking to cash in, though.

Defensively, Akiem Hicks is in a similar boat to Robinson in that most, including Hicks, have reconciled the fact that this could be his final game at Soldier Field. 

Hicks has been a fan favorite since signing back in 2016. He’s seen this team come full-circle in many ways. But he has maintained his affable personality and even continued giving through the holiday season.

Bilal Nichols’ situation could get interesting. His position isn’t one to facilitate gaudy stats. He has 7.5 sacks over the last two seasons but just 2.5 this season. And, while he has been a big part of what’s has been a pretty good Bears defense over the last few years, he hasn’t necessarily been a difference-maker.

He could go the way of Roy Robertson-Harris and sign a well-deserved deal that is out of the Bears price range.

Hallowed History

Anytime a payer can break a record it is a big deal. When they can break a record set by a member of arguably the greatest defense in NFL history, it officially becomes monumental. That is the territory Robert Quinn finds himself in. He is just one sack away from breaking the 37-year-old mark set by Richard Dent.

Sitting at 17 sacks, and with an opportunity to tee off on either Mike Glennon or Jake Fromm on Sunday and, possibly, Sean Mannion if Kirk Cousins isn’t able to clear health and safety protocols.

Quinn has taken a macro approach to his breaking of the record.

“My individual year doesn’t seem as great because we aren’t winning and haven’t had the success over a year as a team. For a split second I can be proud of myself, but the next second I’m highly upset because we lost or whatever it may have been. As I said, I just try to live in the present, it isn’t doing too badly so far. Again, I’m just trying to prove myself and be the best player that I can be.” 

Be that as it may, his teammates and coaches surely want to see that happen for him especially after the year he had last season. After signing a hefty contract in the offseason, Quinn had just two sacks all 2020. He beat that mark by Week 2 of this season.

Chicago will likely try to move one or both of Quinn and bookend Khalil Mack (injured reserve) this offseason. Whether they stay or go, at least Quinn has a chance to close strong.

The Screaming Faithful

Fans deserve to see all of these things take place in the final game at Soldier Field of the season. From the franchise sack record coming down to players putting out some solid tape. David Montgomery is just 10 scrimmage yards away from 1000 yards from scrimmage for the third straight season to start his career. Yes, fans even deserve to see them fighting for their head coach. And what better way to start the new year than with a win?

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