It’s wild card week!
Some of the Loop Sports’ staff answers questions below about the hottest topics surrounding the Bears and the rest of the NFL heading into this weekend’s games.
Question 1: This has been an unbelievable season for the Chicago Bears. Which player, coach, or aspect of the team has impressed you the most?
Jack Soble: I’ve been impressed with the way Matt Nagy has gotten his team to buy in so quickly. Club Dub, “Boom,” and the trick plays that have players like Prince Amukamara waiting anxiously when Nagy knocks on the defensive meeting room door have made Bears football fun for the players, so much so that they’ll do anything Nagy asks. Week by week, he’s roaming the sidelines all game, offering constant energy and positive reinforcement. Ryan Pace nailed this hire.
Dan DeYoung: If there is one player that has impressed me the most this entire season, it would have to be Eddie Jackson. I knew that Khalil Mack was going to be one of the top players in the league, but I was not so sure that Jackson was going to take the next step this season, but he has. Eddie Jackson has been an unreal ball-hawking safety for the Bears and has made plays that very few can make look easy. He has turned into one of the best safeties in football.
Charlie Smith: I think if I had to pick one player I have been most impressed with this season it’s Kyle Fuller. A lot of people were skeptical of his extension this offseason due to his up and down play thus far in his career. He has been a lockdown guy this year and is tied for the lead league in picks with 7. I’m still not completely over that dropped pick in week one, but he’s been lights out since.
James Fox: Khalil Mack is the best player on the team so he’s the easy answer but I expected him to be about this good. This is what the Bears paid for when they acquired. The most impressive thing about this season is head coach Matt Nagy. He can be annoying to some football purists that would rather see games put away on the ground but he hasn’t shied away from who he is. “Be You” is his motto for a reason and him being him is the biggest reason why this team is 12-4 with a home playoff game. He won the respect of the locker room and continued to earn it as the season went along. He appears to be the right man for the job.
Ben Davis: The player that has really blown me away is Tarik Cohen. He has become an elite option as both a runner and as a pass catcher. Due to his height and size, he was not a highly talked about player coming out of the draft, however it seems Ryan Pace has found the NFL’s newest Darren Sproles type player. Cohen is a truly dynamic talent, and I believe if he continues this breakout season, the Bears should give several solid NFC defenses a run for their money in the playoffs.
Nick Petrusevski: The popular decision here is Khalil Mack, but for me, it’s been rookie LB Roquan Smith. He led the team in tackles in the regular season, even after missing all of camp. He’s going to be a stud for years to come.
Question 2: As of Monday morning, one-fourth of the league’s coaches have been fired. Will Vic Fangio get a look at any of those job openings?
Soble: He’ll get interviewed for a position or two, no doubt in my mind about that. Teams are going to be looking for the next Nagy or the next Sean McVay, but that coach may not exist right now, so they could turn to the leader of the league’s best defense. I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not he’ll actually get a job. For now, I lean no.
DeYoung: This year is probably his best shot at getting a head coaching gig, and he should be getting a few interview requests for jobs. It only takes one team to step up and take a chance on the guy that has helped create on the scariest defenses in all of football, and if that team is looking for their own Mike Zimmer style of coach, then Vic Fangio might just land himself a job.
Smith: Unfortunately for Bears fans, I think if there is ever a time for Vic to find a head coaching gig it’s this year. He has masterminded the leagues best defense and it’s not even close. With that being said, however, it seems as though most teams are looking for the next Sean McVay, Doug Pederson, and now Matt Nagy. Everyone wants that offensive genius to help groom their young franchise quarterbacks. So given the teams that need a coach and what they’re going to be looking for, I’m not sure Vic lands a gig this year.
Fox: I believe that he gets interviewed but he will not get a gig. I have a future article dropping on this topic this week so I don’t want to go too in depth here. I will say that he doesn’t really fit the profile of the recent trends in the hiring process. He’s 60 and doesn’t tell owners and front office members what they want to hear. He’d also likely be taking a pay cut as a head coach.
Davis: Much of the league is looking for a new head coach right now, and there are enough head coaching openings to warrant any candidate with a resume to be in the conversation for top decision maker. Fangio will be firmly in the conversation for several teams with a solid offense, but a defense that lacks the strategy to capitalize on the success on the other side of the ball. That being said, I believe the Bears will match or even outbid any contract that Fangio is offered for a head coaching position. I don’t believe this is the offseason where Fangio finally nails down the gig, but I still believe it is a possibility in the future.
Petrusevski: No, no, no, no, no. In all seriousness, there is a chance Fangio will leave this offseason. Teams are finally taking notice of the Bears’ defense and they now realize that defense still wins championships. It will take a lot for Fangio to leave though. He’s in Chicago, coaching a defense that could become the next great one for the next three or four years. Why leave?
Question 3: The Eagles come to town after three straight wins – two against playoff teams – to save their season. Can they beat the Bears? If so, how?
Soble: The Eagles can beat the Bears, certainly. They’ll have to do it by beating the Bears at their own game: winning in the trenches. They have the offensive line – Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, and Lane Johnson are all healthy – to match up with Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd and company. If they can hold them off and give Nick Foles enough time to take shots downfield to their talented receiving corps, they have a shot.
DeYoung: If I am being honest, I am not very scared of the Eagles. The only saving grace that they have is the mystique of Nick Foles. I have no idea how this guy is so streaky, but he has been all over the place in his NFL career. If he can step up in the playoffs like last year, that is the chance that they can beat the Bears.
