What Can The Bears Do In The Off-Season To Improve For Next Year?

It been a pretty dismal season for the Chicago Bears, containing a record of 3-13 has forced general manager Ryan Pace to play some of his rookie stars which unfortunately hasn’t bolded well for the head coach. An injury-ravaged roster, combined with an ongoing youth movement, meant several rookies were featured in the line-up or played on a rotational basis. This can be considered to why they haven’t played to the best of their ability this season. No disrespect to their rookies, but sometimes, experience ranges superior over youth. With that said, they should take this a slight advantage because these rookies have featured more than they expected this season and can now take this to their offseason  and develop their game from what they have already experienced this season.

Another positive factor about their disappointing season finish is that they now have the opportunity to have a good draft enabling to build a more offensive squad in addition to covering their squad’s depth if this influx of injury were to occur again. This early mock draft for the Bears will show the perfect picks in regards to creating a playoff defining team next season:

Round 1, Pick 3: Jonathan Allen, Defensive Line, Alabama

The Bears defensive line has been their Achilles heel this season and is one of the major factors they need to improve on. This is where Jonathan Allen comes into play, if Myles Garrett goes first to the Browns and the 49ers pass on Allen to avoid redundancy up front with their previous two first – round picks, then the bears should be ecstatic to have Allen fall into their grasp. Obviously a quarterback is going to be an important consideration, but the talent available doesn’t come anywhere near the value that Allen would bring to Chicago.

Round 2, Pick 67: Brad Kaaya, Quarterback, Miami

Like the Bears, it was a disappointing season for Kaaya, he came into the season fighting with Deshaun Watson for pole position to the no.1 quarterback. Watson’s stock has taken a bit of a hit, but Kaaya has completely left the picture, he ended up picking up bad habits behind a weak offensive line and needs to rebuild his mechanics again. The Bears will be a good bet for him as they can develop him in the quarterback he knows he can be. He has coachability and a good footballing brain, he just needs that fitted team to build him into a franchise player.

Round 3, Pick 109: Roderick Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Florida State

The Bears are desperate to find help in their offensive line and this was a recurring problem for them under  the Jay Cutler era. While the additions of Kyle Long and Cody Whitehair have quieted those concerns, adding a tackle of Johnson’s ability would really add a new dimension to their O-line thus improving additional aspects of the roster.   Johnson had struggled in pass protection for Florida State but proved to be a good run blocker on the left side of his team mates. He may ultimately end up as a swing tackle at the NFL level but could find a home in Chicago, especially as they build the interior of the line into a real strength.

Furthermore, if the Bears have a good offseason and have a successful draft, they maybe be worth a good bet in reaching the playoff’s next season.

The 2016 Chicago Bears Postseason Awards

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By Bryan Dietzler

The 2016 NFL season has ended and to fans of the Chicago Bears, it has been one of the most painful in recent memory.  There is no way that Bears fans want to go through another season like that.  It was simply horrible.

But through all the darkness and despair there has been a silver lining to the 2016 season.  There have been players who have stood out and played well, giving the Bears hope for the future.  But then there have been some guys that have struggled and caused the Bears problems.  They have helped make this season a miserable one.

Now that the season is over, it’s time to hand out some honors to a few Bears players and coaches.  We should recognize some of the good and just a tiny bit of the bad that was part of the Bears season.  Some people deserve recognition for what they did or didn’t do in 2016.

What do you say Bears’ fans?  Let’s go back to the “dark ages” one more time before we close the book on the 2016 season.

So, without further ado, here are a few honors to hand out to the 2016 Chicago Bears for what they did and didn’t do last season.

Team MVP/Offensive Player of the Year/Offensive Rookie of the Year/Bears Rookie of the Year-I have covered this a previous article so I won’t say too much about it.  Jordan Howard should easily be considered the MVP of the Bears in 2016.  When he was utilized effectively, the Bears had some success and he proved that, for a fifth round pick, he can play.  He came in second in the NFL with 1313 yards earning player of the week and player of the month honors along the way.

Howard was productive and consistent.  He proved himself to be the best player not only on offense but on the entire team.  Let’s just hope he can continue the effort next year.

Honorable Mention-Akiem Hicks- (See Below)

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Offensive/Bears Rookie of the Year Honorable Mention-Cody Whitehair-Whitehair played in and started in all 16 games at center for the Bears.  He was their most consistent offensive lineman in 2016 and played well for it being his first year in the league. For someone who was supposed to play guard and maybe see time this year, he stepped up and had a remarkable season.  He leaves the Bears with a tough decision next year with Hroniss Grasu coming back.

Defensive Player of the Year-Akiem Hicks-Trying to find someone who was consistent and productive on the team in 2016 was difficult.  There were so many injuries which forced players in and out of the lineup, you could hardly rely on any player to put a string of games together.  But there was one guy who played in and started in all 16 games and was productive.  That player was Akiem Hicks.

Hicks, in his first season with the Bears, he recorded seven sacks and was the leader of the defensive line.  He put together a strong of good games when some couldn’t even put together back to back games.  With so many injuries, he was the most consistent of all the defenders the Bears put on the field last year.  He made general manager Ryan Pace look brilliant.

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Defensive Player of the Year Honorable Mention-Jerrell Freeman-Had Freeman not missed four games due to a suspension for PEDs, he would have easily been the defensive MVP.  Freeman was all over the field making plays in every game he played in.  He was another free agent that made Pace look like he knows what he is doing.  Freeman has a lot of potential and could easily be a Pro Bowl player.

Defensive Rookie of the Year-Tie-Nick Kwiatkoski and Leonard Floyd-It’s hard to pick between Floyd and Kwiatkoski for this honor.  Floyd did not play in every game due to injury.  Kwiatkoski didn’t play in every game because of the talent ahead of him.  He played in 14 games with seven starts while Floyd played in 12 games with 12 starts.  Both have very good futures with the Bears especially Floyd if he can stay healthy.

These are two of Pace’s better draft picks.  If they can stay healthy and not hit the “year two” wall, they might be Pro Bowlers someday.

Special Teams Player of the Year-Joshua Bellamy-Most fans know Bellamy for his dropped passes and not his special teams play.  However, Bellamy quietly had one of the best seasons of any special teams player in the league.  He wreaked havoc acting as the “gunner” on coverage units keeping opponents from gaining a lot of yards on returns.

Did you know that he even received one All-Pro vote for his play this year?  Not bad for a guy who is known more for what he didn’t do than what he did.

Special Teams Player of the Year Honorable Mention-Pat O’Donnell-Although he didn’t have his best season statistically, he did keep Bears’ opponents somewhat at bay in 2016.  Good coverage units helped too and allowed just one touchdown on a punt return all season.  There weren’t too many bright spots for the Bears on special teams but O’Donnell did help at least a little.

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Game of the Year-The Bear’s 20-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Halloween was their most dominant game of the season.  The Vikings came into the game with a highly-ranked defense but had stumbled the previous week.  Everyone thought they would get back on track against Chicago.  No one thought the Bears could win but they not only won, they also dominated the game.  It was perhaps the Bears’ best performance since head coach John Fox came to the Bears in 2015.  It was easily the best performance of the season.

Dud of the Year-Chicago Bears Strength and Conditioning Staff-  If there was one glaring, huge issue on this team throughout the entire season, it was injuries.  Now some injuries cannot be avoided but you can prevent them and come back quicker if you have a good medical staff.

A few years ago, the Bears had a strength and conditioning coach named Rusty Jones.  When he was in Chicago, the Bears enjoyed excellent health and suffered few injuries.  He proved that a strength and conditioning coordinator can make a big difference.  The Bears need to find someone who can keep their players healthy and be an asset .

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Coach of the Year-Vic Fangio-Fangio deserves a lot credit for what he was able to do despite the team’s record.  He also accomplished some good things despite the obvious glaring weaknesses his defense had.  He managed to have the leagues’ number seven pass defense.  Chicago’s defense ranked 15th in total yards allowed as well.  Not bad for being one of the worst teams in the league.

With the right, healthy, pieces in place, Fangio should be able to put together a solid defense in 2017.  He is seasoned and knows how to call a good defense.  The Bears have been lucky to have him.

Coach of the Year Honorable Mention-Dave Magazu-Magazu was the team’s offensive line coach until he got fired last week.  He took a unit that was wrought with injuries and made them into a dependable group.  Magazu took a rookie and made him one of the best centers in the league (Whitehair).  It was truly quite a piece of work.  He will be missed.

