Due to the tardiness of this post — and, once again, I apologize to those loyal readers who come here every Monday morning to read it — I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on yesterday’s results.
Not that extra time was needed, though. No matter how the Bears performed yesterday, the fact remains that nothing has changed in the standings except an additional win for both the Bears and Vikings. The Packers’ loss to the Texans pushed them further out of the division race, but they were on the fringe regardless.
Despite the Lions playing tough and keeping the score close, they were not expected to upset the Vikings and allow the Bears to draw even in the standings. So, we should feel no different right now than we did at noon prior to kickoff on Sunday.
Now the season comes down to the final three games, which, the Bears clearly have the easier of the two schedules. Sure, the Saints have a high-powered offense and the Packers trounced the Bears a few weeks ago, and the Texans knocked off the Packers yesterday. But none of those three teams are unbeatable and only the Saints are above .500.
The Vikings remaining schedule? At Arizona (8-5), home against Atlanta (8-5), and home against the New York Giants (11-2). If they can win more of their remaining games than the Bears, they deserve to be in the postseason.
And that’s exactly what the Bears have to do — win more than the Vikings — because the tie-breakers don’t look good for the Bears.
This week’s game against the Saints — played on Thursday night in front of a national audience — will feel just like a playoff game. And if the Bears can beat the Saints for the third straight season at Soldier Field, they’ll be in good shape because I feel the Vikings will lose at Arizona.
As far as the Jaguars game goes, I was pleased most with how the Bears moved the ball. At least, in the first half. The game reminded me a lot of the Rams game from two weeks ago. The Bears dominated in the first half, and then took their foot off the pedal and had a poor second half. Against this Saints’ team — who can score touchdowns within the blink of an eye — that can’t happen.
Another thing that can’t happen is dropped passes. It’s no secret the Bears need to upgrade their receiver position in the off-season. But one thing that can improve without upgrading talent is catching the ball. You don’t have to have talent to catch a pass. If you’re in the NFL, you know how to catch a pass. You just need to concentrate better. Once again, tight ends Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen both had good games and that’s likely a result of having poor receivers around them.
Defensively, it was hard to gauge how the Bears played because the Jaguars just aren’t very good this year. One thing is for sure: they didn’t play the run as well as they normally do. Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 108 yards on 25 carries. The Saints don’t run the ball nearly as well, but they sure can sling the ball through the air.
I’m not a guy who believes in “Bear weather”, but I do believe that cold weather and elements such as snow and wind can affect a game. I know it certainly affected the conference championship game two years ago. I sure hope it’s snowy and windy Thursday night.
The Bears have a short week ahead of them, but so do the Saints, so lack of preparation cannot be an excuse for losing this game. I’m not a believer in “must-win” situations because unless they’re mathematically eliminated by losing, it’s not a must-win game.
But for all intents and purposes, they need to treat it like a playoff game and a lose-or-go-home situation. I think the Bears can and will win this game so long as they don’t lay down defensively and their offense plays more like they did in the first half against the Rams and Jaguars — and the first 25 minutes of the Vikings game — and less like they did in the latter half of the past three games.