10 Bears questions: On playoffs, play-callers, Alshon and Cubs
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The Bears say they haven’t counted themselves out just yet, despite a 2-6 record heading into Sunday’s bye.
“What is there for us to play for?” receiver Alshon Jeffery asked rhetorically. “The division’s still there. The Super Bowl’s still there. The playoffs are still there.
“We just gotta take it one game at a time. That’s all we gotta do.”
While we channel are inner Jim Mora — “Playoffs?!?” — here are 10 more questions for the Bears:
1. No, seriously. What are their playoff chances?
Infinitesimal. Football Outsiders’ projections give the Bears a 4.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, the third-lowest figure in the NFC behind the Panthers (4.2) and 49ers (0.3).
2. Wanna bet?
The Bears are 1,500-to-1 to win the NFC, per VegasInsider.com.
3. Remember when they were a first-half team?
The Bears went 3-5 to start the previous two seasons and 2-6 this year.
Before that, though, they’d had only one losing first-half record in the previous nine seasons, a 3-5 mark in 2007. From 2005-13, the Bears were 46-26 in the first half of the season. Since then, they’re 8-16.
4. Wanna call plays?
Not in this division.
When offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned unexpectedly Wednesday, the Vikings became the fourth NFC North team to change play-callers in the past one year and seven days.
The list: On Oct. 26, 2015, the Lions fired coordinator Joe Lombardi and promoted Jim Bob Cooter. On Dec. 13, head coach Mike McCarthy took over play-calling duties for the Packers, and hasn’t relinquished them. And on Jan. 11, the Bears promoted quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to replace Adam Gase, who left to become the Dolphins head coach.
5. How did the Bears congratulate the Cubs?
Thursday morning, the Bears posted a Twitter video of an unknown man carrying the Cubs’ white ‘W’ flag out the front door of Halas Hall and up the flagpole next to the George Halas statue.
It was Jeffery, a baseball fan who threw out the first pitch this year.
“Feels good to fly the W,” he said on the video. “Congratulations, Cubs.”
6. Division play is just different, right?
John Fox went 20-4 in AFC West play with the Broncos. That might have more to do with Peyton Manning than a knack for knowing thy enemy, but maybe Fox has a certain skill. The Bears are 2-1 against the NFC North this year and 0-5 against everyone else. Fox’s three wins matched Marc Trestman’s career total in three fewer tries.
Average out Fox’s NFC North games, and the Bears have been outscored, 22.9-19.8. Trestman was outfoxed 28.3-20 over two years, though, and 28.8-15.3 in his final season.
7. Look out, Forte?
If rookie running back Jordan Howard duplicates his first half, he’ll finish with 1,010 rushing yards — easily more than the 898 Matt Forte posted during his 13-game 2015 and almost as many as Forte’s 1,038 in 2014. Not bad, considering Howard had only 12 carries in September.
Through 99 rushes, Howard is averaging 5.1 rushing yards per carry. Forte has never topped 4.6 in a season.
8. Did the Bears catch a break Thursday night?
Maybe. Their next opponent, the Buccaneers, lost to the Falcons, 43-28, and lost their two best offensive players. But for how long?
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston was hit at the goal line and left the game — for the first time in his career — with a knee injury. He said afterward he felt “great.” After making a ridiculous one-handed catch, star receiver Mike Evans left the game, too, and was placed in concussion protocol.
Both players will have 10 days to get healthy.
9. How much did Jeffery miss Jay Cutler?
He’s been twice as good with Cutler under center.
In the 11 quarters he’s played alongside Cutler, Jeffery has 11 catches on 17 targets for 241 yards — or 14.2 receiving yards per target.
In 21 quarters with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley at quarterback, Jeffery has 25 catches on 47 targets for 342 yards — 7.3 yards per target.
Of course, Jeffery caught his only touchdown of the season Monday — from Cutler — and dropped another one.
“Jay was trying to feed me the ball, but my hands weren’t cooperating,” Jeffery said.
10. What? The NFL limits alternate jerseys to two games a year?
The Bears are 2-0 in their “Monsters of the Midway” throwback uniforms this year and 0-6 in everything else.