Chicago Bears Team MVP: Jordan Howard

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By Bryan Dietzler

The 2016 season has come to an end for the Bears and there are probably many of us who are happy it’s over.  3-13 is a miserable record and the Bears found little success in much of anything this season.  You can blame injuries for a bulk of their problems but coaching issues and poor depth hurt them as well.  It wasn’t just one thing that took them down.

Some people feel there are no bright spots from the Bears 2016 season.  After all, with just three wins, how can you find anything to be excited about?  But there were some moments when the Bears shined and there were a few players that shined as well.

But out of all the players that graced the field for the Bears this year, and there were many, there is one guy that was consistent in just about every game he played in.  And he was a record setter along with being one of the top weapons for the offense this season.

That player is running back Jordan Howard.

There is no fan who can deny that Howard was the best player on the team in 2016.  He was productive, consistent (as much as the coaching staff would allow him to be) and reliable.  He had a hand in helping the team win when they did win.  And all this by a rookie fifth round running back.

Some fans out there are clamoring for more information about the Bears new star.  The following is a look at Howard’s life before football, during college and his short time with the Bears.  He hasn’t established a lot of stats or a big track record just yet but it’s still interesting to know where the Bears players come from.

Jordan Reginald Howard was born on November 2nd, 1994 in Gardendale, Alabama.  He played his high school football at Gardendale High School where his team was known as the Rockets.  Howard started for two seasons (his junior and senior years) gaining 2876 yards.  That should have been considered excellent among college coaches but he was not a very highly recruited player coming out of high school.

Howard found himself playing for the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  His first season with the Blazers saw him rush for 881 yards averaging 6.1 yards per carry.  He recorded just three touchdowns in that season.

In 2014, his sophomore year, Howard stepped it up setting a single season school record with 1587 yards on the ground.  His 132.3 yards per game was seventh among Division One FBS players.

Following his sophomore season at UAB, the school’s football program ceased to exist.  Howard was able to transfer to the University of Indiana just before the 2015 season and play the next season.  In his first and only campaign with the Hoosiers, he rushed for 1213 yards with an average of 6.2 yards per carry.  Howard had ten total touchdowns.

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Howard decided not to complete his senior year and entered the 2016 NFL Draft.  Some well-known draft services had him rated anywhere between third and sixth in running backs coming into the draft.  But no one had really heard of Howard before the draft.

During pre-draft workouts, Howard posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.59.  He had 16 repetitions on the bench press and recorded a 34-inch vertical leap.

Howard was taken by the Bears in the fifth round with the 150th overall selection.  Despite being ranked so high among running backs entering the draft, he was the tenth running back taken.  Chicago gave Howard a four-year deal with 2.58 million dollars.

With a strong showing against Cleveland Browns in the preseason (a 107-yard performance that came with a touchdown) Howard helped earn himself a spot on the roster.  He came into the regular season as the third running back on the depth chart behind starter Jeremy Langford and second stringer Ka ’Deem Carey.

Following a hamstring injury to Carey, Howard entered the game against Philadelphia Eagles marking the first time he played in a regular season NFL game.  After an ankle injury, sidelined Langford, Howard was named the Bears starting running back.  He made his first start against the Detroit Lions and broke the 100-yard mark rushing for 111 yards on 23 carries.

Howard had another 100-yard outing in the team’s next game (against Indianapolis) and scored a touchdown off a pass from quarterback Brian Hoyer.  His first rushing touchdown was scored against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

He rushed for his season high 153 yards on 26 carries against the Minnesota Vikings in the Bears’ first game against their division rival.  For his efforts in that game, he was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.  In early December, he eclipsed the 100-yard mark again in the Bears third and final victory of the season over the San Francisco 49ers.

He went over the 100-yard mark in the final two games of the season and broke another record, this one a team record.  He became the leader in rushing yards in a rookie season with 1313.  Howard edged out the Bears’ previous starter at running back, Matt Forte, for that honor.

Just recently, Howard was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for the month of December.  This was quite an honor for the rookie and for the 3-13 Chicago Bears.

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While Howard came in second in the league in rushing, he was not a finalist for the NFL’s Rookie of the Year honor.  Dallas Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliot is going to run away with the honor.  Howard should have garnered some consideration for it.  Such is the politics of the NFL.

Aside from his career in the NFL, Howard has been active in the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.  His father, Dr. Reginald Howard died in January of 2007 of the disease.  Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease that can result in scaring of the lungs which then makes it harder for a person to breathe.

In honor of his father, Howard wears a shirt with his father’s picture on it beneath his uniform in every game he plays.

The future looks very bright for Howard and Chicago’s running game.  He is a consistently healthy starter who has not missed any action (perhaps a series or two in some games but that was a coaching decision, time to rest or some time to recover from getting dinged up).  He should roll into the 2017 ready to go.  If the Bears can use him more often it could help balance the offense.  With that, they should be able to win more games.

Consider him one of the best, if not the best, pick of the Ryan Pace era so far.  Hopefully he will remain a consistent and productive player for years to come.

The Chicago Bears versus the Minnesota Vikings Game Review

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By Bryan Dietzler

The final game of the 2016 NFL season just happened to land on the first day of 2017.  You would have thought that the Bears would have wanted to start the new year off right.  Chicago came into their final game with a record of 3-12 and nothing to lose.  The Vikings came in trying to get to .500 on the season after a promising start and a “fall from grace”.  It looked like this would be a close game and that the Bears could give the Vikings a challenge.  Besides, these two division rivals typically play one another close.

But in the end, it was nearly a blowout as the Vikings beat the Bears, in Minneapolis, 38-10.  Chicago could not do anything right in all three phases and showed why they are one of the worst teams in the NFL.  The Vikings are by no means a strong team but they had their way with the Bears in a game that should have been much closer.

It was truly a game that summed up the Bears’ three-win season.

The Vikings were the first to score as they put seven on the board in the first quarter following a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Bradford to Jerrick McKinnon.  That was the only score of the first quarter.

Minnesota would add to its lead following a 21-yard field goal by Kai Forbath early in the second quarter.  That would it 10-0.  The Vikings would go up 17-0 after tight end Kyle Rudolph, who had a huge day, snagged a 22 yard Bradford pass.  It appeared, at that point, a rout was on.

The Bears would make it interesting and the play they used to get their only touchdown of the game was their most creative play of the season.  With wide receiver Cameron Meredith at quarterback and quarterback Matt Barkley at wide receiver, Meredith took the snap and fired a two-yard touchdown pass to Barkley.  Maybe it was the Bears’ best play of the season?  The made the score 17-7 and it looked like the Bears might be able to at least make it interesting.

It just so happened that the second quarter would see the most scoring plays in the game.  Following the Bears’ score, the Vikings would tack on more points.  A one yard pass from Bradford to Jarius Wright would make it 24-7 and once again make it look like the Vikings would blast the Bears.  But Chicago would add some additional points at the end of the half to make it a little bit closer.  A 29-yard field goal by Connor Barth would make it 24-10 and end the scoring for the half.

The third quarter didn’t see any scoring.  It would pick back up again in the fourth quarter and come solely from the Vikings.  Minnesota would make it 31-10 after Jerrick McKinnon ran into the end zone from ten yards out.  The final score of the game came on a 20-yard fumble return by Everson Griffen.  That put the score at 38-10 and that is how it would end.

There isn’t much good to come out of this game except for the play of running back Jordan Howard.  Not only did he break the 100-yard mark but he also set the record for the most rushing yards in a season by a Bears’ rookie (1313 yards).  If there was a positive this season on offense, Howard was it.

This game was an excellent showing of what Howard has been able to do during the season.  He is a tackle breaker, is always falling forward and is generally reliable.  It does seem that the coaching staff will pull him at times during games. Yesterday, he was pulled because he was sick (did anyone see him throwing up on the sidelines?).  But at other points in games this season, he gets taken out of the lineup for no apparent reason.  That has hurt the Bears’ offense.

We will take a closer at Howard later.  For now, we should consider him to be the star of the Bears final, dismal game of the season.

Barkley continued his downward spiral throwing two interceptions and losing one fumble.  His decisions were poor and he seems to have regressed over the last three games.  He is not the answer at the quarterback position and quite frankly, he never was.  Barkley was just the starter to close out a dismal season and he has played just like a third string quarterback.

