Chicago Bears: Their true identity will come out in the desert

(Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images) /

With the QB drama officially behind us, the Chicago Bears can start focusing attention on what really matters which is the games on Sunday. Justin Fields is set to make his third start on Sunday in the desert against the Las Vegas Raiders with the momentum of the season on his shoulders.

I’ll be honest, I think with the announcement of Justin Fields starting, the Chicago Bears instantly became the biggest wildcard in the NFC playoff race. No, I do not think they are even remotely close to competing with the elite of the NFC once the playoffs begin, but do I think they could get in as a wildcard and potentially upset someone on the road? Absolutely I do, obviously depending on the development of Justin Fields.

That’s what makes this week’s matchup against Vegas extremely important. Las Vegas, 3-1, has been one of the bigger surprises in the NFL this season. With Derek Carr’s resurgence and a defense clearly playing with a chip on their shoulder through September, many have quickly labeled the Raiders as a dark horse in the AFC playoff picture.

They’ll be a great litmus test for the Chicago Bears who bounced back from a devastating loss against Cleveland with their win over Detroit this past weekend. However, some have attributed that improvement to the quality of their opponent more than actual growth, adding further intrigue to this weekend’s game.

As a result, I believe the Bears’ performance this weekend will set the tone for the rest of their season as everyone will be able to see whether or not they are pretenders or contenders.

The Chicago Bears’ 2021 ceiling will be revealed on Sunday against Vegas.

Additionally, we’ll all get to see how Bill Lazor’s playcalling is handled by a respectable defense – something we actually haven’t seen even dating back to last season. Perhaps we’ll learn that even Lazor’s playcalling can’t save an inherently flawed scheme and a weak offensive line against a strong opponent. On the flip side, we could learn that the Bears’ offense has the potential to come alive even against respectable defenses which we have yet to see in Matt Nagy’s entire tenure.

Matt Nagy’s teams have historically struggled in October. In 2018, a 3-1 start quickly became 3-3. The following year, another 3-1 start turned into a 4 game skid, ultimately ending the season.

Even last year, a 5-1 start which did actually include three straight wins to begin October was followed by a 6 game losing streak, effectively ending the season before some late-season magic and collapse of NFC contemporaries allowed the Bears to fail forward into the postseason.

For the past two seasons, the Bears (and their coaching staff) have generally left October with more questions to answer about their team than when the month started. This season, the stakes are elevated for the coaching staff: perform in October or look for a new job.

Unfortunately for them, this season, no amount of self-scouting, introspection, and collaboration will stop the reality of a third straight season-ending October from setting in at the ownership level. Beginning with the Raiders, the Bears’ schedule only gets tougher and it’s of the utmost importance they get off on the right foot.

If you ask most Bears fans to think back to week 1 of 2018, I would bet that most tell you it took one series (offense and defense) for them to know it was going to be a special year. I believe this Raiders game has similar stakes attached to it.

The team’s response to Justin Fields on Sunday will indicate where they’re going the rest of this month and the season, which will have a ripple effect throughout the entire organization next spring. Keep your popcorn handy Sunday, this game is gonna be crazy.

Matt Nagy must adjust his job description to save season. dark. Next