Week 1 is HERE. Finally! We’ve made it. So much has changed in the 245 days since the Chicago Bears last played a meaningful football game. A new front office is calling the shots. Out with Ryan Pace, in with Ryan Poles. A new head coach is leading the charge. Gone is Matt Nagy and the weekly search for the “why’s” and in his place is Matt Eberflus and his H.I.T.S. principle.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Today is the first of 17 regular-season games. But maybe if Chicago’s football team gets some fortuitous bounces, perhaps more will be on our schedule.
- Annnnd I’m HYPED:
- The most important thing to happen this year will be anything that goes down with Justin Fields. Every practice rep, play, series, etc. represents an important piece in the developmental process. Each touchdown, interception, rushing yard, fumble, and first down is a data point for us to evaluate QB1. I don’t want to go as far as to say there is an overwhelming amount of pressure on Fields. But his progress this season will go a long way toward dictating the future of this organization.
- To be clear, this isn’t the Justin Fields Show. The NFL is a team game. And for the Bears, the 2022 season represents an opportunity for a clean slate. Not just for the front office, coaches, and players, but also for us as fans. And I don’t think we should overlook the importance of getting rid of the gunk from the Pace-Nagy era to usher in fresh ideas from Poles and Eberflus. Culture change is a real thing in football. And it sounds like the Bears are all-in on the new regime:
“It’s the culture shift,” cornerback Jaylon Johnson said, via the Tribune’s Dan Wiederer. “It’s everything this staff is trying to ingrain into our heads as to what our new normal is. It’s not easy to do. And there have been plenty of opportunities for guys not to buy in or to not really commit to pushing themselves mentally and physically. But I feel like, from head to toe, from our leaders to the rookies to everyone else in between, we’ve all bought in.”
- Let’s keep in mind that buy-in isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. It takes a top-to-bottom commitment. What often happens to be the case is that buy-in succeeds or fails at the top. When your team’s best players are your hardest workers and your leaders, the rest fall in line. But if your best players turn complacent, the rest tend to follow. I think it is significant that Jaylon Johnson, entering his third year, has fully bought in and opens the year as one of the young leaders of this team. That is a credit to Johnson, but also to the coaching staff for connecting with a new player. Remember, there are people with real human emotions under those pads and helmets. Reaching them isn’t always easy.
- Even with new leadership and a clean slate, there isn’t much optimism surrounding the Bears around the NFL landscape. FiveThirtyEight’s 2022 forecast projects a 7-10 season for the Bears. The site’s number crunchers give the Bears a 20% chance of making the playoffs, 8% shot at winning the NFC North, and less-than-1% odds of winning the Super Bowl. And to think, that’s on the optimistic ends of things. Various mock drafts have the Bears picking in the top-5, and as high as No. 2 overall. One model predicted Chicago would be the NFL’s worst team. Warren Sharp’s football site says the Bears’ offensive line is the worst in the league. Pro Football Focus’ summertime projections listed the Bears as having the second-worst secondary. They also ranked Chicago’s pass-catchers dead last. Sheesh.
- At least Roquan Smith is embracing the underdog role. “With not many people counting you in, we love that,” Smith said, via 670 The Score’s Chris Emma. “We’ll have to wake them up.”
- As a reminder, neither critics nor algorithms can’t account for everything. And they don’t play the game on spreadsheets. I’m looking forward to seeing what plays out on the field (for better or worse). They play to win the game. We watch to see if they can do so. The game of football gives and takes. And much like you can’t truly predict how an oblong pigskin will bounce on a given play, you can’t – with 100% certainty – predict how games will play out. NFL Sundays are the best reality television show going. And I’m so happy they’re back in our lives.
- Speaking of the field, the Bears are playing on new turf this year. Kudos to the new coach for spearheading the efforts to get some new grass at Soldier Field. Over at NBC Sports Chicago, Ryan Taylor shares fun facts about the Bermuda strain that will make its debut today.
- And it looks like it’ll be a soggy one:
- With this forecast, maybe it’s better that the Niners sit tight end George Kittle and rest his groin injury. As of late last night, Kittle wasn’t expected to play.
- One realization I recently made is that I don’t often eat well on game days. Particularly noon starts. But it’s a new football year. And a new me. So I’m seeking out quick and easy recipes for me to whip up on a Sunday after the final whistle of a given Bears game. My friend Jim’s pickle brine chicken recipe will be my first test of trying to eat well after a game. Wish me luck.
- If you were looking forward to the Bears emptying the bag to sign Colts OL Quenton Nelson as a free agent after the season, it’s time to look elsewhere:
- ESPN’s Adam Schefter calls it a “precedent-setting” deal, which includes $60 million in guarantees and comes with a $20 million per year average. This deal makes Nelson the highest-paid guard in terms of AAV (beating out Joel Bitonio’s $16M AAV in Cleveland), while topping Joe Thuney’s $46.89M in total guarantees. Here’s hoping the Bears can draft and develop a lineman like Nelson, then hand out that type of extension.
- On the other side of the extension conversation, it sounds like Lamar Jackson turned down a huge chunk of change:
- Not all of Ryan Pace’s moves were popular. But I’ll say this: He spoiled us with those surprise extensions before the start of Week 1. Part of me was hoping the Bears would hash out something notable for a player worthy of getting new paper. And while Roquan Smith talks shut down, I was hoping maybe David Montgomery could’ve gotten something done. Yes, I realize paying running backs isn’t the trendy thing to do. But there was probably a modest extension to be found for the Bears’ leading rusher. For me, it takes me back to the “don’t pay closers” mindset in baseball. But that type of blanket thinking seems flawed. Maybe a new way of thinking should be to pay the good ones and pay the ones who fit your team. Not every extension needs to be a market-changer. Maybe paying players forces your team to be better on the margins elsewhere. But if your front office is good, they’ll be able to take on spending on a running back without missing a beat.
- The Vikings treat home Packers games like the Super Bowl, which leads them to put up a better fight than you might otherwise anticipate from time to time. Tack on these injury woes, and Green Bay’s task on the road is that much more difficult:
- If you are looking for NFL sports betting apps today, here’s a rundown of some of the promo options.
- Adrian Peterson got FOLDED:
- I couldn’t believe the end of this Northwestern-Duke game:
- Mike Trout remains good at baseball: