Technically speaking, the regular season finale between the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings has playoff implications…
Updated Week 17 Playoff Scenarios (after completion of Monday's games) pic.twitter.com/XXB9QOcDtK
— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) December 26, 2017
… just not for the Bears.
That this game is important to the Vikings is good for the Bears, who get one last chance to prove something against a superior opponent with something on the line. Finishing the season on a high note – with further development from rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky – would be a silver lining in what has otherwise been another dark season.
Okay, bullets …
- The Bears spoiled the Browns’ Christmas with a much-needed win on Sunday. Well, it wasn’t a must-win situation, to be sure, but when your top defensive player guarantees that your team won’t be The One to keep Cleveland from joining the 2008 Lions in winless infamy, it might as well have been.
- To that end, Akiem Hicks certainly put his money where his mouth is with a performance that earned him the third-highest grade from Pro Football Focus on Sunday. Hicks picked up a sack, a QB hit, and two hurries in 34 passing snaps. He was also effective as a run defender and his burst through the Browns’ offensive line even led to some holding penalties. Just another day at the office for this Pro Bowl snub.
- Chicago was dominant in the Christmas Eve win despite Mitch Trubisky throwing for fewer than 200 yards and Jordan Howard averaging two yards per carry. On the bright side, Howard found the end zone twice and Trubisky played turnover-free ball as he unseated Kyle Orton as the franchise’s leader in passing yards for a rookie.
- He also became the franchise’s (unofficial) leader in snow angels created by a rookie quarterback.
- Other than that, Trubisky’s game wasn’t all that spectacular. But as Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic points out, the rookie signal caller was at his best when it mattered most. The Bears were 6 of 11 on third down and when he needed to move the chains, Trubisky was either throwing successful screen passes to Benny Cunningham or using his feet to gain 44 rushing yards on seven attempts. In the end, the most important stat comes in the form of three touchdowns in three red zone trips. More of that moving forward, please.
- JJ Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago points out John Fox won’t have the worst winning percentage of any head coach in team history by virtue of beating the Browns. Losing to the Browns would have been embarrassing and would have ended Fox’s time in Chicago with a thud. Four of the last five coaches to lose to the Browns were either fired in-season or after the season. Fox won’t suffer that fate because of the Bears’ Christmas Eve win (the team’s first as a Vegas favorite in the last three years), but it won’t save him from much else.
- With Fox preparing for what is widely expected to be his final game as Bears head coach, Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times underlines five moments that defined his Bears career. In case you needed a reminder of why the Bears are at this set of crossroads, you can re-visit Fox’s handling of the quarterback position, his downplaying of Kevin White’s first season-ending injury, and the worst replay challenge ever.
- For all their trouble, at least the Browns’ loss secured the No. 1 overall pick. Of course, what value is prime draft position if the top quarterback prospect reportedly has no interest in playing for your team.
- The Bears have more wins against the AFC North than the Browns do, so it’s team to gear up with the latest fashion threads:
Got a sweet t shirt for Christmas pic.twitter.com/Ze3hhMiH3D
— Kyle (@Ky1eLong) December 25, 2017
- As of right now, the difference between Bears and Browns is that one team (the Bears) showed a commitment to finding a long-term answer at quarterback early in the draft and another (the Browns) has “successfully” avoided it. Jumping at the opportunity to take Trubisky in 2017 was controversial (and probably will be for a while), but the Browns moved out of a position to pick Carson Wentz in 2016 and Deshaun Watson a year later – that’s not great, all things considered. To be fair, Cleveland has accumulated a ton of draft capital throughout the process of avoiding star QBs … which should pay off at some point.
- DeShone Kizer, who the Browns picked in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, has struggled mightily and his woes continued against the Bears. Not only did Kizer throw two interceptions, he struggled to find a rhythm with top receiver Josh Gordon. I can’t imagine where the Bears offense would be if Trubisky had a receiver as talented as Gordon to throw to, but I’d love to dream on that possibility.
- The celebrations just won’t stop during the holiday season. We’d like to wish a very happy birthday (and many more) to this guy right here:
Today is my birthday! Thank you Lord for another year on this earth. 🙏 🎂 pic.twitter.com/leOCD0hceV
— Jarrett Payton (@paytonsun) December 26, 2017