The Chicago Bears' quarterback of the future could be decided on Sunday

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
Justin Fields, Chicago Bears / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Most NFL fanbases are singularly focused on the performance of their teams on the field. Watch the games, root for your team to win, wash, rinse, and repeat for 18 weeks. For Chicago Bears fans, however, their attention has been divided all season.

In addition to cheering for their team, Bears fans have spent all season with one eye on the Carolina Panthers. That's because, thanks to the trade in which Chicago sent last year's #1 overall pick to Carolina for DJ Moore and a bevy of draft capital, the Bears hold the rights to the Panthers' first-round selection this year.

Rooting against the Panthers has been the highlight of the season thus far for Bears fans. Bryce Young, the former Alabama quarterback that was selected with that first overall pick, has had a rough time of it, and Carolina has been dreadful, winning only one time in 13 games. Head coach Frank Reich didn't even survive a full season. Recent wins by the Cardinals and Patriots have almost guaranteed that the Bears will once again sit atop the draft, and though this is no doubt a tremendous development for the Bears, it has presented a thorny question that has divided the fanbase.

Should the Bears stick with Justin Fields, or use the #1 pick on Caleb Williams or Drake Maye?

It's a fascinating question with no easy answer, and the way in which Ryan Poles chooses to go is possibly the most important decision the Bears have ever faced.

Williams and Maye are both highly-rated prospects that NFL scouts are salivating over. They've started, and starred, for multiple years on power conference teams. They both have a big arm and the ability to make plays with their legs. It's easy to envision them both becoming stars for a long time.

Everything in the paragraph above is true. It's also true of Justin Fields. Therein lies the dilemma. Fields has shown tantalizing flashes of becoming a superstar, but he's also followed phenomenal performances with games where he has looked overmatched, and he'll soon command a bigger payday than what the Bears would be paying a rookie.

Fields finally has a true #1 receiver in DJ Moore, and the two have made sweet music together. His offensive line, while still a work in progress, is better than it has been during his entire Bears tenure. He has a quality tight end in Cole Kmet and a trio of running backs who have all been effective this season. Even the defense has stepped up in the last month to far surpass their performance in the past three years.

If the Bears use their two first-round picks to build around Fields, they could have one of the most talent-rich offenses in the league, something that hasn't been true since, ever? Even Walter Payton was often the only real threat opposing teams needed to worry about when facing the Bears.

The quarterbacks are getting the hype, but this might be the deepest wide receiver class in history. Marvin Harrison, Jr. of Ohio State is seen as a can't-miss prospect, but Malik Nabers of LSU and Rome Odunze of Washington aren't far behind. Brock Bowers of Georgia is one of the highest-rated tight end prospects we've ever seen. The Bears can guarantee at least one of these players by trading down a few spots and scoring a bonanza of picks in return from a quarterback-needy team.

For the Bears to go this route, they need to be sure that Fields can turn his flashes of brilliance into consistent excellence. The final stretch of this season is being viewed by most as his on-field audition for the role, and this Sunday at Cleveland is his best chance yet to state his case.

The Browns boast the league's best pass defense and one of its most fearsome pass rushers in Myles Garrett. They are coached by Jim Schwartz, one of the most respected defensive minds in the game. They are also 6-1 at home, and the forecast for Sunday is cold and windy, with a chance of rain. In other words, this is not an easy situation for a quarterback to walk into.

If the Browns make Fields look bad, there may not be anything he can do in the season's last three games to keep the job. If he's able to do to Cleveland what he did to Detroit last week, though, it could be an irrefutable statement on his part. It's one thing to score points against the Lions at home. Going into a hostile environment in difficult conditions against the league's #1 pass defense and moving the ball up and down the field, though, is another story and one that Ryan Poles won't forget when April rolls around.

Next. 3 notable differences since Justin Fields returned to the Chicago Bears from injury . 3 notable differences since Justin Fields returned to the Chicago Bears from injury . dark

It's not an exaggeration to say that Sunday's game may be the most important one of the season for Chicago. The team is still in the playoff hunt, and it might finally get the answer to the question Bears fans have been wondering for three years. Is Justin Fields the guy? If so, now's the time to show it.