Two teams that participated in last year’s National Football Conference playoffs meet tonight at Soldier Field, and neither of them have a winning record this season. But, here is a surprise, one of the teams without a winning record in action tonight leads their division. The Dallas Cowboys own a one game edge over the 5-7 Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East Division.
A 6-6 mark for the Chicago Bears, plots them in third place and three games behind the division leading Green Bay Packers in the NFC North Division.
One might say the Cowboys have more on the line tonight, given with a loss they could relinquished first place if the Eagles were to beat the Giants on Monday night. A likely outcome, and one that could offer an edge to the Cowboys in preparation for this one.
But, in reality, more often in December it is the team with less to play for against a squad that doesn’t have a winning record and is vying for a playoff berth. The reason for this is simple, while the stakes are higher for the Cowboys tonight, the Bears are free to play without the pressure of having to win while locked in a tight race.
In fact, if they lose, Chicago would fall 3½ games back in their division with three games left to play. Or, as you math wizards might deduce, out of it. With a win, and games still left on their schedule against the two teams they are chasing, the Minnesota Vikings and Packers, keep Chicago’s flickering playoff hopes alive.
With four games left, the Bears would earn a postseason slot if they won out and finished the season with ten wins.
Not going to happen.
This hasn’t figured to be the Bears year since the start, not with Chicago winning their division last year after four straight last place finishes. They did it with first-year head coach Matt Nagy and second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky. This season, Nagy is suffering a typical sophomore slump, but greater concerns are focused on Trubisky, who as the second player selected in the 2017 NFL draft, had more expected of him than a 15 point drop in his quarterback ranking from last season.
He is going through what the team is going through; a down year. If the Bears don’t panic, there are bright days ahead. If they do, then the rebuilding will commence in Chicago. Not surprisingly, it has been as hard to find point spread wins with the Bears this season as hunting white Easter eggs in the snow. Chicago is 3 and 9 against the line this season, with only one point spread win since September.
The fact that as a home team underdog against a Dallas team coming to town with back-to-back losses is a sweet spot, doesn’t quite lend enough credence to taking Chicago in a down year.
Does that mean we play the Cowboys tonight as a road favorite.
No, not that either.
Jason Garrett is the leader to be the next NFL head coach fired, following the dismissal of Ron Rivera in Carolina earlier this week. If the Bears win tonight, I suggest Garrett prepare a resume.
A year ago, tonight’s battle would have been a top attraction.
Tonight, it is a struggle between two teams in the midst of a train wreck.