The playoffs are no longer a possibility for the Chicago Bears, but there's still something to play for. The coaching staff is still auditioning to keep their jobs for next year, as is Justin Fields. The Bears lost a heartbreaker last week by surrendering another late lead, but a home date against the lowly Arizona Cardinals provides the perfect opportunity to make a statement before it's too late.
The Cardinals were blasted by the NFC-best 49ers last week, and they may enter this game with one eye on their draft position. There's no excuse for the Bears not to control this game, but we've heard that tune before. Here are three matchups that the Bears need to be on the right side of to score their third win in four games.
1) Kyler Murray and Tre McBride vs. the Bears' secondary
OK I'll say it: this Bears defense looks a lot more like the Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman-led units of the early 2000s than the mess we've watched for much of the last decade. The entire defense has really turned it around since Matt Eberflus took over playcalling duties following Alan Williams' departure, and especially since Montez Sweat came to town.
Unlike during the early part of the season, the Bears are sacking the quarterback and forcing turnovers in abundance. Rookies and veterans have gotten in on the act, and the free agent linebacker duo of Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards has gotten better and better as the season has progressed.
The D was outstanding again last week against the Browns, at least until Joe Flacco made an impossible throw to Amari Cooper late to give the Browns the lead. The Bears weren't even in bad position, so it's one of those plays where you just need to tip your cap.
The only player that had any real success from start to finish against the Bears was tight end David Njoku. Njoku was everything for Flacco: a red zone target, a field stretcher, and a security blanket all in one, and he ended the day with 10 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.
The Cardinals' Tre McBride isn't a name that most people knew before this season, but he's quietly been one of the best tight ends in the league since veteran Zach Ertz went down with an injury earlier in the year. McBride has been quarterback Kyler Murray's favorite target since Murray returned five games ago, averaging over 7.5 catches per game.
McBride had a similar stat line to Njoku last week, recording 10 grabs for 102 yards against the 49ers. With the Bears' struggles in containing Njoku, they had better be extra focused in stopping McBride in this one. The Arizona receiving corps is missing #1 receiver Marquise Brown, and they have no one else that can hurt a Bears secondary that is really rolling right now.
The formula is pretty simple: stop McBride, and you stop Arizona.