He had decent protection from his offensive line while the rushing attack took pressure off him.  His wide receivers and tight ends were spot on.  But Barkley could not get it done.  But what could you expect out of someone with just four NFL starts?

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The wide receiving group was good and had some nice catches but Barkley couldn’t get the ball out to them that often.  Cameron Meredith had a strong game but folks, he is not a number one wide receiver.  The Bears “true” number one, Alshon Jeffery, was basically absent and has had a poor season (not his fault wholly). There are doubts as to whether he will even be back with the Bears next year.

While there is some talent at the wide receiver position most of it lies at the second and third wide receiver tiers.  This will be an interesting position to watch in the offseason because it needs more work than anyone thinks.

The tight end position is another one that needs work.  In this game, Barkley found his tight ends a couple times but other than that they were invisible. As usual, Logan Paulsen had his “every game” bonehead move and makes some wonder how he even plays football.  Apparently, he is good enough to play for the Bears though and is representative of some of the talent they have.

Chicago’s offensive line had a good game despite allowing two sacks.  This group did help Howard gain his 135 yards and should be commended for what they have been able to do in blocking for the run this season.  One thing this group did do poorly in this game, and has struggled with all season, is that they had a few penalties.  The holding calls and false starts hurt the Bears and continue a trend that has affected them all season.

The Bears’ offensive line could be stronger if it’s starters stayed healthy.  This, like so many other units on the team, will be an interesting one to watch in the off-season as the Bears could use some work here.

Chicago’s defense came into this game depleted by injuries.  Some of its top stars, guys like Pernell McPhee and Leonard Floyd, among others, were not in the lineup.  When you looked out on the field and looked at the backs of the Bears’ jerseys, you probably saw guys you may have never heard of.  This was yet another representation of how the Bears season had gone.

Having so many starters out made it very difficult for the Bears to be anything close to effective on defense.  In fact, their defense was basically a disaster.

We did see some good things out of Akiem Hicks but he did have a critical penalty to help make things difficult.  The rest of the defensive line did get some pressure at times but didn’t make any big plays.  Yes, most of the guys playing were second and third stringer so we shouldn’t have expected too much out of them but the Vikings offensive line is not filled with All-Pros so something the Bears should have gotten more done.

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Remember that McPhee and Floyd were out and that left the Bears with only one experienced pass rusher in Willie Young.  The outside linebackers didn’t have much success against the Vikings because of this.  Young did have some pressures but this group (and the team) didn’t have a single sack Sunday.  You could say that was to be expected with all the injuries.

The inside linebacker positions were manned by Jerrell Freeman and Nick Kwiatkoski and both had a decent game.  Freeman showed, once again, that he is the Bears’ top defender as he makes a lot of plays.  He is so much fun to watch.  Kwiatkoski has come a long way this season as a rookie and looks to have a promising career with the Bears.  Thankfully both guys were healthy because it could have been an even more dismal day for the defense had they been sidelined.

The secondary had some breakdowns like they do in every game but for the first time in weeks, we saw some good tackling and smart play out of the safety position. Starter Adrian Amos had a very nice game and helped keep the Vikings from gaining a lot of yards on the ground.  He is a sure tackler and very quick to reach the ball carrier.

Harold Jones-Quartey started opposite Amos and he played well.  He had some hard hits and kept up well with receivers.  He has good games and bad games and needs to be more consistent.  This may have been his best game of the season.

The cornerback position had its problems and suffered yet another injury Sunday.  Jonathan Banks, playing in his second game with the Bears, exited the lineup hurt.  This put Tracy Porter in as his replacement and he was sitting because he was hurt.  Cre’Von LeBlanc had a nice play (an interception) and has had an up and down season.  Statically he is solid but if you have watched the Bears closely this season he is very inconsistent.

Chicago’s secondary allowed Bradford to throw for 250 yards and three touchdowns.  They have consistently broken down throughout season at critical times and this game showcased their struggles.

The coaching staff and management need to do a lot of work here during the offseason to fix this critical part of the defense.

In the preview of this game, I mentioned that the Bears had to keep Cordarrelle Patterson contained.  On Sunday, he had a 35-yard return just about breaking it for a touchdown.  That could have been a backbreaker.

However, the Bears just about had a touchdown of their own thanks to a 64-yard return by Deonte Thompson.  Thompson had been unimpressive up to that point but his light shined on Sunday.  Still, he is not the long-term answer as the Bears’ return specialist and this be addressed during the offseason.

The kicking and punting was on the spot.  Pat O’Donnell has had a good season and Barth has come on well after a rough start.  The Bears do need to look at other kicking options in the offseason though.

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Chicago’s coaching staff had another poor game although it appears as if Dowell Loggains finally realized that he should use Howard more.  Loggains did get creative on the Bears’ only touchdown but it came a little too late.  This game showcased the Bears’ struggles on offense this season and despite the injuries the offense is not effective.

Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense struggled with execution on Sunday.  The reason for that is because of the massive amount of injuries they suffered prior to Sunday.  Fangio’s premise is sound but without the players to do what he needs them to do, his defense really suffers.  Hopefully he will stick with the Bears and get a chance to showcase a better defense in 2017.

Head coach John Fox failed once again to instill a winning attitude in his team Sunday.  Fox has not been that good of a coach, overall, this season and it shows in how the team plays.  He will get a pass though because of all the injuries his team suffered and that will earn him another year in Chicago.  But if he does not have marked improvement in 2017 and his team continues to be uninspired he deserves to get fired.

The game this Sunday was perfect example of what the Bears have looked like this entire season.  It’s perfectly clear that injuries had a big effect on this game and if you couple that with having to play second and third string players, it makes it nearly impossible to win.  This has been the Bears’ “mantra” all year.  No top talent no way to win.  That sums up 2016.

It will be interesting to see what the Bears do in the offseason.  They have questions at almost every position especially at quarterback.  It does appear that the coaching staff will be back again next season and that is good and bad.  Will we see more of the same in 2017?  Hopefully not.  We will cross our fingers and hope that the Bears improve greatly this offseason.

Please keep coming back to this site for news and opinions about the Bears’ offseason including free agency and the draft.

Happy New Year!

The Chicago Bears versus the Minnesota Vikings Game Preview

Minnesota Vikings vs Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill on Sunday, October 14, 2007. Vikings won 34-31. Peterson Record rushing 224 yards, Longwell Record 50+ yard field goal to win the game

By Bryan Dietzler

The 3-12 Chicago Bears will travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota to finish up their dismal 2016 campaign against the flailing Minnesota Vikings.  The Vikings come into this game with a record of 7-8.  They played the Bears earlier this season and ended up losing 20-10 in what many considered to be a surprise loss.  The Vikings started out the season on a five game winning streak but stumbled and have moved themselves out of playoff contention.

With nothing to play for, this game promises to be one that is played for pride more than anything else.  You can also consider it a job interview for several players who are second and third stringers on both teams.  Not only will they be auditioning for these two teams but they will be putting on a show for other NFL franchises.  So this game shouldn’t be a “lie down and die” type of game but rather a showcase of second and third tier talent.

After last week, predicting that the Bears should or could win has become almost impossible.  Everyone expected a better game out of them last Saturday and they fell flat.  This weekend, they play a division rival and games between the Bears and the Vikings are always tough.  This one should be very tough and hard fought.

Let’s look and see whether or not the Bears have a shot of winning their final game of the season.  Four wins would look a lot better than three that’s for sure and it would be nice to close out the season with a victory.

There had been some talk that the Bears may start David Fales over Matt Barkley but that doesn’t appear to be happening.  Barkley is a bit of an enigma with Bears fans right now. He was doing so well before the Bears’ game against the Packers two weeks ago and then he fell completely apart against the Redskins.  Now people are saying he’s not a starting quarterback.  Perhaps they are right but he could use a little more work to get to the point where he could be a viable option at the positon in the future.  But will the Bears allow him to get to that point?

For this game, Barkley needs to keep his head level and not make mistakes.  One of the reasons (perhaps the biggest) he made so many mistakes against the Redskins was because the coaching staff was putting the onus on him to win the game.  They did not give him much help.  Had they run the ball more often and taken some of the pressure off of him, both the quarterback and the Bears might have had more success.

