Where: Paul Brown Stadium
When: Sunday, December 9, Noon (CT)
Line: Chicago -6.5
1st Down: A Decimated Defense Could Prove Toothless
The Bengals have been an odd team so far this season. An offense that returned most of it’s starters heading into the season, has been poor all year. The Bengals are 31st in yards per game (one spot ahead of the Bears), and 25th in scoring at 18.3 points per game. They haven’t exactly been a juggernaut so far this season.
On the other side of the ball however, they sit at a respectable 16th in yardage (two spots below the Bears), but they sit at 10th in points against at a respectable 19.8 points per game.
The issue for the Bengals heading into this game are injuries on defense. In addition to the top three cornerbacks, Vontaze Burfict is also not practicing with a concussion. A new addition to the injury report is Geno Atkins. The two-time All Pro defensive tackle would be a huge loss. The Bears, I’m sure, aren’t complaining though.
2nd Down: It’s Time to Focus on the Youth Movement
We are at the point in the season, even past the point if we are being honest, where the Bears need to be evaluating young talent for next season. We are beyond the “crossroads” narrative of whether you should try and win or try and develop young players. The ship sailed after they failed to beat a Packers team sans Aaron Rodgers.
The problem here is that the coaching staff is at odds with the general manager. This coaching staff is trying to win games and audition for future jobs. The general manager on the other hand, is trying to determine what he has on-hand at each position heading into the off-season. The Bears have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, guess what, the general manager should win this battle.
Mitchell Trubisky needs to throw more than 15 times a game. Tarik Cohen needs more than six touches in a game. Adam Shaheen needs to be on the field more than nine snaps especially considering that only three of his snaps last week were pass routes run. I want to see Deiondre’ Hall getting reps somewhere, whether that’s safety or cornerback. Give poor Akiem Hicks more of a break and let Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris get valuable reps.
Heck, I would even start emptying the practice squad looking for players to sign to futures contracts. There is simply no reason not to open up the playbook and play your young players at this point in the season.
3rd Down: Injuries Should Open Doors
The Bears have no shortage of their own injuries. They currently have 14 players on injured reserve, 11 of which are starters if you count kicker Cairo Santos and long snapper Patrick Scales. Throw in Eric Kush, who was the main back-up interior offensive lineman, and there are some issues here.
I look at these injuries as an opportunity to finally play some of the younger players on your roster. I know everyone hates moving Cody Whitehair around, myself included, but I view him as a guard long term. Why don’t you allow Hronnis Grasu to play the final four games? The Mitch Unrein injury opens the door for Bullard and Robertson-Harris as mentioned above. A smart team would view these injuries as a positive, a way to get young players some important reps.
4th Down: Final Thoughts/Prediction
Even with some key injuries on defense for the Bengals, I don’t view this as a good match-up for the Bears. The Bengals don’t have a great offense by any stretch of the imagination, but they have had stretches of playing well. Vic Fangio’s game-plans of late have given the appearance that he is looking forward to his next job.
If the Bears play out the string in the same way that they have since the bye week, they are going to struggle to win another game this season. The only thing worse than an injured, poorly coached team, is an injured and poorly coached team that has given up on the season.
Prediction: Bengals 31, Bears 6