Franchises that maintain success in the National Football League don’t necessarily make the playoffs year in and year out like the New England Patriots do — although that is the ultimate goal — because when talking about the Patriots’ dynasty you’re talking about a legendary head coach / quarterback combo (Bill Belichick / Tom Brady) that is an outlier in the NFL. Success has varying degrees, but if a team has a legit chance at the postseason each year, that’s really the most you can realistically hope for.
The 2019 Chicago Bears, in year two of the Matt Nagy era and in year five of the Ryan Pace era, are playing games that matter in December for a second consecutive season. It’s not much when considering the sustained success of the current NFC North division leaders, the Green Bay Packers, but for a franchise with only one playoff appearance since 2011, that’s a good start.
The Bears are still a long shot to make the playoffs, but a win on Sunday against the Packers at noon will add pressure to both the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams, who each play in the late afternoon slots. A loss in Green Bay wouldn’t necessarily eliminate the Bears from playoff contention, but it would put the Packers one step away from punching their playoff ticket. A Packers win coupled with a Rams loss gives Green Bay their twentieth postseason appearance since 1993. That may not be Patriot-like success, but if the Bears are looking for a franchise to emulate they need only look over the border to the north.
All the Bears can do is control what’s in front of them and beating the Packers is the first step to keeping meaningful December games alive for the franchise this year.
If the Bears want to win this Sunday they’ll need to have rookie running back David Montgomery get more than the seven touches he had in their week one encounter. In that season kickoff game, Bears head coach Matt Nagy called plays as though he was allergic to the run. His game-plan that night saw quarterback Mitchell Trubisky attempt 45 passes (plus he was sacked 5 times), while only giving 12 runs to running backs. What makes that stat even more maddening is that the Packers have been bad against the run all season long. They’re 25th in rushing yards allowed with 122.8 yards per game, and 27th in yards per carry at 4.7.
Had Nagy only shown a commitment to the run that night...
The Packers haven’t been much better against the pass either by allowing 245.1 yards per game (21st) and 7.9 yards per attempt (25th), but for their week 14 match-up the Bears need to figure out a way to run the ball behind an improving offensive line and their hard running rookie.
When looking at the all-important DVOA metric, the Packers are even worse than the Cowboys were a week ago, and the Bears went for nearly 400 yards on offense and 31 points in that game. If the Bears can stick to a similar offensive script that has worked these last few weeks (run the ball, play action, move the pocket) they have a good chance to pull off the upset.
At QB, Trubisky is in a much better place now than he was in that first week where he looked like a rookie trying to work through his reads. Green Bay made a cognizant effort to keep him in the pocket by contain-rushing and spying him, and he struggled with the different looks. But now he’s seen other teams try a similar approach to what the Pack did week one, and both he and Nagy have adjusted.
It feels weird getting through an entire Bears vs Packers preview and not mentioning Aaron Rodgers until now, but if the Bears’ offense can sustain some drives and put up some points, then Chicago’s defense will be able to slow Rodgers enough to put them in position to win.
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