It’s Week 6 of the NFL season and the 1-4 Washington Commanders will be facing a 2-3 Bears team in Chicago.
Washington is in the midst of a four-game skid, and the struggling Bears could be just what the doctor ordered. At 2-3, the Bears offense - like Washington’s - has been wildly inconsistent and its run defense has been one of the worst in the league. Will a recuperating Brian Robinson be able get right against this primetime opponent?
To learn more about these and other issues, I asked Patti Curl of Windy City Gridiron five questions about the state of the Bears and what to look for in this game.
1) Justin Fields appears to have struggled mightily this year, only throwing over 200 yards once and throwing more interceptions than touchdown passes. If he continues at this pace, and the Bears finish under .500 this year, do you think that they’ll look to start over at QB? What, if anything, is he doing well?
Justin Fields is an incredible athlete who doesn’t do anything halfway, so if he was going to struggle, I’m not surprised that he struggled mightily. His stats have been awful, but the full story isn’t consistently awful play. There have been plenty of flashes of ability to extend plays, improvise, make big plays downfield, and scrambles for 10+ yards. What there hasn’t been is consistency or any extended period of time where he looked comfortable or made the easy plays look easy. But the longest stretch of good play was the last 32 minutes against the Vikings, so I’m feeling optimistic that he won’t keep up this pace all year.
That said, if he truly does finish the year averaging 136 yards and 0.6 touchdowns per game, it’s certainly possible the current regime, who didn’t draft him, would consider starting over. I still think it’s very hard to judge him independent of his supporting cast—which is bad—and if I were in charge, I’d give him one more year while building up the rest of the offense.
2) Virginia Tech product Khalil Herbert looks like a very nice surprise at running back, supplanting David Montgomery as the Bears top RB, at least in terms of yardage gained. How do you expect that division of labor to play out?
Khalil Herbert is a great runner who has more burst than Montgomery. He’s also very raw in pass protection. When Montgomery is healthy, he’s likely to get the majority of the rush attempts, but that’s maybe 60% of them, with a third to Herbert and the rest to rookie Tristan Ebner or a wide receiver. Unless you count Justin Fields, who may very well end up the leading rusher the way games have been going.
3) Like Washington, Chicago is a once great franchise that has been terrible to average for much of the past decade. Is there an expectation that Matt Eberflus is the guy to turn things around in the Windy City? I’m also curious what fans think of new general manager Ryan Poles.
I can’t imagine many Bears fans have any expectation things will turn around in Chicago. Unless, by turn around, you mean the Bears will continue chasing their own tail, which is more or less what they’ve been doing since Lovie Smith was fired in 2012. But there are many of us with hope, and there are some reasons to be optimistic.
Eberflus teaches a high effort brand of defense that prioritizes takeaways, and the team seems to be buying in. The halftime adjustments have looked good so far this season, which is something the last coaching staff was dismal at, and the team has been overall more disciplined, with far fewer penalties than last year.
As far as Poles goes, he’s clearly approaching his role with a goal of long-term success, which does make me hopeful. I haven’t liked how frugal he’s been with the offense because I think a certain level of support is necessary for a quarterback’s development, and I fear Fields doesn’t have that level of support. But I do feel confident he’s not going to waste resources, something that was a favorite pastime of Chicago’s previous Ryan P.
4) The Bears defense, particularly its run defense, looks like it’s been very vulnerable through the first part of the season. Did they do anything against the Vikings to improve on that front? What is their greatest defensive strength?
The Bears linebackers, starting with Roquan Smith, are more tailored to pass coverage than run stopping. The defense is overall built to stop the pass more than the run, which is apparently the cool trend in the NFL these days. Honestly, some of their worst run defense, particularly against the Packers, came down to multiple missed tackles. That hasn’t been as big of an issue over the last three games, and I’m hoping the defense was just knocking off some rust in the first couple games.
What does the defense do well? They’ve been able to save drives with crucial takeaways or forcing negative plays with sacks or tackles for loss that ultimately keep the opposing offense from scoring. A handful of timely big plays have kept the Bears looking much better in scoring defense than overall yards. I’m hoping that’s not just luck. Their best position group right now is safety, but if Jaylon Johnson gets healthy and things click for Kyler Gordon, I’m hoping by the end of the season the whole secondary will look like a strength.
5) What are you expecting the final score of the game to be this week? DraftKings Sportsbook has the over/under set at 38. How many points do you expect to be scored overall?
I think the football gods will punish everyone who joked that this week’s Thursday night football game will be worse than last. I’m gonna say the Bears and Commanders cook up a barn burner in Chicago this Thursday, and on the flames of that burning barn, each team grills a 40 burger to drop on the other. Final score: 48 Bears 42 Commanders. Kyler Gordon intercepts a last minute Carson Wentz YOLO ball in overtime for a walk-off pick 6.
Thanks again to Patti Curl for taking time out of her day to answer our questions about the Bears.
As of right now, Vegas has the game as a "pick ‘em". How would you bet?
This poll is closed
The teams tie.
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 38 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
39 or more total points are scored.
38 or fewer total points are scored.