The Bears can easily run the football with their star running back Jordan Howard but how well can they do it against the Vikings defensive line?  Remember that the Vikings had one of the NFL’s best defenses to start the season but they have gone downhill a ways ever since. In fact, the Vikings defense was exploited heavily by the Bears in their first game.  That helped start the decline of the Vikings.

For Minnesota, guys like Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen are tough on that left side.  On the right, they have Danielle Hunter and he is solid.  The offensive line of the Bears features talent that is rated at about the league average.  The two “studs” in the center, Cody Whitehair and Josh Sitton should help open up some holes for Howard and protect Barkley.  The rest of the group can hold up but may get beaten.  Still, this line has performed well this season.

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The Bears are averaging 103.5 yards per game on the ground which is ranked 19th in the NFL.  The Vikings are allowing teams to rush for an average of 101.9 yards per game and are 15th in the league.  There is a good chance that the Bears can run the ball well in this game and so they need to take advantage of this and use Howard often.  If they can control the ball and the clock then they have a good chance of winning.

Chicago’s wide receivers have had a lot of opportunity to catch the ball lately as Barkley has been putting it up a lot since becoming the starter.  The group went through a period of a couple of games where they struggled to catch the ball and that easily cost them at least one win.  They looked better last week and hopefully that continues.

Cameron Meredith has been the star of the Bears’ pass catching crew as of late.  He has become a reliable target and is putting up some decent numbers.  The guy who you would think would be the number one receiver, Alshon Jeffery, missed four games due to a suspension and has fallen behind.  Guys like Deonte Thompson are reliable and tight end Daniel Brown have been steady.

But they will face a better than average secondary.  The Vikings have such talented as Terence Newman and Harrison Smith and they can not only cover well but create turnovers.  Barkley and his pass catchers will have to beware of these guys.

Hopefully Barkley will be able get the ball out to his receivers and not hand it over to the Vikings defense.  This game will be a big test for him.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains has received praise from some circles but he has not been as effective as an NFL offensive coordinator.  He has to realize that the Bears needed run the ball more to find success.  They could have won more games had he been able to figure this out.  He cannot put the entire game on Barkley’s shoulders.  If he does that they will lose.

Here is this week’s injury report for the Bear’s offense:

Tight End Daniel Brown was had a full practice despite having a shoulder injury.

Quarterback David Fales was limited with a right thumb issue.  He is questionable for the game.

Erick Kush, a guard, practiced fully after coming out of the concussion protocol.

Tackle Bobby Massie was limited with a toe injury and is questionable.

Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery missed Thursday’s practice because of an illness but practiced in full Friday.

Running back Bralon Addison missed practice with an illness earlier in the week but practiced in full at week’s end.

The following is a list of players on the Vikings defense who are on the injury report this week:

Safety Harrison Smith was limited in practice with an ankle injury to start the week but practiced in full Friday.  It looks like he will play Sunday.

Andrew Sendejo did not practice due to a knee injury and is out for Sunday.

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Chicago’s defense has been shredded in the running game the last two games.  As of now, the Vikings status at the running back position is undecided.  Their star, Adrian Peterson, will not play this game so that leaves Jerrick McKinnon and Matt Asiata to play.  They aren’t barn burners so the Bears have that going for them.  But Chicago cannot allow them to turn into superstars this Sunday. They must stop the run.

Chicago’s rushing defense is allowing teams to gain an average of 121.7 yards per game which is ranked 27th in the NFL.  The Bears had been doing well against the run to start the season but the last couple of games have been brutal.

The Vikings, without Peterson, have been averaging a low 72.1 yards per game rushing.  That puts them dead last in the NFL.  Hopefully the Bears can clamp down on the Vikings rushing attack and shut it down.  If they can’t stop the NFL’s worst rushing attack then the defense is much worse off than anyone could have thought.

Some of the problems that the Bears have had stopping the run have been due to injuries they have suffered on the line and at linebacker.  Their star on the line, Eddie Goldman, has missed a bulk of the season with an ankle injury and is now on IR.  The Bears have one “star” left on the line, Akiem Hicks and he is supported by a bevy of second and third string defensive lineman.  That equates to the Bears not being able to stop the run.

The Vikings offensive line has one very good player in guard Joe Berger.  After that, the talent drops off.  If the Bears can get through these guys and get to the Vikings running backs at or behind the line then they should have some success.

Chicago’s inside linebackers have been bolstered by the return of Jerrell Freeman who completed his four game suspension and came back for the game last Saturday.  He picked up where he left off in being the Bears’ best defender.  The other starter at the inside position is rookie Nick Kwiatkoski.  For a rookie, he’s been playing well.  He earned his starting role due to injury.

Look for both Freeman and Kwiatkoski to have a good game against the Vikings leading the team in tackles and making good plays.

It appears as if the Bears might have some trouble getting their two best pass rushing outside linebackers healthy in time for this game.  Both Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee did not practice this week.  Floyd is dealing with a concussion (suffered last Saturday) and is out.  McPhee’s has a shoulder issue and he is questionable.

If, for some reason, McPhee can’t play, the Bears are going to have a difficult time rushing the passer.  Willie Young may even miss this game as he is questionable and hasn’t practiced all week.  Who will rush the passer for the Bears’?

The Bears’ pass rush could be non-existent Sunday.

Injuries have rocked the secondary and they could struggle with what they have left on Sunday.  The cornerback position should see Cre’Von Leblanc back but Tracy Porter may be out.  The nickel back, Bryce Callahan may also be out for this game.  That leaves guys like Jonathan Banks, Deondrie Hall and Demontre Hurst, among others, left to play.  We saw what a depleted secondary can do to the Bears last week and if it’s like that this week this team could be in trouble.

Chicago will face a slightly above average group of wide receivers and quarterback but the Vikings passing attack has not been too proficient. They average 239.1 yards per game which is 18th in the NFL.  The Bears pass defense, despite the fact it was dinged last week, has been allowing 223.2 yards per game which is ranked sixth.  The Bears’ near stellar pass defense will be hampered by injuries, however, and it could crumble under the weight of these missing men and guys like Stefon Diggs (may not play) and Adam Thielen.

We may get chance to see some of the younger talent on the Bears in this game (especially at cornerback).  A glimpse into the Bears’ future could be what fans get this Sunday.

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The safety positon could be at half strength Sunday.  Adrian Amos is healthy but his counterpart, Deon Bush, has not practiced and could miss the game.  That means we could see guys like Chris Prosinski and Harold Jones-Quartey lining up in the backfield.  These guys are adequate backups but they are not starting caliber players.  Jones-Quartey, in particular, is adequate in run support but not a good cover safety.

With the secondary in the shape it’s in, the pass rushers hurt and the defensive line missing its key starter, the Vikings offense may have an easier time of it than they did in the first game against the Bears.

Bears’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is one of the best in the business and he has done some wonders with what he has had to work with this season.  He will be very limited in what he can do for this game because of the injuries that have depleted the defense.  Hopefully he can put something decent together and get some nice execution out of his starters.  If the Bears defense can clamp down like they did in the first meeting between these two teams, this will be a close game.  But that will be difficult.

The following defensive players, for the Bears, were listed on the injury report this week:

Safety Deon Bush did not practice until Friday due to an ankle injury.  He is questionable for Sunday’s game.

Nickelback Bryce Callahan was limited with a knee/hamstring injury.  He is questionable this Sunday.

Leonard Floyd, the Bears’ rookie pass rusher, did not practice due to a concussion suffered against the Redskins.  He is doubtful (they say he will be out) against the Vikings.

Cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc was limited with a knee injury.  He is questionable.

Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee did not practice because of a shoulder injury.  He is questionable for Sunday.

Cornerback Tracy Porter was limited in practice with a shoulder/knee issue.  He is listed as questionable.

Outside linebacker Willie Young did not practice this week until Friday due to a knee injury. He is questionable for Sunday.

The following is a list of offensive players for the Vikings who were listed on the injury report this week:

Center Joe Berger was limited to start the week with an elbow injury but practiced fully as the week went on.  He will play Sunday.

Guard Alex Boone has not practiced yet with a back injury.  He is doubtful for the game.

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs has a hip injury and has not practiced this week and is doubtful for Sunday.

Guard Brandon Fusco has been limited in practice with a concussion but practiced in full on Friday and could play Sunday.

Wide receiver Charles Johnson was limited in practice with a knee injury.  He is questionable.

Running back Zach Line was limited with a concussion but practiced in full on Friday.  He may play Sunday.

