At 3-5, nobody is counting the Chicago Bears out of the playoff picture just yet. At least mathematically speaking, that is.
The Bears have dropped two in a row — against the likes of Miami at Solider Field and New England on the road yesterday. What Sunday’s flop against the AFC’s elite proved is that the Bears are not the contender we thought they would be.
Chicago has one resume-worthy win on the entire season — a 28-20 triumph over the 49ers. The other two wins came against a 1-7 Jets team that has two quarterbacks but none worthy of starting, and an Atlanta team that’s going to wind up drafting somewhere within the first 10 picks come April. Chicago has fallen to the Bills, a middle-of-pack AFC contender, Green Bay, Carolina, Miami, and now New England, and has done so by a cumulative score of 170-98.
Not only is the Bears’ defense disappointing; the offense is, too. Inconsistent and turnover-prone, Jay Cutler remains culprit No. 1. And I can’t help but point the blame to fantasy football.
Back in August when you were planning for your fantasy draft, you took one glance at the Bears’ offense and were mesmerized. Marc Trestman is an offensive guru. He has two of the league’s top wide receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and an athletic pass-catcher at tight end in Martellus Bennett. Matt Forte is as a dynamic running back as both a runner and receiver out of the backfield, and has the luxury of a very skilled offensive line.
Then there was Cutler, a quarterback who has teetered on the line between good and great for what feels like his entire career. Last year in Trestman’s system, Cutler was off to arguably the best statistical season in his career. Then Josh McCown took over and finished off what Cutler had started.
With Cutler healthy and with so many weapons surrounding him, it was a no-brainer — this was Cutler’s year to shine. He has Jeffery and Marshall split wide, Bennett as a safety valve, and the always dangerous Forte out of the backfield. Cutler was definitely primed to post video game-esque numbers.
But we ignored one pretty major point. This is still Jay Cutler.
Cutler’s decision-making, ball security, and his pure execution have all been inconsistent this season. Cutler has 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions, which is tied for sixth-most in the NFL behind the rookie Blake Bortles and two quarterbacks — Geno Smith and Kirk Cousins — who have been benched already this season. Cutler has three fumbles, as many as the aforementioned Bortles and Smith. On the season, Cutler has gone just three games without throwing a pick, eclipsed 300 yards passing just twice, and owns a quarterback rating of 62.37. So it should come as no surprise this Bears team we thought would make a run at the NFC North is instead sitting in third place at two games under .500.
The Bears’ past two losses have both resulted in reported locker room havoc. After the Bears lost their third game at home this season to the Dolphins, Marshall reportedly called out of his quarterback during a locker room rant. This Sunday, after an embarrassing rout at the hands of the Patriots, reports indicated there was helmet throwing taking place.
The frustration is evident, and it all circles back to Cutler.
Chicago sits two games back of Green Bay for the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff picture. After a Week 9 bye, the Bears have a chance to go toe to toe with those Packers in what amounts to a must-win game in terms of their playoff chances.
There’s no doubting the talent on the Bears’ roster, especially on the offensive side of the football. But without the execution on behalf of Cutler, this team cannot live up to the expectations. It’s do or die for the Bears beginning on Nov. 9, and fittingly, it boils down to how Cutler performs with the pressure on.