The Chicago Bears are coming off their best win of the year, a 37-13 road victory against the St. Louis Rams this past Sunday.
This week, the Bears head back home to face a struggling Denver Broncos team, which has dropped its last two games.
The Broncos will be without quarterback Peyton Manning, who has a torn plantar fascia in his foot. In his place will be fourth-year signal caller Brock Osweiler, who is getting the first start of his career.
With the two teams trending in opposite directions, can the Bears capitalize and secure their third win in a row?
Is Jay Cutler “fixed”
Week in and week out, Cutler continues to be the main topic of conversation. After another great outing last week - in which he went 19-for-24 for 258 passing yards, 24 rushing yards and three touchdowns – everyone is wondering, has offensive coordinator Adam Gase fixed Cutler?
Cutler is who he is and isn’t going to suddenly morph into an All-Pro, especially at 32 years old. He has a tremendous arm and great athletic ability but his decision making has always been in question.
Through seven and a half games this season, Cutler has thrown for 2,045 yards, 13 touchdowns and just five interceptions, with a career high 95.3 rating. He’s done all of this with a makeshift offensive line and a revolving door at the receiver group, where Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal have missed seven games combined.
For every week the Bears overachieve on offense, the more likely it is that Gase will be offered a head-coaching gig this off-season. Yet a bigger question remains, even if he does leave: Is Cutler fixed?
No one can know for sure, but as noted in last week’s piece, you can’t underestimate the influence of quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains.
While the Bears are just nine games into a 16-game slate, this may be the best Cutler has ever played. At worst, he has Gase for another seven games but with a brand new mind frame, an offensive scheme built to fit him and a great support system around him, it’s not unrealistic to expect Cutler to stay consistent and productive for the remainder of his time in Chicago.
Can the Bears make a playoff push?
This question was addressed a few weeks ago after a 2-3 start, before going into Detroit for a disappointing loss to the Lions. Three games later the Bears have a 4-5 record and have won two in a row, and the question has resurfaced again.
At 0-3 in the division and 1-5 in the NFC, the Bears face a step hill to climb if they’re to get back in the playoff picture.
The Minnesota Vikings lead the NFC North at 7-2 and also hold the tiebreaker over the Bears due to overall divisional record, barring a major collapse.
They are two statistical games back of both wildcard leaders - the Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons - but would ultimately need to finish a game better than either team to gain a wildcard spot due to tie-breaking procedures based on conference records.
The issue with the wildcard standings is that there are six teams, including the Bears, sitting at 4-5 and Chicago sits at the bottom of each tiebreaker.
All the Bears can do is keep winning but will it be enough?
Realistically, the Bears are still on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. They will not only have to jump five teams with the same record but will also need to gain three games in the standings over either Atlanta or Green Bay.
The only realistic scenario is for the Bears to go 6-1 in these last seven games to finish the season 10-6.
Although it’s unlikely, a pair of wins these next two games could really help them make the push.
How close is Kevin White?
Every few weeks, pressing questions on Kevin White arise.
The team has to make a decision to either elevate White to the 53-man roster or put him on season-ending IR by next Tuesday. With no sign of him at practice, it’s likely that they will play the safe route and place him on IR next week.
It’s been reported that White’s leg muscles have not responded to an acceptable level, with his workouts limited to jogging, with nothing at full speed.
The Bears want White to play this year but his slow recovery makes it unlikely he’ll be activated by next Tuesday.
The Bears will not rush White back, regardless of how close the team is in any playoff race. If he somehow makes enough progress to be ready to practice, he would take a 53-man roster spot and would have a three-week window to appear in a game.
It seems unlikely but as most know, the team has been very secretive all year, so anything is possible.
What to watch this week
- If Hroniss Grasu is healthy, does he re-enter the starting lineup? Matt Slauson has played tremendously over the past three weeks and this is the most continuity the line has seen in the past two seasons. The expectation is still that Grasu will regain his starting position when he is healthy, which then begs the question: Who starts at right guard? Early word is Patrick Omameh.
- Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler will make his first start this weekend against his former head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase. How much of an impact will the two former coaches have on containing Osweiler?
- If Matt Forte does return this weekend, how will it affect Jeremy Langford’s workload? After compiling more than 300 yards of total offense the past two weeks, the expectation is that Langford will still have a sizable impact moving forward, Forte or no Forte.