Following the Bears’ overtime loss to the division rival Vikings this past Sunday, and the Bears subsequently falling to 6-6 (2-3 NFC North), it seems less and less likely that they have any chance at continuing to the postseason this year. After pulling out wins in six of their first 10 games, Chicago has now succumbed to its third two-game losing streak and has blown several key opportunities to keep pace with division rival Detroit. Barring any major changes over the next month, the Lions (7-5, 4-1 NFC North) will win the division for the first time in nearly 19 years. With the 49ers and Cardinals searching, chances at the wild card are equally slim. So, really, what happened to the Monsters of Midway?
Though injuries abound, it is difficult to say that this has had a major impact, at least on the offensive side of the ball. Jay Cutler has not played in nearly half of the 12 games so far this season, but his replacement Josh McCown has been, for all intents and purposes, a stellar replacement. In his six performances, including four starts, McCown has thrown for 1,461 yards with nine touchdowns and just a single interception. And even though Chicago has lost in half of the games he has started, in no way can you blame the 34-year-old backup. He’s playing his best season ever, and may very well be the best backup QB in the NFL.
The Bears’ offense has performed beyond expectations all season long. With 323, the Bears have the fourth-best scoring offense in the league. They have found a stud in wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey, who in the loss to the Vikings became the first player in franchise history to record two 200-yard games in a single season. Jeffrey’s 80-yard TD reception that game will be in highlight reels for the rest of the season. Even the offensive line has improved by leaps and bounds. First-round draft pick Kyle Long is just the sort of lineman we want protecting our QB; we’ve seen it time and time again when he goes out of his way to take care of his quarterback.
That being said, for the first time in my many years of being a Bears fan, the same cannot be said of the defense. Their fourth-best scoring offense is impeded by the fifth-most points allowed by their defense. From fifth total defense in the NFL last season, to their current ranking of 28th in the NFL, these guys have fallen a long, long way. Their inability to stop the run has perhaps been most devastating, surrendering over 1,500 yards on the season thus far — the absolute worst in the NFL. It’s amazing and it’s sad. Couple the Bears defense from last season with the Bears offense of this season and you have yourself a Super Bowl contender.
The future of this Bears team is uncertain. Twenty-seven of the 53 players on the team are on contracts, which will expire at the end of this year. These include Cutler, McCown, Gould, Hester, Jennings, Tillman and Wooten. Lance Briggs’ and Brandon Marshall’s contracts are up next year. While certainly the team will keep some of these key roleplayers, with money tight and aging bodies, it cannot keep them all. We can scratch the postseason off our lists for what’s next for the Chicago Bears, but what’s in store in the next year is all up in the air.