The New York Jets try to rebound from a devastating loss to the New England Patriots last Sunday when they take on Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears at home in East Rutherford, New Jersey this week. Previewing this matchup, Patti Curl of Windy City Gridiron was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the 2022 Bears.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. The Jets and the Bears have some similarities in their recent futility. The Jets have had one winning season since they went to the conference championship game in the 2010 season; the Bears have had two winning seasons since they went to the conference championship game in the 2010 season. The Jets haven’t been to the playoffs since the 2010 season; the Bears haven’t won a playoff game since the 2010 season. It’s been a very frustrating run for both franchises. How close do you think the Bears are to making a deep run in the playoffs? What needs to be changed, and how long should it take?
The Bears roster has a lot of holes, but the Bears have a lot of cap room. It’s going to come down to how well the Bears can plug holes in the off-season, whether their developing players continue to progress, and of course, whether Justin Fields stays healthy and continues to improve his passing game. Today, they are far from making a deep playoff run. If everything works smoothly, next year is a possibility, but I see the 2024 season as the peak opportunity.
For funsies, let’s look at a 2023 scenario: Colts cut DeForest Bucker (or trade him to the Bears) and the Bears throw moneybags at him; Bears also manage to sign Marcus Davenport or Yannick Ngakue, Elgton Jenkins or Mike McGlinchey and an aging CB2 in free agency; they draft a legit WR1 who hits the ground running, find a plus center and MLB on day 2 of the draft of FA, and developing players like Braxton Jones at LT, Tevin Jenkings at RG, Trevis Gipson/Dominique Robinson at edge, Kyler Gordon and nickel, and Jack Sanborn at MLB all continue to improve. Not impossible, but that’s a lot of things that have to go right.
2. Speaking of similarities, both the Jets and the Bears have struggled for what seems like forever to find a top quarterback to lead the franchise. Both franchises drafted a quarterback in the 1st round last year. For the Jets Zach Wilson appears to have lost his starting job. For the Bears, however, Justin Fields seems to be coming into his own. What’s your take on Fields? How confident are you that the Bears have finally found the long term answer under center, and what does Fields need to work on to reach his full potential?
I believe in Fields. I think he’s a talented passer who’s still getting adjusted to the NFL, and he’s relying a lot on his insane athleticism in part because the offense around him is very limited in the passing game. I think he’s the long term answer barring injury. He needs to work on anticipatory throws and the quick passing game. He needs to learn to trust his receivers and trust his pass blocking when it’s there, but that’s a tall order when the pass blocking often isn’t there and the receivers aren’t always in the right place.
3. The Bears are running an offense that skews wildly towards the running game. Thus far this season 64% of the Bears plays have been rushing attempts. No other team is close to that ratio. Only 6 NFL teams even have a 50% run/pass ratio. No NFL team has had a 64+% run/pass ratio since the Kansas City Chiefs did it way back in 1978. No NFL team has gone as high as 60% since the 2009 New York Jets. This is something we just haven’t seen in modern NFL offenses. The Bears have had offensive success of late, but is this sustainable? Are the Bears trendsetters here, or is this just a bit of a gimmick taking advantage of Fields’ running ability until his passing abilities catch up? How do you see this Bears offense evolving going forward as NFL defenses adjust?
There’s a lot of factors going into the Bears rushing predominance, but they all come down to the fact that this team is better at it. The offensive line is above average at run blocking and a liability in pass blocking. The running back talent is stronger than the receiver talent. And Justin Fields ability to run is a threat the defense has to account for when he runs and when he doesn’t. The numbers are also skewed by a number of passing plays that Fields has scrambled on. Ultimately, I think this offense at it’s best will be closer to 50/50, but as long as they don’t go so far away from the passing game that the defense doesn’t account for that possibility, the strengths of this run game are sustainable.
4. What is the best way to successfully attack this Bears team on offense and on defense?
On offense, just don’t throw the ball at Jaylon Johnson or Eddie Jackson and enjoy some pleasant strolls down the field. The Bears defense has been frankly embarrassing since moving on from Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith. Honestly, this could have been a great opportunity for Zach Wilson if he hadn’t gotten himself benched, and the Jets offense is probably going to look great against the Bears and add jet fuel to the fire of your QB drama.
On defense, rush 4 because that’s enough to beat the Bears line, blow up some of the Bears ill-advised WR screens, and contain any big runs. If Fields doesn’t play, rest your starters and let your back ups feast on Trevor Siemian.
5. If you were a betting person, which team would you bet on to win this game?
The last two plays the Bears had were Justin Fields getting his shoulder hurt on a 2 yard run, then Justin Fields running on a miscommunicated RB draw for another 2 yards and a late hit. That’s the feeling I’m left with when I think about this next game. I would never bet against the Bears, so let’s just say I won’t be betting on the winner of this game.