Adam L. Jahns’ “Read Options” column appears in Pro Football Weekly, which is available Thursday or Friday in the Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Herald, Rockford Register Star, Northwest Herald, Kankakee Daily Journal, Peoria Journal Star and on ProFootballWeekly.com.
We’re at the quarter point of the NFL season, which means we have a better idea of which teams are good, bad or just plain ugly.
As usual, the NFL is an unpredictable, mediocre mess.
No one predicted 1-3 starts for the Cardinals and Panthers. The Bears? Sure. But the Cardinals and Panthers were widely considered Super Bowl contenders.
So what’s ahead for the Bears? Here’s a look at some winnable games, using the first four weeks as reference.
Week 5 at the Colts (1-3): Quarterback Andrew Luck has been good, but not great. Protection continues to be a problem with Luck being sacked a league-high 15 times. The Colts’ defense has struggled. Quarterbacks have a combined 100.4 passer rating against them.
Week 6 vs. the Jaguars (1-3): The young and talented Jaguars haven’t met high expectations, starting with QB Blake Bortles, who has thrown six interceptions and has a 79.4 passer rating. Their defense might be ranked sixth in total yards, but they’ve allowed the eighth most points, 27.8 per game.
Week 10 at the Buccaneers (1-3): QB Jameis Winston’s sophomore season has been a struggle. His eight interceptions trail only Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 10. They haven’t run the ball well, either. Opposing quarterbacks have fared well, too, posting a combined 106.5 passer rating against the Bucs.
Week 11 at the Giants (2-2): Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t been the game-breaking star he can be, as opponents have gotten inside his head and frustrated him. Similar to the Bears, they’ve dealt with some notable injuries, especially on defense. QB Eli Manning has been erratic.
Week 12 vs. the Titans (1-3): QB Marcus Mariota (four touchdowns, five interceptions) hasn’t taken the next step in his second season. His options in the passing game are limited. The Titans are tied for last in the NFL in scoring with the Bears. But the Titans’ defense is in good hands with legendary coordinator Dick LeBeau.
Week 13 vs. the 49ers (1-3): Coordinator Chip Kelly doesn’t have the right quarterback for his offensive system. Blaine Gabbert (73.1 passer rating) has floundered despite running back Carlos Hyde’s success. Their offense and defense are currently ranked 30th and 26th in total yards, respectively.
Week 14 at the Lions (1-3): With the Bears’ win on Sunday as evidence, the Lions remain the Lions. They can produce big points, but QB Matthew Stafford can be inconsistent. Another coaching change appears in their future if their struggles continue. The Lions can’t run the ball, and injuries have hindered the defense’s effectiveness.
Week 16 vs. Washington (2-2): Back-to-back wins have improved QB Kirk Cousins’ standing in the locker room, which was reportedly shaky. He still directs a potent passing attack. But they’ve given up plenty of points on defense. Cornerback Josh Norman, their big free-agent addition, hasn’t paid off yet.
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You’ll surely notice that the Bears’ games against the Vikings and Packers weren’t included in the above listing. That’s because they’re among the NFL’s elite, not the mangled mess of mediocrity.
Surprises can happen. Let’s not forget the Bears ruined Brett Favre Night last year when no one gave them a chance. And their matchups will be important division games, especially if the Bears beat some of the aforementioned teams. But let’s see the Bears do that first.