Adrian Peterson, the Vikings star running back did not practice due to a groin and knee issues.  He is out.

Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell didn’t practice due to an ankle injury.  He is doubtful for Sunday.

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Special teams for the Bears has been hot and cold all year.  Punting has been decent while kicking has gotten better after a rough first few games.  The return teams have been inconsistent and have suffered since the loss of Eddie Royal (on punt returns).  Thompson hasn’t been that consistent on kick returns.  You aren’t going to see a lot of dynamic run-backs out of this group.

The portion of special teams that will be the most tested will be the coverage units.  The Vikings have Cordarrelle Patterson and he is dangerous.  The Bears will want to keep this game close so they cannot allow someone like him to change the game by adding a special teams score.  Chicago has had decent coverage all season so hopefully they can finish the season strong here.

John Fox has been less than mediocre since coming to the Bears.  He hasn’t really inspired this team to win this season but he has had his hands tied with injuries.  Hopefully he will have his team fired up and ready to play this game and win because closing this dismal season out with a win would be much better than ending it with a loss.  And he could be playing for his job.  You never know.

This game, like last week’s, is too close to call but for a different reason.  Both teams are heading downhill and have injury plus performance issues.  Also, this is a division game which means you can throw just about all the statistics out the door and call it even.  Everything changes when two division rivals play one another.

Both teams are out of playoff contention so the only thing to fight for is pride.  They don’t want to end the season on a low note so these two teams might just play hard and fans could get to see a decent game.

So, call this game even because these two teams are even.  This could be an exciting game to close out a horrible Chicago Bears season.

Prediction: Even

The Chicago Bears versus the Washington Redskins Game Review

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By Bryan Dietzler

There were several experts, fans and members of the media, including this writer, that thought that Chicago had a good shot at beating the Washington Redskins this Saturday.  After all, Chicago’s last few games had been very close.  Throw in the fact that their third string quarterback, Matt Barkley, had been playing well and the Redskins weren’t world-beaters, the Bears had an excellent chance of winning.  It was in the cards.  If anything, it was going to be a close game.

But Chicago derailed big time.  They fell apart in all phases and in the end, ended up having no chance to win.  Granted, they put up a lot of yards but the defense allowed Washington to do the same.  Barkley could not keep up and make a lot of mistakes trying to do so.  Making those mistakes basically handed the Redskins the game.  It’s an arguable point to say that this could have been the Bears worst game of the season.  All this after playing well (but not well enough to win at times) for several weeks.

Once the Redskins took control the Bears could not storm back, like they did against the Packers last week, to get even.  Barkley’s turnovers made sure that wasn’t going to happen.  And the defense, in particular the secondary (yet again) didn’t offer much help.

The scoring started out in the first quarter when Redskins running back Chris Thompson punched the ball into the end zone from seven yards out to put Washington up 7-0.  Thompson would strike again a little later in that quarter when he hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins.  That gave the Redskins a 14-0 lead still in quarter number one.

Washington would make it 17-0 after their kicker, Dustin Hopkins, added a 29-yard field goal early in the second quarter.

Chicago would get their first score of the game when running back Jeremy Langford put the ball into the end zone from on yard out.  The Bears would come to within ten with that score, making it 17-7.

Cousins, a talented quarterback both through air and on the ground, put Washington up 24-7 after a nine-yard touchdown run.  At this point, it appeared as if the Redskins could not be stopped.

The Bears would make it a little more interesting as time started to run out in the first half.  Barkley connected with wide receiver Cameron Meredith on a beautiful 21-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-14.

The first score of the second half went to the Redskins and it happened to be the only score of the third quarter.  Cousins got his second rushing touchdown when he jogged into the end zone from one yard out to make it 31-14.  It seemed as if the game was out of reach for the Bears at that point.

A 20 yard Hopkins field goal would put the Bears even farther behind as the score reached 34-14 early in the fourth quarter. There wouldn’t be any comebacks (Like last week).  But Chicago would add an additional and final touchdown to cap off their efforts.  This score came when Barkley connected with wide receiver Deonte Thompson on a three-yard touchdown pass.  That put the score at 34-21.  But it wouldn’t be the final score of the day.

The Redskins would cap off the game with a huge 61-yard run from Mack Brown.  That would make the final score 41-21.

So where do you start?  Barkley had been receiving a lot of praise by fans and media members over the past few games due to his efficient play and ability to limit his mistakes.  We saw “cracks” in his ability last week and this week those cracks broke the dam and the flood waters spewed forth.  It’s clear to see now that Barkley is not ready to become an NFL starting quarterback.

Of the five interceptions that Barkley threw four of them were clearly his fault.  One of them was on the receiver.  Granted, that isn’t saying much and there is no excuse for what he did, but you must give (or take away) credit where credit is due.  He threw for a lot of yards (323) but couldn’t overcome those mistakes.  But he wasn’t the only reason the Bears lost.

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The Bears need to work on their quarterback position diligently this coming offseason.  Right now, they don’t have a true starting quarterback on the roster except for maybe Jay Cutler and he may be gone soon.  They need to look at free agents, trade possibilities and the draft for help them here.  Until they get that help, they will continue to be a bottom rung NFL team.

One bright spot for the Bears’ in this game, as well as throughout the season, has been the play of running back Jordan Howard.  Howard, a rookie, has broken the 1000-yard mark, is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, and is seemingly very durable.  But the coaching staff, in particular offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, has failed to figure out how to utilize Howard.  We saw that in this game (although was Howard dinged up a little bit in this game) was the coaching staff not utilizing him enough.  We have seen that all year.  The team has been very inconsistent in their use of Howard and that has been a huge disappointment.

The Bears were having some success with the running game.  Had they stuck with it, taking the onus off Barkley, they might have helped to limit Barkley’s mistakes and may have been much more competitive.  They could have even been competitive enough that they could have possibly won.  Over and over this year, the Bears have failed to utilize the rushing attack to its fullest potential and left trying to win games on their quarterbacks.  That formula has not worked well.

In this game though, Howard was just about the only “bright spot” and one of the few they have had all season.

When it came to catching the ball, the Bears receivers had a strong day.  The best receiver on the day was Meredith as he had 135 yard receiving yards and a touchdown.  Most of his catches came at critical points in the game.  Alshon Jeffery, who was shadowed by former All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman did manage to have a decent afternoon despite the fact Norman was on him.  Deonte Thompson had a nice game also.  There weren’t too many dropped balls and the receivers made some nice catches.

The tight ends were involved a little bit Saturday.  Daniel Brown, who had been playing well the last few weeks almost had a critical fumble but it was reviewed and he was ruled down.  The blocking by the tight ends was decent overall.  These guys were just a bit of a bright spot Bears’ Christmas Eve debacle.

Chicago’s offensive line did protect Barkley well allowing just one sack.  They opened some nice holes in the running game as well.  Despite the fact they have been a revolving door of sorts with injuries this year, the Bears’ offensive line is not that bad.  But they still lack star power at a couple of positions (left tackle being one of them) and need to get Kyle Long back healthy next year.  Otherwise, for depth this is one of the best “depth” units in the NFL.  All the backups have filled in very nicely.

The defense needs to shoulder some of the blame for this loss just like the offense should.  Yes, Barkley’s five big mistakes did not put the defense in a good position but they had some breakdowns that cost the Bears.

One thing the defense did do was make Cousins look good despite the fact he didn’t have a strong day passing the ball.  Cousins added 270 yards and a touchdown to his season total on Saturday.  He also had two rushing touchdowns.  Chicago had no answer for him.  They didn’t sack him, they got limited pressure on him and they allowed him to beat them.  Of any quarterback the Bears have faced this year, aside from Aaron Rodgers, Cousins probably did the most damage to the Bears’ defense in any game this season.

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Injuries rocked Chicago’s defense even before the game started.  The team placed defensive lineman Eddie Goldman on injured reserve prior to Saturday.  This left the team without its number one defender on the defensive line.  The remaining members of that group, guys like Akiem Hicks, Mitch Unrein, Cornelius Washington and C.J. Wilson had to step up play well.  Hicks had a good game (five tackles) but the other members of the line did not play well.  With that, you could see that the Redskins running attack flourish because it wasn’t being stopped at the line.

