The Chicago Bears are the team that offers hope for every team in the league not going to the playoffs. The Bears especially offer hope for a team such as the Jaguars, who are facing a winter of painful salary cap and roster repair and whose prospects for next season would not seem to be especially bright.
What is the special hope the Bears offer? Well, very frankly, that you can come out of nowhere to become a playoff team and you don't even have to play that impressively to do it. Make no mistake, these are not the "Monsters of the Midway."
Just take a look at the Bears statistically. They're 26th overall on offense; 22nd in rushing yardage and 24th throwing the ball. The Bears are a middle-of-the-road 15th on defense and a lowly 29th in pass-defense. How about 28th in the league in third-down efficiency on offense?
A study of the Bears leaves you scratching your head. How have they done it? How have they soared to within one win of the NFC Central title and a first-round playoff bye?
Three stats jump out at you. The Bears are second in the league against the run, have allowed the fewest number of sacks in the league, are second in the NFC in takeaways/giveaways and, most importantly, have allowed the fewest number of points in the league. The Bears' formula for success would seem to be: Stop the run, protect the passer, take the ball away and keep the other guys out of the end zone. In most other ways, the Bears are average, at best.
This is a team no one picked to finish out of the NFC Central cellar, and it began its season with a loss. Its coach was given no chance of keeping his job and, until the Bears became the league's Cinderella story at midseason, they were an example of what not to do.
The Bears are proof the fortunes of a team, and its coach, can change dramatically, and you don't have to have Kurt Warner at quarterback for it to happen. In the Bears' case, winning has happened for no discernible reason other than 12 times this season they've managed to score at least one point more than their opponent scored.
Here's "10 things" the Jaguars have to do to beat the Bears this Sunday.
- Test that run-defense--Is it really that good, or is the Bears' second-place ranking the product of playing in a division in which all of its teams are ranked in the bottom third of the NFL rushing rankings?
- Throw short--That's what the Jaguars' opponents did when Dick Jauron was the Jaguars' defensive coordinator.
- Don't be a sissy--Stay away from the "Hot Seat," the heaters and the long coats. It'll be a long day for the Jaguars if they start huddling against the cold early.
- Do it for the video--This will be several players' last opportunities to put themselves on video tape for other teams to see, before those players become salary cap casualties.
- Do it for the plane ride--It's the last one of the season.
- Do it for the Packers--Green Bay, which has beaten the Bears twice this season and can win the NFC Central title if the Bears lose, deserves a legitimate effort from the Jaguars.
- Do it for the coach--Tom Coughlin deserves better than he got from his players last week against Kansas City.
- Do it for the record--The Jaguars haven't reached double digits in losses since their inaugural season.
- Do it for the AFC South--With a win and a Tennessee loss, the Jaguars would tie for the AFC South "title."
- Just do it--Because it's better than not doing it.