It seems the Chicago Bears are left mostly with choices leading up to their flexed Sunday Night Football match-up at Philadelphia, the kind of choices that takes skill and nuance to navigate and likely all the time leading up to the 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
First off, Lance Briggs is once again available to the team, surely good news given that the Bears are facing one of the best and most dynamic running backs in the League this week in LeSean “Shady” McCoy and the NFL’s top rushing attack in total.
ESPN Chicago had Briggs’ stats up to his Week 7 injury as 75 tackles including nine tackles for losses, two sacks, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles — an impressive and diverse portfolio of impact on the defensive side.
Knowing all the things that Briggs can do and knowing that he has been able to take part in three practices this week it seems that the perennial all-pro will be on the field in Philly but I wouldn’t mind if the Bears held that exact info close to the chest along with just how much he’ll be out on the field.
I tell you, it would be nice to see the defensive captain on the field for the very first play.
The decisions of whether to use Briggs or not are on a smaller scale than the potential decision of whether or not to even to play this game out in a completely competitive fashion.
Due to the screwy title races in both the NFC North and East, there stands a chance that both the Bears and Eagles could be playing a meaningless game this week if some earlier games go a certain way. In particular, for the Bears, their effort Sunday night would be rendered meaningless if Detroit loses to the Giants and the Packers win versus Pittsburgh.
That set up would leave the Pack at 8-6-1 entering the evening and it would mean that the Bears would be no better (9-6) or worse (8-7) than a 1/2 game in relation to Green Bay after the Eagles game, leaving everything to be settled next week.
And even if the more tortured situation doesn’t fall for the Bears, its very likely that they’d face an Eagles team that won’t need to press the pedal. A Dallas win at Washington in the afternoon would render the Eagles’ effort useless and set up a winner-take-all game between those two next week.
My predictions: we’ll see both the North and the East up for grabs in Week 17.
*The Bears will ride a three-game win streak into the finale against the Packers after downing Philly 38-34 but they won’t be facing the team they’ll need to beat for the title. Instead, Detroit will win Sunday, keeping their now slim playoff hopes alive for next week and Green Bay — without Aaron Rodgers — will fall to Pittsburgh due to crucial mistakes in their secondary.
*Meanwhile, Dallas will lose to a Washington team that by winning with Kirk Cousins will ensure that it is the most screwed-up franchise in the NFL. Philly, as stated earlier will drop the ball in its chance to clinch the East but will be a prohibitive favorite in the winner-take-all.
Ridin’ High in Primetime
The Bears hold a 4-0 record in prime time games this season, including its Sunday night win in Week 3 (40-23 vs. Pittsburgh), a Thursday-nighter against the Giants in Week 6 (27-21) and their two Monday night wins against Green Bay (27-20, Week 9) and Dallas in Week 14.
The Bears have an all-time record of 46-58 in prime time games according to wikipedia, the franchise’s only winning record comes on Thursdays (5-4).
I would find it hard to see a season where the team has ever gone 5-0 in prime time, even the ’85 Bears (remember, they lost to Miami on MNF), so if the team pulls this one out Sunday that would be truly momentous. In the meantime, I’ll do some research and see how many seasons have the Bears matched this year’s success under the lights.
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