The outside linebackers, in particular Pernell McPhee, did get some pressure on Cousins but didn’t get enough.  The didn’t register a single sack and that was a big problem.  For the first time all season, McPhee appeared to be faster than normal and was really hustling.  Maybe, after several months, his knee is finally feeling better.

Rookie “near sensation” Leonard Floyd left the game with a concussion adding to the injury issues for the defense.  That also took one of their best pass rushers out of the game and that was damaging.  The hot and cold Willie Young came in but wasn’t able to reach Cousins.  It was a tough day for these guys.

The inside linebackers had more success than any other defensive unit on Saturday.  Jerrell Freeman, back from his four-game suspension for PED use, had the most tackles (eight) and was all over the field.  Nick Kwiatkoski had another solid game and made several nice plays.  Despite the injuries and suspensions that have affected this group, they just keep going thanks to their great depth and solid performances.  This is easily the best unit on the team.

The secondary had a horrible game allowing long completions, critical catches and yards after the catch/run.  Injuries struck this group hard as the game went on, though.  Guys like Deon Bush went out injured giving way to less experienced players coming in.  Tracy Porter had another near horrifying game leaving some to think that he has become a liability rather than an asset.  Sometimes his play on the field is great but his numbers tell a different story.  Granted, he has been injured almost all season but some of what he has put the team through has nothing to do with being hurt.  It’s just been a series of poor decisions.

Jonathan Banks, acquired just a little over week ago, played some but looked as if he was a little confused and out of positon at times.  Chalk his issues up to learning a new defense in a short amount of time.  Younger and less experienced players got into the game as well and had breakdowns.  Some of us started out the season feeling that the cornerback position was going to be solid but it has turned out to be a revolving door of inconsistency and trouble.  Hopefully management will get this position shored up during the offseason.

Another two positions of concern (and one that has been of concern for several seasons) are at both the free and strong safety.  Many had thought that at least one positon was secured with Adrian Amos coming last year.  He had a nice season in 2015 but this year, at least on the field, he appears to have slipped a bit.  Granted, his numbers are solid but his play on the field has declined.

The other safety position has been manned by “still developing” or second tier talent.  Guys like Harold Jones-Quartey and Bush have not been the answer to that spot.  The Bears need something better.

For this game, the safeties struggled in pass coverage as well as helping get up and take on the run.  Jones-Quartey did have strong game making tackles (six) and getting in on plays but it was a less than stellar effort all the way around by this group.

Once again, the secondary let the team down and had a huge hand in Chicago losing this game.

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Special teams had their struggles Saturday.  Kicker Connor Barth had a field goal attempt blocked and the return teams did not do well.  The coverage units did ok but overall, this group needs a lot of work.  The issues on special teams speak to the depth the Bears have.  Some of it is good but the return specialists are not going to get you a lot of yards on returns or a touchdown.  The return teams have just not been the same since Devin Hester was in Chicago but then again, a guy like Hester comes along once in a lifetime.  The Bears and their fans were spoiled with him.

The Bears’ coaching staff was clearly beaten by the Redskins staff.  Even Vic Fangio was caught off guard by what Washington was doing although he has a bit of an excuse.  The injuries the defense had suffered prior to and during the game give him a bit of a pass.  Execution was very poor on defense because of the injuries and youth.

On offense, Dowell Loggains, once again, could not figure out that the running game could be the team’s path to success.  Instead of using Howard to carry the offense, he put the game in Barkley’s less-experienced hands.  That was a costly mistake.

In the Bears’ last four games, they played those games tough and never gave up playing hard right up until the very end.  They did win one of those games (against San Francisco) but they went right down to the wire in the games they lost.  The coaching staff instilled a desire to win then.  That desire, along with the will to fight and compete was not present against the Redskins.  It appeared as if the Bears came out of the locker room flat and didn’t put in as much effort as they could (or should) have.

It looked like they were playing to finish the season and close up shop rather than win.

This write up has been a compilation of some of the Bears struggles this season.  Why? It’s because this game signifies what the Bears have gone through all year.  If you needed a summation of what this team has been struggled through, this past Saturday’s game is perfect.  It’s all wrapped in one three-hour bundle.

We will have more on the Bears’ season, a whole, after their final game against the Minnesota Vikings.  That is coming up next Sunday.  There will be a full preview of that contest posted by the end of this week.

The Chicago Bears versus the Washington Redskins Game Preview

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By Bryan Dietzler

Following a difficult 30-27 loss to the Green Bay Packers this past Sunday, the Bears will try to turn things around in six days as they will play host to the 7-6-1 Washington Redskins.  The Redskins have an even shorter turn around as they just played a game on Monday night and will play the Bears this Saturday.  They went up against the Carolina Panthers and lost 26-15.

While the Redskins are fighting for their playoff lives, the Bears are just trying to close out the season and get to the “safety” of the offseason.  This has been a remarkably difficult year for the Bears with so many injuries and so much turmoil.  They just need to close things out and get back to rebuilding.  But it’s hard to predict what is going to happen to this team during the offseason.  There are a lot of questions about the coaching staff and management that need to be figured out first.

Ultimately what needs to be done is a lot of work in the offseason to put together a winning team.  Simply put, the Bears have a lot of improvements to make and fans are getting frustrated.  The Bears should start getting their act together or this franchise will be live in the NFL’s basement for a long time.

But there are still two games left for the Bears to play.  Wouldn’t it be great if they could go out with two wins and have at least a little momentum heading into next season?

Let’s look at how the Bears and the Redskins matchup and see if Chicago has a shot at beating them this Saturday.

With each passing week, quarterback Matt Barkley continues to impress the coaching staff and fans with his play.  He had some breakdowns in the game against the Packers last week with turnovers but growing pains will come and it’s about time he had a few.  If you take away that third quarter, he had a consistent game and almost won it for the Bears.

He will face a pass defense that is ranked 26th in the NFL allowing 260.1 yards per game.  Chicago is putting up an average of 250.8 yards per game.  That is good for 14th in the league.  When his receivers are catching his passes, Barkley can put up some decent numbers.  His average yards per game for his last four starts is 270.5.  That’s not too bad.

This could be a nice game for Barkley if he can keep playing as well as he has and eliminates the mistakes.

The wide receiving corps had very nice outing against the Packers after struggling to catch the ball consistently in the past few games.  They got their number one receiver Alshon Jeffery back and after a peaceful three quarters, he came up with some big catches in the fourth.  Cameron Meredith had a nice game and Deonte Thompson was the star of this group.

It’s likely the second and third tier wide receivers should step it up in this game because the Redskins will put their number one cornerback, Josh Norman, on Jeffery.  It’s very likely, knowing Norman, that he just might shut Jeffery down.  The other cornerbacks and safeties left to cover have not graded out well this season.  If Barkley and his receivers can connect (and the receivers can catch the ball) this could be a very good game through the air.

After watching the Redskins attempt to stop Jonathan Stewart and the Panther’s rushing attack on Monday night, Chicago should feel good about their chances running the ball this Saturday.  Chicago has Jordan Howard and he’s been doing very well rushing the football when he gets a chance.  The coaching staff has trouble keeping him active and running the football however.  It’s a mystery because despite the fact the rushing attack works well, it’s not used that often.  It should be used more often.

Chicago is averaging 100.9 yards per game on the ground which is good for 22nd in the league.  I say this week after week but those numbers are a little deceiving.  The Bears do very well when rushing the ball but could be doing better.  Howard can generate a lot of yards on the ground and hopefully they use him more often against a Redskins defense that is allowing an average of 115.4 yards per game (22nd in the league) so there is some running room there for Chicago.

Getting Howard going and using the passing game to move the ball as needed could work against this Redskins defense.  The strength of Washington’s defense is on the left side.  There they have outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and defensive end Chris Baker.  These guys are solid and can stop the run as well as put pressure on the quarterback.  The offensive linemen that these guys will be facing, Bobby Massie and Ted Larsen, are average and could get beaten in this game especially by Kerrigan. Kerrigan is a very talented pass rusher.

The offensive line has been solid lately despite the fact it’s been a bit of a revolving door due to injuries.  Kerrigan and Baker will be a tough test but if they can limit their effectiveness and keep Barkley upright and clean, then they should have a success on offense.

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Injury Update-Chicago’s Offense: This week’s injury report has a few offensive players on it.  They include:

Wide Receiver Joshua Bellamy with a shoulder injury but has participated in practice, fully.

Running back Ka ’Deem Carey injured his shoulder in the Packers game and has been limited this week.