Smith: Come playoffs, anyone can beat anyone. With that being said, I think it’s going to be very difficult for Foles and the Eagles to come into Soldier Field and leave with a win. I understand Foles has this recent playoff magic, but he hasn’t faced a defense as stacked as the this Bears team.
Fox: They can certainly beat the Bears but they shouldn’t be picked to win by many and the gambling lines agree currently. People talk about the Eagles being the hot team but they needed the Bears to bury the Vikings in order to make the playoffs. If Chicago loses the turnover battle and makes multiple blunders on special teams then Philadelphia could come away with a victory. I think the Bears should and will win by 10 or more points though barring a complete disaster.
Davis: While Nick Foles has had a fantastic run, this is the Bears defense we are talking about. Khalil Mack and gang have dominated in just about every game this season, and with an offense lacking a true star, I believe this will remain the case. The Eagles are banged up on defense, so Trubisky and the offense should be able to match the consistently stellar play on the other side of the ball.
Petrusevski: Taking out the defending SB champion is never easy, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Doug Pederson scares me more than any player on the Eagles roster. He has balls. We saw it last season and in the Super Bowl. The good thing? Matt Nagy is the same way. As the great Pat Foley would say: “somethings gotta give!”
Question 4: Eagles-Bears game prediction. Do the Bears move on to LA?
Soble: I think this is going to be one of those games where it ends up as a one-score contest but never feels like it was that close. 27-20 Bears with Philly picking up a touchdown with under two minutes to go and the Bears recovering the ensuing onside kick to seal it.
DeYoung: I am honestly not that scared of the Eagles. Yes, they have Nick Foles who is looking decent again, but I don’t think he can replicate the same results against the Chicago Bears. Plus, the Eagles defense does not help. They are giving up the third most passing yards in the NFL, so look for Trubisky to take control of this game through the air. My guess is Bears win this one big, 34-10, letting the NFL that they mean business.
Smith: If this was a regular season game, I’d say Bears by a million at home. However, with it being a playoff game, the pressure is on. The Eagles secondary is suspect and I think Trubisky is getting better every week. The run game is coming along as well so that will be able to keep the Eagles vaunted front 7 in check. I see Trubisky taking care of the football and the Eagles doing the opposite. Bears 31, Eagles 17.
Fox: With no semblance of a running game, Nick Foles will have to pull magic out of his hat against the best defense in the NFL. I think the luck finally runs out as the defense dominates again and the Bears running game continues to get better. Bears win 31-16 and move on to Los Angeles.
Davis: Darren Sproles has been effective recently. Zach Ertz has been incredible all season. Beyond that, the Eagles don’t have a ton to talk about on the Offensive side of things. On defense, their D-Line is still stellar, but their secondary has been absolutely decimated by injury. I think Mitch is able to take advantage of this, particularly with Tarik Cohen catching passes out of the backfield. Bears win 24-10 in a matchup that is never really close.
Petrusevski: I think Nagy has been holding back the last couple weeks. The offense will come out hot in this one, so will Trubisky. The defense will also have opportunities to get the best of Foles. Right now, I see a 31-21 Bears’ victory.
Question 5: After 17 weeks of football, 12 teams remain. Which one will end up hoisting the Lombardi trophy in February?
Soble: My preseason prediction was the New Orleans Saints, and I see no reason to change that now. In the AFC, I don’t think there’s a clear favorite, but I can’t see anyone going into the Bayou and winning. Drew Brees take care of business in the NFC, and then in nearby Atlanta, he will get his second ring.
DeYoung: Putting my Bias away, I actually still believe that the Chicago Bears will win the Super Bowl. The two seeds above Chicago do not scare me, the Bears destroyed the Rams earlier this season, and I am not as afraid of the Saints as anyone else is. The Bears are possibly the hottest team in football, and I think that Matt Nagy has something special planned for these games.
Smith: I think anyone has a legitimate shot in the AFC. In the NFC, I think it’s Saints or Bears. The Bears are the only team that can go into New Orleans and win in my opinion. My heart says Bears, but my brain says Saints. In the AFC, I don’t trust anyone but Tom Brady. I say it’s Pats-Saints and the Saints win a close one.
Fox: It’s really easy to predict chalk and put the Saints against the Chiefs but every team in the field has a weakness. I think the Bears can win the Super Bowl but I don’t think they win in Los Angeles and New Orleans. Someone would need to knock off the Saints for them. I’ll say Brees and the Saints get to Atlanta and lose to the Los Angeles Chargers as Philip Rivers wins his first championship.
Davis: Out of the NFC, I think the Bears are the team to beat right now. Defense wins championships, and no one in the league can hold a candle to the squad we are fielding right now. The only team that I believe can truly beat Chicago is New Orleans, yet I predict we make it out of the NFC. For the AFC, I believe the Patriots, with all of their flaws, will make it out of their side. Brady is too much in the playoffs, and I think they have what it takes to beat the Chiefs to move on to the big game. The Bears will take the crown in this game, and bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Chicago for the first time in over 30 years.
Petrusevski: Death, taxes, Tom Brady in January. The Patriots will find a way to get back to the Super Bowl. With that being said, the Chiefs have everything lined up in their favor. As for the NFC, the Bears and Saints are, by far, the best two teams. Ultimately, the Saints at home are too much for any team. It’s going to be a Brees vs. Brady Super Bowl, which is a toss-up, but the Saints will be favored. Meaning TB12 will have a lot of motivation. Give me the Pats 28-24 and Brady retires.
Credit: NBCSports.com. Pictured: Mitch Trubisky.