So what do we make of those Chicago Bears now?

Recall those heady days when they certainly looked like the worst 5-1 team in the history of the NFL, but dammit, you are what your record says you are! A win’s a win! All of that junk.

Oh, how anyone who had actually suffered through watching this outfit play with any regularity could dare to bring up how flawed a team this is. Only a hater, with anti-Chicago malice in his or her heart, would upchuck at watching this team pretend to operate anything assembling a modern NFL offense. Bringing up the fact that the way they were winning games was going to evaporate as the sample expanded made you a hater.

When the fact is, it made you a realist.    

I found it telling that back then, the great Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune wrote a column asking Vegas line setters why the Bears were always an underdog despite winning so often.The answer was simple: The Bears are basically the Lions, but luckier. However, that’s flattering the Bears — the Lions actually have a quarterback (albeit one they have largely wasted). The Bears have anything but.

Sunday was another debacle. Matt Nagy’s bunch really are a horror show. To call them inept would be damning them with faint praise. They faced a toothless Titans defense and managed to have the game out of doubt by halftime. Sure, they padded some yards in garbage time, but make no mistake, when you stink this bad on offense and start the game turnover on downs, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, end of half, punt, fumble, through three quarters, and trail 24-3 with eight minutes to play, that’s all that really matters. They somehow went 2-for-15 on third down against a defense that can’t stop anyone.

The mere idea that Nick Foles was going to be capable of starting a full season for any team was ridiculous; taking on $20M of salary for the right to find that out firsthand is a football decision-making atrocity. But that’s what this front office specializes in when it comes to QBs (wait til they inevitably go back to Mitchell Trubisky to try to save their jobs and watch that end in ignominy, too).

They have gone six games since they scored more than two touchdowns. They have lost three in a row. They face a revitalized Vikings team next week before the bye and, as long expected, this team will be back to .500 soon enough. They still have five games left in their division, and their earlier win over the Lions looks even more miraculous in hindsight with that wild fourth-quarter comeback from their now backup (for now) QB. Well, Vegas told you who they were long ago.

It’s a shame the margins are so slim for the Bears defense, which has been stout but isn’t gifted enough to keep overcoming an offense that can’t pass or run the ball. Tennessee (which still looks like it has some troubles of its own to me) mustered just 11 first downs and 228 total yards and still had this result locked down in the third quarter.

Wilson’s four turnovers in loss open up MVP race

Don’t look now but the MVP race is wide open again. Russell Wilson had his second shaky game in less than a month and turned the ball over in critical junctures (his trend of red zone/end zone picks going back to the Miami game is truly baffling) and at the midpoint this race has legs.

Wilson was charged with four turnovers as the Bills prevailed in what always looked like it was going to be a high-scoring affair. The fumbles and interceptions were crippling, Josh Allen’s tremendously hot start carried the day, and Seattle’s offensive line did him no favors. Don’t get me wrong, Russ still cooked, but too often he served the meal to the wrong team.

This four turnover performance comes after a three-pick outing against the Cardinals in prime time, including several back breakers that ultimately decided the game. He threw a pick the week before that against the Vikings that put his team behind and got crossed up in the end zone against the Dolphins the week before that.

He is a football genius. He is the only thing keeping the Seahawks from being an afterthought given their massive issues on defense (more on that to follow). He will stay in the hunt for the award the final two weeks of the season … but an opportunity to really pad his lead is gone, and this field looks pretty wide open to me.

More Week 9 insider notes

  • So, about that Seattle defense. Josh Allen started the game 21-for-23 in the first half for 249 yards, no picks and three touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll had a masterful plan to move him around and attack that porous secondary (they rolled up a 14-0 lead while giving just one carry to a running back in that span). The Bills defense was more opportunistic than we have seen recently, and that was a nice statement win for them … 
  • How about Teddy Bridgewater picking up 15 yards on a fourth-and-14 with everything on the line? He plays with such passion and such joy and he almost willed the Panthers to what would have been one of the more shocking upsets of the season …
  • Philip Rivers came into this game with a horrible QB rating of 79.7 (29th in the NFL) when throwing to his receivers this season (it’s all dink and dunk to the RBs and TEs in Indy) and the issue became even more acute Sunday. Baltimore was without its top corner, Marlon Humphrey, and playing several depth corners they wouldn’t have if not for injuries and COVID-19 issues. The Colts had zero downfield thrusts even after blowing their halftime lead and chasing the game. I think it’s a thing. Rivers started this game 6 of 6 for 68 yards (high percentage of screens and check downs) in the first quarter and went 19-for-37 for 159 yards and a pick the rest of the game. They had one passing play of longer than 20 yards. The Colts don’t ever look like they are gonna win 30 or more yards downfield despite a great offensive line. Very limited pass game, but I still think they can win that division …
  • The Washington Football team burying Dwayne Haskins after basically two games — when the coach put him on notice — looks more ridiculous by the week … 
  • The Titans’ trade for Desmond King paid immediate dividends with that 63-yard scoop and score … 
  • The Ravens need to keep up the faster tempo stuff they ran for Lamar Jackson in the second half and some of the high-percentage passes with Jackson sprinting to a spot. Still need more J.K. Dobbins in that pass game, too … 
  • Yet another week where the Broncos final line flatters them. They were buried, again, after three quarters with an offense that was all out of sort. No wild rally this week. Usually, there won’t be … 
  • According to PFF, Dalvin Cook came into this week as the most impactful presence to any run game in the NFL, with him far and away the league leader in Rushing EPA (think of it as WAR of sorts, for football). And he absolutely dominated the Lions on Sunday. Dude has 478 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns in the past two weeks alone …  
  • The Jags may have found something in Jake Luton. This kid is a gamer. Tough, big arm, way more mobile than you might think. Heard very solid things about what he had shown Jacksonville since being drafted and he damn near came back to beat the Texans in his debut. He opened the game with an eye-popping 73-yard TD strike and also had an impressive 13 yard run for a score. He never wilted, despite having a receiver go down to injury, and the Jags being on the wrong end of some dubious calls. Plenty to love about his debut, including going 26 of 38 for 304 yards with just one turnover. He has a nice period of time here to show what he can do. I would not bet against him showing he can play in this league.

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