Backup quarterback David Fales has a right thumb injury and has been limited in practice.

Backup offensive lineman Eric Kush has a concussion and has not practiced.

Right tackle Bobby Massie has a toe injury and has been limited in practice.

Josh Sitton has still been nursing an ankle injury but he has been a full participant in practice this week.

Wide receiver Deonte Thompson suffered a rib injury in the Green Bay game and has been limited in practice.

Injury Update-Washington’s Defense-The following defensive players have been listed on the injury report for the Redskins this week:

Defensive end Chris Baker has been limited with an ankle injury.

Linebacker Will Compton has been in and out of practice with a knee injury.

Safety Su’a Cravens has an upper arm injury and has not practiced this week.

Cornerback Quinton Dunbar has missed practice with a concussion.

An illness has kept linebacker Terence Garvin in and out of practice this week.

Linebacker Martrell Spaight has been limited with a shoulder injury.

Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has been limited with an elbow injury.

Chicago’s defense was shredded by Green Bay’s running backs last week and Chicago need to shore that up.  Injuries have struck the defensive line (more on that later) so getting the run shut down at the line, at least, may be difficult.  So, second string players and other players (at other positions) need to step up this Saturday.

The Redskins are gaining an average of 103.6 yards on the ground which is ranked 18th.  They aren’t a strong running team but after last week you never know what can happen with the Bear’s rush defense.  Washington could have seen what Green Bay did and try that against the Bears.  Chicago’s run defense is ranked 23rd in the NFL allowing 115.6 yards per game.  They cannot allow the Redskins to run roughshod over them Saturday or they will lose.  That is clear.

With injuries overtaking the defensive line, Chicago’s linebackers, although injured themselves, must take over and play strong.  The nice thing about the game this Saturday is that the Bears will have their star linebacker back from suspension.  Jerrell Freeman will be 100% ready for this game and by all accounts is eager to get out there and play.

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Stopping the run will be key but the most fearsome aspect of the Redskins offense is their passing game.  Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and puts up a lot of yards.  His receivers, with guys like DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder and tight end Jordan Reed, are very good and hard to cover.

This will be a true test for the Bear’s pass defense.

Looking at the numbers, the Redskins are averaging a whopping 303 yards per game which is second in the NFL.  Chicago’s pass defense is allowing teams to throw for an average of 219.9 yard per game which is ranked sixth.  This game will see a very good pass offense go up against a “decent” pass defense.  Something will give?  Which side will have the most success?

To have success against the Redskins passing game, the outside linebackers, Pernell McPhee and Leonard Floyd, to start, then their “relief” (guys like Willie Young) need to get pressure on Cousins.  The Redskins offensive line has some nice talent on the right side, with Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses there.  The talent on the left side is mixed where Trent Williams is an elite player but Shaun Lauvao is not at all that great.  With both of their tackles solid it’s going to take a lot of effort by the outside pass rushers to get to Cousins and get him down.

If the front seven can’t get to Cousins, then the secondary needs to cover very well.  Chicago’s backfield has been up and down this season giving up critical plays at critical times.  Some of these plays have cost the Bear’s wins.

The cornerbacks have been hot and cold this season.  While Porter is usually pretty stout, if you look at the numbers, he is not playing that well.  Cre’von LeBlanc is the opposite.  He looks like he’s not playing well but his numbers are strong.  These guys will have a tough test this Saturday and need to be playing very well to help put the screws on guys like Jackson and Crowder.

The safety play has been inconsistent all season.  Deon Bush doesn’t have a lot of starting experience and his play, so far, has been rocky.  He is improving but has a ways to go.  Adrian Amos has been hurt the past few weeks but even before that he had not been playing as well as he did last season.  He is still an above average player at the position statistically but it’s not showing up well on the field.

If the secondary can’t lock down Washington’s top receivers, then the Bears will easily lose this game.  It’s as simple as that.  The Redskins live and die by passing the ball and Chicago is good enough to shut that aspect of their offense down.  Can they do it, like they have been doing it at points this season or will they break down and let the Redskins cruise to an easy victory?

Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks (96) peruses a Denver Broncos during an NFL preseason football game in Chicago, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. The Broncos won the game 22-0. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images) ORG XMIT: 20160811_DEN_CHI_100.JPG

Injury Update-Chicago’s’ Defense: Here is a list of Chicago defenders that were on the injury report this week:

Newly acquired cornerback Jonathan Banks was limited then practiced, fully.  He had an ankle issue.

Cornerback/Nickel back Bryce Callahan was limited then didn’t practice with a knee issue.

Eddie Goldman’s ankle injury has kept him from practicing all week and he is doubtful for the game this Saturday.

A quad injury limited Akiem Hicks but he has practiced in full as the week has went on.

Cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc has been limited with a knee problem.

Pernell McPhee was limited to start the week with his “usual” knee issue but practiced fully as the week went on.

Tracy Porter has a knee issue that limited him to start the week but he practiced in full as the week progressed.

Defensive tackle Cornelius Washington was out practice to start the week with a back injury but has returned and is limited.

Willie Young was out of practice early in the week with a knee issue and was limited as the week went on.

Injury Update-Washington’s Offense: The following players were listed on the injury report for this week:

Tackle Ty Nsekhe was limited to start with an ankle injury but has been a full participant in practice as the week has progressed.

Tight end Jordan Reed has not practiced all week due to a shoulder injury.

Guard Brandon Scherff has an ankle injury but has been a full participant in practice.

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Looking at special teams, the Bears do have one the best punters in the NFL in Pat O’Donnell.  The Redskins return game, for both punts and kickoffs, is decent as Crowder does well on punt returns.  Field goal kicking is going to be even.  Connor Barth and Dustin Hopkins have had similar success (and failures) this season.  Chicago’s return teams are solid but not spectacular and with Eddie Royal on injured reserve, punt returns will not be as electric.

The Redskins offense is better coached than Chicago’s offense and that is clear.  Washington’s offensive brain trust will be going up against one of the better defensive minds in the league in Vic Fangio.  The matchup there will be a good one.

This should be an interesting game to watch as far as coaching goes.  Will Bears’ offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains feature the running game, finally, or will he limit it and thus limit the Bears’ potential to win?  Will John Fox coach his players to win or coach them not to lose?  There is a difference.

The game this Saturday is going to be fun.  Legitimately, the Bears can win this game as they have been very close for the past four weeks (with one win) and can play any team tough.  The biggest question is, can they play to win.  Winning for this team is running the ball, playing the run tough on defense and limiting mistakes by the secondary.  In Chicago’s three wins this year all three of those aspects have been executed very well.  Can they do it a fourth time?

I would look for another close game by the Bears but potentially this one could be just a little out of their reach.  However, for the first time this season, I am going to do something I have never done before and call this game even.  This is a strong matchup and either team can win this game.  This may be the Bears’ most entertaining game of the year.

Prediction: Even

The Chicago Bears versus the Green Bay Packers Game Review

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By Bryan Dietzler

If you have been watching the Chicago Bears lately, it’s easy to see that they have been playing a little bit better lately.  Their game against the Titans was a close one, they beat the San Francisco 49ers and they nearly defeated the Detroit Lions.  There was no reason to think that they couldn’t play the Green Bay Packers tough and maybe even get a win.  The Packers weren’t that great and when these two teams get together, anything can happen.  So perhaps this would be not only a close game but possibly a Bears win.

It did end up being very close.  For the first two quarters, the Bears played the Packers very close and kept themselves in the game.  Then, in the third quarter, Chicago’s seemingly fell apart as turnovers helped give the Packers a 17-point lead.  It appeared the contest was over at the end of that third quarter.

But in the fourth quarter, the Bears erased that lead and tied the game.  But, they weren’t able to stop Green Bay from winning as they let Jordy Nelson get behind the defense and catch a perfect pass that put them in field goal range.  The ensuing three points gave the Packers the win and ended the Bears hopes for a come from behind victory.

The Packers earned the first score of the game after wide receiver/running back Ty Montgomery scored from four yards out to give Green Bay a 7-0 lead.  Connor Barth’s 26-yard field goal in the second half would give Chicago their first points of the game and make it 7-3.

The Bears would go up 10-7 after quarterback Matt Barkley hit wide receiver Joshua Bellamy for a 10-yard touchdown pass.  Green Bay would add three more points on a 34-yard Mason Crosby field goal and at the half, the game was tied 10 apiece.

