The Bears can beat Tennessee on Sunday, but they just can’t win

They have a winning record and lots of doubters. At a minimum, they have a public-perception problem.

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The Bears will need a lot more from Nick Foles (left) and David Montgomery (right) if they’re going to convince people that they’re a dominant team.

The Bears will need a lot more from Nick Foles (left) and David Montgomery (right) if they’re going to convince people that they’re a dominant team.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I’m picking the Bears to beat the Titans on Sunday, but I wouldn’t read too much into that if I were you, nor would I attach much meaning to a victory in Nashville. I’m a middling prognosticator, the NFL is a strange beast and I have it on good authority that these Bears will break your heart if you entrust it to them.

They could win Sunday, and things could still be all wrong with their offense.

To put it in a broader context, they can win this game, but they just can’t win.

That’s the theme of this season. The kind way of putting it is that, at 5-3, they have a public-perception problem. The not-so-nice way of putting it is that most people know a sham when they see one.

Am I being unfair? Have I made it impossible for the Bears to get their due? Have I erected a tower that can’t be climbed?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: No, I don’t think so.

Longer answer in question form: Have you seen the Bears’ offense?

That raises another question: Assuming that you’re not yet buying what the Bears are selling (see previous question), what would it take for you to believe in them in the second half of the season?

I can hear coach Matt Nagy’s voice in my head: Hey, wise guy, we’re 5-3, good enough for second place in the NFC North!

Right. And Salisbury steak is steak.

I’m trying to imagine a scenario involving the Bears’ offense in which the team could open the hearts and minds of those of us who have bought padlocks and purposely misplaced the keys. The true believers will point to the schedule as a reason to believe. The Bears’ eight remaining games are against teams with a combined 24-32 record.

That brings us to Nick Foles’ declaration that the only thing that matters is winning. It’s a nice sentiment. It’s also not true. There are plenty of reasons to tune in to watch an NFL game, and entertainment value is a biggie. The Bears’ offense is maddening to watch. It comes in drips and drabs. The offensive line wasn’t great to start with, and now that injuries and illness have hit, both it and Foles would seem to be in bigger trouble. Nagy’s play calling too often has been puzzling. I have no proof of this, but I believe that if you’re exposed to this offense for extended periods, it will take years off your life. When Foles hit Darnell Mooney with a 50-yard pass against the Saints last week, it was the team’s longest play of the season. Not knowing what to do with themselves, Bears fans went into a catatonic state.

Bill Parcells famously said that you are what your record says you are. In other words, if you’re 2-5, arguing that you’re better than that is a waste of time. Conversely, if you’re 7-0, you have every right to strut. I’ve always thought Parcells’ assertion lacked nuance.

When the Bears were 5-1 (seems like ages ago), lots of people had questions about the team’s record, the biggest question being, “Is that a misprint?” They had seen the transition at quarterback from a mediocre Mitch Trubisky to a mediocre Foles. The Bears were good enough to beat some bad teams, and their defense was good enough to beat Tom Brady and Tampa Bay. But they were not 5-1 good.

The past two games, losses to the Rams and the Saints, have proved that. Never mind what the record says. Your eyes tell you that the Bears are merely a decent team, one with a talented defense and a bad offense.

The good news this week is that the 5-2 Titans have lost two in a row, are giving up 4.7 yards per rush (tied for the sixth-highest average in the league) and have just seven sacks (tied for 31st). It’s why the Bears have a chance of winning Sunday. It’s also why any feel-good vibes that come out of the game for the offense probably won’t have much staying power.

Would you rather lose pretty or win ugly? That was Foles’ question after a homely victory over the Panthers a few weeks ago. I’d like to win with a competent offense. Normally, that wouldn’t seem to be asking the world, but it might be with the Bears, given their talent level. It’s hard to see this unit improving dramatically the rest of the season. There are no reinforcements coming to save the day. No cavalry.

An outsider could stumble into Chicago and easily come to the conclusion that we’re a very tough crowd when it comes to the Bears. I don’t think that’s it. We’re a crowd that refuses to lie to itself.

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