Before their early bye week, the Chicago Bears’ first four opponents of the 2018 NFL season were all from the National Football Conference (NFC). Week 6 will be the first of four consecutive games against teams from the American Football Conference (AFC). First, there will be the Miami Dolphins on the road. Next are the New England Patriots and the New York Jets (both at home), and finally an away game against the Buffalo Bills. Although these next four contests for the Bears aren’t against the NFC, these games can end up being just as important in the standings for Chicago.
Last season, the Bears swept their four AFC opponents. Hopefully, the same can happen during this four-game stretch. If history does repeat itself, then that will give Chicago a 7-1 record heading into a crucial inter-divisional battle against the Detroit Lions in Week 10. A record like that will definitely keep the Bears atop the NFC North, and can potentially put them in first place in the entire conference.
Taking a look at the next four games for Chicago, running the table against their AFC opponents really doesn’t look like an impossible feat. Currently, the Patriots and the Dolphins are 3-2, while the Jets and Bills sport a record of 2-3. Neither one of these teams’ offenses are exactly lighting it up. Entering Week 6, New England’s offense is ranked 22nd in the league, and the Jets aren’t too far behind at 26th. As for the Dolphins and Bills, they are 30th and 31st in the NFL respectively.
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Sizing up these offenses to what the Bears’ defense has done thus far this season clearly favors Chicago (at least on paper). The Bears currently have the second-ranked overall defense in the NFL, is ninth against the pass, and is No. 1 in stopping the run. In addition, Chicago’s 18 sacks and eight interceptions are the second- and third-most in the NFL respectively.
This defense may or may not faze a seasoned quarterback like Tom Brady. In his illustrious career, Brady is 4-0 against the Bears, and has won those games going up against pretty good defenses, which were led by Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Charles Tillman. However, what really can work for the Bears is the fact that two of these teams have starting rookie quarterbacks. Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and Bills quarterback Josh Allen both have shown flashes of potential, but Chicago’s smothering pass rush may rattle the two rookies.
On the flipside, Chicago’s offense is still a work-in-progress. Even after a 48-point outpour in Week 4, the Bears’ offense is still ranked 24th in the league. However, their average of 27.8 points per game is seventh in the NFL. Unlike their offenses, these AFC teams may pose a bit more of a threat with their defense. New England’s defense is ranked 16th, and New York’s is 19th. Surprisingly, the two defenses that could give Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears’ offense some problems are Buffalo’s and Miami’s. The Bills’ defense is ranked sixth in the league, and they are in the top 10 in defending the pass. The Dolphin’s 22nd defensive ranking may not look daunting, but their league-leading 10 interceptions may come into play when going up against Chicago’s second-year quarterback.
All in all, the next four games for the Bears can really set the tone for the rest of their season. As mentioned earlier, sweeping the AFC this year will give Chicago a 7-1 record, something that hasn’t happened for them since 2012; and six year prior to that they started 7-1 and ended up going to the Super Bowl. So, if you think that these non-NFC games aren’t important, then think again.