Green Bay would take complete control of the game in the third quarter thanks to several miscues by Barkley.  The Packers added three points to make it 13-10 thanks to an 18-yard field goal by Crosby.  After another Bear’s miscue, Montgomery would add a touchdown, this one from three yards out to put the Packers up 21-10.

The Bears would allow one final score in the third quarter, this one a 42-yard run by Christine Michael.  Green Bay would end the quarter up 27-10 on the Bears.  The 17-point lead, with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm for the Bears, seemed insurmountable.

But as we have learned, we should not underestimate the Bears or even Barkley.  What happened in the fourth quarter ended up being one of the greatest moments in Chicago Bears history.

After being virtually absent for the first three quarters, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery got into the act in the final quarter catching an eight-yard touchdown pass from Barkley.  That put the Bears a little bit closer to the Packers as the score was 27-17.  Still, Green Bay’s lead seemed insurmountable.

Chicago would add seven more points following a nine-yard run by Jordan Howard.  That made it 27-24.  Chicago’s final score of the game, and the tying score, came when Barth booted a 22-yard field goal to tie it up at 27 apiece.

But, the previously mentioned Aaron Rodgers to Nelson bomb, which was mishandled due to a bad play call and poor coverage, set the Packers up perfectly to win.  With the final seconds ticking off the clock, Crosby nailed a 32-yard field goal to give the Packers a 30-27 win.

You can say a lot about Barkley but he is a poised quarterback that can make plays all over the field.  Granted, he had several miscues Sunday but hopefully that can be corrected with more experience and additional learning.  Remember that this is only the fourth game he has ever started in the NFL and quite frankly, he hasn’t done that bad.  He still has some learning to do but could be a good number two option in this league.

Yes, I did say he could be a number two option.  Several people have already anointed him the starter in 2017.  This kid has a lot of learning and experience to gain before he can become a full-time starter in the NFL.  And would he ever become a “great” NFL quarterback? That is difficult to tell.  Let’s see how he does the rest of the season and then, maybe, we can pass judgment.

The Packers did a good job of bottling up Howard when he did get to run the ball at first but later in the game, Howard got a good head of steam going and had a couple of nice runs.  The coaching staff ran Howard 17 times (he had ninety yards and the one score) but they could have run him a little more.  On a cold day like Sunday, running the ball is always the best option, but apparently, that doesn’t hold true for the Bears’ coaching staff.

So, blame the lack of production in the running game on a stout Green Bay rush defense and the usual problems the coaching staff has with running the ball.  If they could have run Howard more they could have taken some of the pressure off Barkley (especially in the third quarter).  Perhaps he wouldn’t have made those critical mistakes if the Bears’ rushing attack would have been going strong and given him another option (other than passing the ball).  It’s a possibility.

The wide receiving corps played some of its best football of the season this Sunday.  There weren’t too many dropped balls and a couple of the guys, Deonte Thompson and Cameron Meredith, stepped up and played very well.  Jeffery, who had missed the previous four games following a suspension for using PED’s showed up in the fourth quarter and helped the Bears pull closer to then eventually tie the Packers with his touchdown catch.  Even the “king of drops” Joshua Bellamy, had a critical touchdown catch.

After three weeks of ups and downs the wide receiving corps we finally had an “up” week.  Great work by this group.

The tight ends didn’t see that much action as starter Daniel Brown only had one catch for eight yards.  The most noticeable thing this group did was see Logan Paulsen get a holding call down near the end zone which took the Bears back a bit (in their effort to get that final score).  Not a great day for the tight ends.

The offensive line had some ups and downs.  The sack- strip- fumble that Julius Peppers had come courtesy of Charles Leno Jr. While Leno Jr. has been steady for a better part of the season, he has not been spectacular and more help could be used at left tackle.  As a whole though, the Bears’ offense line allowed just one sack and five pressures on the afternoon so it was a strong effort.  It was easily one of the offensive line’s better games of the season.

Chicago’s defense had an up down afternoon.  They kept Rodgers from tearing them apart, for the most part, but allowed Green Bay’s rushing attack to do a great deal of the damage.  Chicago’s run defense has slowly, over the last few weeks, started to get weaker and it appears to have finally broke this Sunday.

The Bears allowed Green Bay to rush for 226 yards including 162 by Montgomery.  This absolutely killed the Bears.  Chicago’s rush defense has been solid, not spectacular but solid and they are better than they were this Sunday.

If you watched the game, you would have noticed Chicago’s defenders seemingly bouncing off Green Bay runners.  Whether it was the cold, poor tackling or lack of effort, something was amiss and that led to the enormous amount of yards the Packers were able to pile up running the ball.

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The defensive line was without Eddie Goldman so they didn’t have their big run stuffing tackle in the middle.  That was a problem.  The rest of the line seemed to struggle trying to stop the run at the line letting Green Bay backs get into the second and third level where they caused a lot of problems.  Thus, the huge number of rushing yards piled up.

Akeim Hicks seemed to almost totally disappear this Sunday.  In fact, he had just a half a tackle.  This was not a good game for the line, overall.  Not to mention, the only sack from this group came from C.J. Wilson.

The linebackers struggled against the run but did have some good pass pressure and got Rodgers down on the ground a few times.  Pernell McPhee had two sacks and disrupted several other plays in what was his clearly his best game of the season.  Leonard Floyd got some pressure but was taken out of the contest almost entirely.  If you watched, you will have noticed that Floyd was set as the “spy” on Rodgers.  He kept good containment on the elusive quarterback but didn’t move up the field after Rodgers when he didn’t move.  That was a breakdown with both Floyd and the coaching staff.

Like the defensive line, the linebackers allowed Green Bay runners to get beyond their area of responsibility and pile up the yards.  Granted, the inside guys were active (John Timu and Nick Kwiatkoski) but no one had a solution for Green Bay’s running game.

The secondary had an up and down game and broke down at the most critical time in the contest.  You may have seen a theme with the defense and that is the fact that no one could seem to tackle Green Bay runners.  The secondary, the last line of defense, was just as guilty as the rest of the defense.  Perhaps the guiltiest position in the secondary was the safeties.  Their play was very poor.

Something that the secondary can hang their hat on is that they didn’t allow Rodgers and company to carve them up until the final moments.  The cornerbacks did a nice job until the very end especially Tracy Porter.  You can’t blame Cre’Von LeBlanc entirely for that last pass play.  The play call was not correct (the Bears were in quarters coverage) and it was easy to pick that defense apart.  But placing a rookie who has struggled in every game he has played on the opponent’s best wide receiver is going to cause some issues.  Poor play calling and poor execution at the games’ most critical moment.  That is another mantra of the 2016 Chicago Bears.

Not to be forgotten, the secondary did get a sack.  Demontre Hurst came blasting in from the edge and took Rodgers down hard.  That was a nice call by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Kicking was solid.  Barth made all the kicks but had some short kickoffs which were a bit of a head scratcher.  Pat O’Donnell continues to have a good year punting the ball.  The return teams were unspectacular but the coverage units did a decent job overall.

The coaching staff continues to leave fans wondering what is happening with the running game.  Time and again, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains continues to stall on running the ball despite the fact he has one of the best running backs in football.  The rushing attack has been successful time and again and Loggains stops it and moves to the passing attack.  It’s almost like Loggains doesn’t like to run.  Very disappointing.

Fangio called his best and his worst game of the year.  The on the field execution of a few of his calls has been poor, yes, but there were times you could tell that Fangio wasn’t doing the right thing.  Still, he’s one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL and the Bears really need him coaching defense.  He’s the best they have.

Over many years of being a head coach, one thing about John Fox has been very consistent.  He is not a good game manager.  He doesn’t make good decisions in leaving too much time on the clock.  He also needs to look at some the decisions he makes on players (starting/sitting and inactive/actives).  He’s talented but has his flaws.

In the end, playing close doesn’t get you in the win column.  The Bears played well, for three quarters, but lost the game thanks to not playing well in that third quarter.  Too many breakdowns, too many injuries and too many poor coaching decisions cost the Bears a win.  There were some great individual and group efforts and this game shows that the Bears have something to build on for 2017 but they still don’t have enough to finish this season strong.  The disappointment of 2016 continues.

The Bears will host the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field on Christmas Eve.  A full preview of that contest will arrive here at the end of the week.

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