The 4-7 Bears host the 9-2 Cardinals on Sunday at Soldier Field. On paper, the Cardinals have an easy win to bolster their chances of finishing with the #1 seed in the NFC. But the Bears have a lot to play for, and can even win the game if they can win a few stat categories.
The Bears are still in the playoff hunt
The Bears’ 4-7 record has them in 14th place in the NFC playoff race. This record would normally scream “Season over!” but the Bears are just one game behind 7 seed Washington. The NFC is full of mediocrity this season, and teams like the Bears have every reason to fight for a spot in the post-season.
The Bears have a tough remaining schedule – @ GB, both games against the Vikings to name a few – but all of their games are against NFC opponents. If the Bears can pull out some wins, they’ll be gaining crucial ground against the teams ahead of them in the standings.
Three things the Bears can do to beat the Cardinals
The Cardinals come to Chicago as one of the more consistent contenders in the NFL. Arizona currently holds the #1 seed in the NFC and is looking to maintain a small lead over the Packers. They may have to try to win again with backup quarterback Colt McCoy, as Kyler Murray is questionable, but McCoy has been solid with a 2-1 record.
Number 1: Time of possession. The Bears won the TOP battle by 5 minutes against the Lions on Thanksgiving and eked out a close win. The previous week they were out-possessed 38 to 21 minutes en route to a close loss to the Ravens. The bottom line? The Bears’ offense needs to get something accomplished. Even if they do not score 30+ points, they need to give their defense time to breathe.
Number 2: Takeaways. If the Bears can create some havoc on defense they can put themselves in a position to win against the Cardinals. The Cardinals possessed the ball for over 40 minutes in their pre-bye win against Seattle, where the Seahawks had the ball for under 20. The Cardinals had 0 turnovers and were able to dictate the pace of the game. The Bears will need to have a couple of sack-fumbles or interceptions if they want to win this one. Andy Dalton and the Bears’ offense needs some help, and a short field could be exactly what they need to put up some points.
Number 3: The running game. It seemed that every NFL fan on Thanksgiving was predicting a big rushing day for David Montgomery against the Lions. Fantasy managers were salivating over the matchup and their turkey at the possibility of big production. Montgomery responded with a paltry 17 carries for 46 yards. This is fine against the Lions, but not against the NFC’s best. The Bears need to balance their passing and running attacks and need to be able to threaten on the ground. Play-action could be great for Andy Dalton, but they need to be able to use it.
The final word
I need to quickly take a few moments to mention my favorite Bears’ player, Darnell Mooney. Mooney had 5 catches for 123 yards against the Lions on turkey day and was second in targets with 8. Cole Kmet led the team with 8 catches and 11 targets, but it is Mooney’s big-play ability that can get this offense going.
The Bears offense doesn’t exactly have a lot of flashy players, and Allen Robinson is doubtful again this week. Darnell Mooney is the guy that can take a game over. The Bears running game can lull the Cardinals’ defense into a false sense of security, and Mooney can hit them over the top for a 60-yard touchdown.
It’s hard to pick against Arizona in this one, and I think they take a close one. But the Bears can win if they win those three stats listed above. Bears fans will have to wait another week to see Justin Fields again, but I think Andy Dalton plays admirably in a close loss.