CHICAGO — Sunday marks a turning point for the 2018 Chicago Bears, but coming off a tough loss to the Giants, the Bears have a chance to propel their season from good to great. Yes the playoffs are a few weeks away, but this is a little more important at the moment.
With such a young team — the Bears did not start a player 30 or older start until Chase Daniel on Thanksgiving — it is imperative they learn to win the tough games. A near-interception away from an opening day victory over the Packers, the Bears bounced back against Seattle at home. The following weeks saw Chicago trade a pair if wins with a pair of losses; then rattle off four straight, snapping a divisional losing streak along the way.
Week 12 was a reality check. Daniel was shaky at best as he spent the majority of the day fumbling snaps and holding the ball too long. There was also this. Matt Nagy’s questionable timeout before halftime seemed to turn the game. Credit the specter of Eli Manning for not getting in the way of Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham.
Such opportunity might not exist this Sunday. Los Angeles comes in sporting the best record in the NFC. Even after losing Cooper Kupp to injury, the Rams still feature a pair of explosive playmakers in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. They keep defenses honest for the NFL’s leading rusher (No, not Derrick Henry.) in Todd Gurley.
The Rams “weak link”, the defense is just as star studded. Aaron Donald, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having another dominant season. With him wrecking lines, it would be easy to overlook other difference makers such as Marcus Peters and Ndamukong Suh; deadline acquisition Dominique Fowler and Aqib Talib returning from injury.
Prior to the season the Bears were a bit of a mystery. Opting for health over giving the starters significant reps together, the offense was certain to take some time to click. It has since proven more than capable of putting up points in bunches. They should have their chances Sunday night at Soldier Field.
They will need to do so without some of the mistakes and penalties of recent weeks. This would also be the perfect time to finally get the ground game going. In the playoffs, the ability to keep it away from an offense is just as important as actually defending it.
On paper these teams are more even than might be assumed. While the Rams offense is more better at this point, the same is true for the Bears defense. The last time the Rams played in cold weather they won, in Denver, but it was not overly convincing. Sunday’s forecast is 27 degrees. While not always reliable, you take whatever advantage you can.
I will not tell you that the Bears are definitely going to come out of Sunday Night Football as the winners. I will not tell you that a win or loss Sunday makes or ruins the Bears’ season. I will tell you that if they do win, it might be time to start thinking playoff seeding and potential matchups. What a difference a year makes.