Almost everything that needed to happen for the Chicago Bears’ playoff push did happen over the Thanksgiving weekend in the NFL, and with an even six and six record the Bears are playing meaningful games in December for a second consecutive season.
Fighting for that sixth seed in the NFC isn’t exactly what Bears fans had in mind when they kicked off the franchise’s 100th season, but after a rough patch where they lost five of six games, being in position where “in the hunt” actually matters is a big win for this franchise. They’ll still need help during the last four weeks of the season, but for all intents and purposes, the Bears are in must-win mode right now. The best chance they have to make the postseason is to win out, and even then there are no guarantees they’ll make a repeat to wildcard weekend.
They trail two teams for the final NFC playoff spot, but thanks to a lackluster performance in L.A., they only have the tiebreaker over one one of them. The 7-5 Rams are currently in the seventh seed with Chicago at number eight, and both trail the sixth seeded Minnesota Vikings, who just dropped a game on Monday Night Football to the Seattle Seahawks, who are in the driver's seat for a playoff spot themselves at 10-2 atop the NFC West. With Minnesota now at 8-4 and already having one loss to the Bears, the pressure is on the Vikes to stay 2 games in front of Chicago as the two teams play in the season finale.
Next up for the Bears is the Dallas Cowboys in a prime-time Thursday night encounter between two teams seemingly heading in opposite directions. Dallas may lead the NFC East, but they have the same 6-6 record as does the Bears. Chicago needs this game on Thursday night to not only keep pace with the Rams and Vikings, but to snag the all important tiebreaker over the Cowboys. The Bears have won three of their last four games, while the Cowboys have lost three of their last four.
Dallas’ offense has been held to 24 points in their last two games, while the Bears’ O has finally started to click and has scored 43 points in their last two. After only getting over 300 yards in total offense once in their first ten games, the Bears have averaged 377 in their last two contests.
The Cowboys do present a problem for the Bears as they can get to the quarterback by only rushing four players, which allows defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to disguise coverages while he works in his favored Tampa 2 defense. Bears’ QB Mitchell Trubisky has struggled against zone defenses this season, so this will be a tough test for him. I would expect Dallas to contain rush him and to put a spy on him, as this has been a successful game-plan against Trubisky all year long.
The best bet for Bears head coach Matt Nagy would be to try and get rookie running back David Montgomery going in order to keep Dallas’ pass rushers honest. The Cowboys are a top ten defense in total yards allowed and in passing yards allowed, but they’re only middle of the pack as they allow 106 yards per game on the ground. If the Bears passing game can mix in some quick zone beaters with some well timed play action passes, then Trubisky could continue his streak of decent play and get the Bears to seven wins.
The Cowboys do boast one of the best offenses in the NFL, but Chicago’s defense should be up to the challenge in front of their home crowd.
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