Good News for Justin Fields: Bears Will Be the NFL’s Most Well-Rested Team in 2023
One of my favorite things to come from the 2023 NFL season was Chicago Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus making the most of extra time off.
This isn’t something we should be taking lightly, even if it might be way too early to be in this mindset.
Nevertheless, it feels important to point out now. Because after spending the Matt Nagy years worrying to bits about how he was going to fumble the bag during the bye and watching unprepared teams come out sputtering after extended breaks, it was encouraging to see Eberflus’ team go in the other direction. In fact, I’d go as far was to say the Bears’ best games came after the team got extra rest. Credit the coaches, staffers, and players for making the best use of their time and then executing tweaked game plans.
With that in mind, this bit of news about the Bears having significantly more down time than their opponents is something that I think can bode well for this team in 2023:
Admittedly, this is a fun bit of data for nerds. But what could that mean for the Bears on the field?
Let’s get the bad news out of the way. Chicago’s football team has two Sunday-to-Thursday quick turnaround games. The NFL threw a new scheduling quirk into the mix by allowing teams to play multiple times on Thursday Night Football. And while it isn’t ideal for the body to take a pounding on Sunday only to come back four sleeps later and do it all over again, there is some good news to come from this oddity. The silver lining is that a 10-day period before the next game begins on the Friday after. With the Bears playing twice on TNF, that means they’ll also have two 10-day stretches of rest. Plus, there is an extra day of rest between the team’s Nov. 19 road game at the Lions and its road bout against the Vikings on Monday Night Football in Week 12.
There is an old adage that goes something like there is no rest for the weary. That isn’t totally true based on this schedule or the data Burke reveals above. There are some rest points for these Bears. And that is good news when you know they’ll need every bit of that rest. Particularly with all of these games coming at the heart of what looks to be the most challenging schedule.
OK, but here’s the good news (and it’s all about Justin Fields)
QB1’s best stretch came in that five-game stretch immediately after the mini-bye that followed the Thursday Night Football loss to the Commanders. Fields and Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy proving they can make in-season adjustments was arguably the biggest win the Bears had last year.
The team went 1-4 during those games, which was unfortunate. However, three of the four losses were by three points or less. And the win came on the road against the Patriots in primetime on Monday Night Football. What a memorable night that was for the Bears (and for me, seeing that it was the most enjoyable game of the year and the last game they’d win in 2022). More important than any personal vibes and feelings is that the first game after the mini-bye sparked a stretch in which the Bears were averaging 29.6 points per game on offense. And it was all set up by the post-mini-bye adjustments. To be more specific about those adjustments, they were ones made to allow Fields to play to his strengths.
This is what Fields’ numbers looked like in the six games before the mini-bye:
- 63/115 (54.8%)
- 869 passing yards
- 4 TD (3.5 TD%)
- 5 INT (4.3 INT%)
- 72.7 rating
And here is what they looked like in the five games after:
- 73/113 (64.6%)
- 773 passing yards
- 9 TD (7.9 TD%)
- 3 INT (2.7 INT%)
- 99.9 rating
Clearly, something was working for Fields and the offense after the reset. Here’s hoping that is a sign of things to come.
Hopefully, the next big rest period we talk about regarding the Bears comes in January 2024 when we’re hopefully looking at a bye that comes with being the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Hey, don’t give me that look! It is never too early to manifest greatness by writing it out.