It’s my last day in sunny southern California. A drive up the coast from San Diego to LAX awaits. But not before one last In-N-Out experience.
- NFL Network analyst Marc Sessler has Justin Fields as a top 10 quarterback. Right now. As of this moment. Wow. The Chicago Bears’ quarterback is a top-10 QB. What a time to be alive:
- Where do you think he’ll land on this list when the smoke clears and the season ends? Pro Football Focus currently ranks Fields as having the 14th highest grade among QBs. Fields’ 72.8 grade is better than Kirk Cousins (72.7), Dak Prescott (72.1), and Trevor Lawrence (70.0), among others. By ESPN’s QBR metric, Fields is the NFL’s 12th best quarterback. His 59.0 QBR puts him ahead of Justin Herbert (58.6), Tom Brady (52.2), and Aaron Rodgers (41.9). The league leader in that category is Patrick Mahomes (duh!) at 78.5. Fields’ traditional passer rating is 85.3, which is 26th. There is work to be done to make a climb up those ratings. But that the advanced stats are suggesting Fields is an upper-half-of-the-league quarterback might be the most encouraging thing I’ll read during the bye week.
- I appreciate the balance that Albert Breer (The MMQB) strikes here in acknowledging that while Fields can’t play this particular style of football forever while also underscoring how quarterbacks with similar high-end athleticism eventually grew as passers after using their athleticism early:
The Chiefs and Bills leveraged the athleticism of Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen early in their careers, and it bought Mahomes and Allen time to develop into quarterbacks who don’t need to run as much anymore to produce. And I think that’s the idea with Fields, who has a great arm, good natural accuracy and the ability to operate from the pocket.
- It’s almost as if development isn’t linear and that player growth doesn’t ever really stop.
- Ooh! We get to see Josh Allen and Justin Fields square off on Christmas Eve. Please keep these QBs away from Bills fans and tables. Please and thank you.
- Does Fields need pass-catcher help? Yes. Should the Bears be looking for creative alternatives in case their receiver options don’t look great. Also, yes. And while true, I’m not sure tight end will be the high priority in the search for pass catchers. Nevertheless, I find it notable that Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, the top TE in his class, is declaring for the NFL Draft:
- Kentucky quarterback Will Levis used Twitter to declare he was opting out of playing in the Wildcats’ bowl game against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Levis is one of the 2023 NFL Draft’s top quarterback prospects, which makes him all the more interesting for the Bears. Not in terms of draft options, but instead for trade leverage. Simply put, the more quarterbacks who declare for the NFL Draft, the better it will be for a team like the Bears that could (in theory) leverage the second pick in trade conversations.
- Thinking out loud: Will we hit a point where future NIL deals have a bowl game stipulation? That figures to be a tough nut to crack. Maybe the bowls should be on the hook for paying the student-athletes to appear in these games. Probably something to kick around in the near future.
- While it’s on our mind: Football Outsiders’ updated numbers have the Bears with an 86 percent chance at a top 5 pick. That number just continues to climb. Meanwhile, ESPN’s FPI projects the Bears to squeeze past the Rams and secure the second worst record in the NFL. Therefore, that module essentially has the Bears picking up the second overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. If anyone needs me, I’ll be dreaming of the prospects who could be on the Bears’ radar.
- Ah, so this is why they call him Rap Sheet:
- After the encouraging signings of Cody Bellinger and Jameson Taillon, it looks like things are going sideways for the Cubs as the Winter Meetings come to a close. Catcher Willson Contreras is officially going to the Cardinals. What a bummer that is. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts is off the board, signing a ludicrous deal with the Padres that seemingly came out of nowhere. The Carlos Correa market doesn’t seem too promising with the Giants and Twins appearing to be favorites. Although, things can change. We learned that much this week with some of the contracts that were handed out this week.
- There is probably some big-picture stuff we can take away from this as Bears fans who are gearing up for an offseason in which this team can shell out a ton of money because of the cap situation. But I think we’ll hash that out when I’m not trying to squeeze in Bullets before hotel checkout.
- Old Friend Alert: Dowell Loggains is reportedly the University of South Carolina’s top target to be the Gamecocks’ next offensive coordinator. (Saturday Down South)
- The Voice of the Cubs is going to the Hall of Fame:
- It is nice to see news that the Bulls are back in the win column. And this nutmeg treatment from Alex Caruso is a highlight:
- Even though I know nothing lasts forever, I haven’t allowed myself to think about what it would be like if Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were off the Hawks roster: