By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
After all the hardship and uncertainty endured on behalf of the Chicago Bears in 2020, the team and its fan base has been gifted with a playoff opportunity so neatly presented it would almost be a shame to rip it open.
Of course, after the Arizona Cardinals’ losing effort Saturday afternoon, not much effort beyond the Bears’ control is needed, an amazing development after suffering through one of the NFL’s worst stretches in 2020 with six games lost in a row over most of October and November.
Even at the Bears’ worst this season, though, there was reason to believe that at least one win would come the team’s way — Week 16 against the 1-win Jacksonville Jaguars, they who are now in the driver’s seat to acquire the No. 1 draft pick in 2021 and thus the next potential golden boy of professional football — Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
To say that the Jags, already playing out one of the worst NFL seasons in recent memory, could be willing participants in their own demise this Sunday isn’t a stretch. That’s why any goals listed in this post are underscored by this simple belief, something that was a lot more realistic about a month ago when Chicago was featuring football arguably as bad as that in Duval County — if the Bears lose this game then everyone in football operations should be fired by seasons end.
Surely, anything can happen on any given Sunday, but all the Bears need to do is win this week and then all they’ll need to do is win next week, and so on and so on.
Not only are the Bears’ playoff hopes still in the balance, they’re in the playoffs now and they got a hell of a wild card draw in the worst team in the league. It would be an extreme issue for the Bears to lose this game where the objectives are so clear, it would be proof that success could never be sustained with the current status quo at Halas Hall.
No audio version of 4th and Goal(s) this week, but you can get other Bears coverage and more on WARR on Anchor shows like 2nd City Sports and That Davis Show.
Devil in the Details — No need to go too far into depth on this one. These Jacksonville Jaguars are going to compete, sure — most of the current players and coaches don’t care about drafting a future quarterback as much as they care about securing their own livelihoods/futures in the NFL.
You can argue a similar mentality has gotten the Bears to fight back into the NFC playoff picture. With that said, the Bears need to be ready to play this game and not look ahead to what could be in the final game of the year against the Packers.
Insert your football cliche here: take it one week at a time, take care of the details, don’t commit self-inflicted mistakes like penalties and turnovers.
If the Bears play another week of mistake-free football then they will beat the Jaguars.
Offensive Resurgence — Over the past three weeks, all of a sudden, the Bears are scoring and its been enough to boost them over the bad defenses they have gone up against in the Lions, Texans and Vikings. Scoring 30, 36 and 33 points respectively in those games has been a rare run of sustained offensive success.
These Jaguars are just as bad or worse on defense as the past three opponents, there’s no reason why the Bears shouldn’t score at least in the mid-20s once again. Huge side goal here: run the damn ball, it has been clear in these latest games that when the Bears commit to running they are hard to beat.
Injuries Could Hurt — One thing that is a concern when it comes to this game from the Bears perspective is their injury report. A lot of guys are questionable coming into the weekend, leaving many of the second and third string guys in need to be ready, just in case.
Losing some guys like edge rusher Khalil Mack, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, or wide receiver Allen Robinson would be huge blows along with the other guys that are already ruled out. Nevertheless, there are still enough bodies left on the roster to get a victory done. This game will be won with competing and executing, the level of talent brought to the field should actually be secondary.
Want It — The Bears now officially control their destiny after the Arizona Cardinals’ Week 16 loss — if the Bears can’t get a win against these Jaguars under these circumstances then they have major character issues in their locker room. For all the ups and downs of this season, the Bears can still make something out of themselves after a horrendous six-game losing streak came close to making them laughing stocks.
It would just be simply unacceptable for the Bears to lose to the Jaguars and keep the people in charge of football operations including president Ted Phillips, general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy.
But with a win here, the final game of the season sets up to be a wild one, with the Bears being in “win or stay home” mode at Soldier Field against their rivals in the Packers to make the playoffs — the team shouldn’t be looking ahead, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR