NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Perfectly Consistent
by Dennis Ranahan

The Chicago Bears are arguably the most improved team in the National Football League in 2018. The rise has come from all sides.

First, they have had their roster replenished by high draft choices in recent years based on four straight last place finishes in the NFC North Division. Second, they hired Matt Nagy as head coach to take this team farther than the man that put the talent together, John Fox, was able to accomplish. And third, they added to a rich young talent pool a difference maker when they acquired Khalil Mack in a trade with the Oakland Raiders on the eve of the regular season.

If I was a Bears fan, this would be reason to celebrate.

But I celebrate the Bears for a different reason. On my charts, they meet the perfect profile of a team capable of taking advantage of good situations for point spread wins, and not so experienced and talented as to overcome a bad spot.

The Bears to most look as unsteady as two people standing in a canoe. They are good enough to win both their home games this year and to take the Green Bay Packers to the limit in a gut wrenching opening game loss at Lambeau Field, 24-23. Yet, they also lost last week to a crippled Miami Dolphins squad and couldn’t cover the point spread against a then winless Arizona Cardinals team.

Who are the Bears?

They are a team that can be counted on. They are as consistent as a priest showing up for Sunday mass.

Their opening game against the Green Bay Packers saw the emergence of the Bears as they built a 17 point lead headed into the fourth quarter against the Packers on their home field. But, their inexperience at winning, particularly against a quality opponent, was one reason Aaron Rodgers was able to orchestrate the biggest fourth quarter comeback win in Packers history.

Off that loss, the Bears downed the visiting Seattle Seahawks the following Monday, covering a three point spread during a 24-17 victory. They faced their first uphill battle from a motivational perspective the next Sunday in Arizona, and fell behind 14-0 before many fans had yet found their seats.

They spent the rest of the afternoon in the desert overcoming that deficit and eeking out a 16-14 win, which was also a point spread loss. Chicago was a 5½ point favorite in Arizona. They couldn’t overcome a difficult line to cover, but did show character in the ability to come back on the road from a two touchdown deficit to register a win.

The following week, at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Bears came off that narrow win with a lopsided home victory, 48-10. In that game, second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, tossed six touchdowns. Before that game, the Bears new quarterback had never thrown more than two touchdowns in a game, and he’d done that only once.

That victory put the Bears in an almost impossible motivational spot last Sunday in Miami against the Dolphins. After their 48-10 win the Bears had their bye week, which means they had two weeks to relish their coming out party romp conquest over the Bucs, which is great for team spirit but horrible for team motivation.

Add to that, they learned shortly before kickoff that Miami would be without their starting quarterback, Ryan Tannehill. Instead, they would be facing Brock Osweiler, and their confidence couldn’t have been higher taking the field last Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.

An overconfident team that is new to winning on the road as a point spread favorite is almost certain to fail, and the Bears fell into the trap against Miami losing by a field goal, 31-28, while favored by a touchdown.

The loss transformed the euphoric state the team rode for two weeks after their romp win in Tampa to the stark reality that while they are better, they have not yet arrived. Now, shift from the confidence of facing Osweiler to the challenges of battling the greatest quarterback in NFL history, Tom Brady, and you understand why the Bears emotions have been on a sharp swivel recently.

The Patriots visit Soldier Field as a field goal favorite on Sunday. They come to town following three straight home wins that got them back on top of their AFC East Division race. Three weeks ago, following back-to-back road losses, the Patriots were looking at the prospect of falling three games behind the undefeated Miami Dolphins. Then, they beat the Dolphins to pull to within a game of the front runners, and followed that victory with two more, including a nail-biter last Sunday night against the previously unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs.

Just when the Patriots are able to take a breath from the pressures of having to win, they fly into Chicago favored on the point spread against a team perfectly poised to beat Brady the week after they lost to Osweiler.

Qoxhi Picks: Chicago Bears (+3) over New England Patriots