The Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears will square off for the first time in four years in Week 9, and for the first time in eight years they will meet in Nashville.
The Bears are an interesting case to say the least. While Chicago has notched one of the better records in the NFL (5-3) through eight weeks, this is a team that isn’t getting much respect from experts.
After starting the campaign with five wins in six games, Chicago has lost its last two contests to the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, but remains in second place in the NFC North.
We had so many questions about the Titans’ Week 9 opponent because of that lack of respect, so we turned to our friend Alyssa Barbieri over at Bears Wire for some answers.
Here’s a look at the great insight we got on the Bears’ 2020 campaign after going behind enemy lines.
Barbieri: “The short answer is no. There’s a reason the quarterback competition during training camp was so close because neither is good enough to carry this team, which also says a lot about the offense. The one thing that’s become abundantly clear since Foles took over is that the Bears’ offensive struggles aren’t just on the quarterback. Matt Nagy has essentially used Trubisky as a scapegoat. But once Trubisky was benched and it was more of the same, the criticism has come down hard on Nagy.
“Nagy finally has his guy in Foles — someone the Bears traded draft capital and paid $21 million guaranteed to bring some stability to this offense. But Foles has looked just as bad as Trubisky in his five starts since taking over in Week 3. He’s been a statue in the pocket, he’s thrown some ugly interceptions and he’s looked like a rookie at times. It certainly doesn’t help that Chicago’s offensive line is like a turnstile and there’s a complete lack of a run game. But Foles just hasn’t been getting it done.”
Barbieri: “Two weeks ago, I would’ve said they weren’t getting enough respect. But these last couple of games have shown me that this is the same Bears team from last season, although with a better, healthier defense. But Chicago’s offense has looked just as abysmal as it did last season, and they just can’t seem to get out of their own way.
“Those that were criticizing the Bears are being proven right as they embark on one of the most difficult stretches of their schedule. Luckily the Bears have one of the easiest remaining strengths of schedule in the NFL. Although, with this offense, even that’s no guarantee they’ll win enough games to compete for a wild card spot.”
Barbieri: “Let’s start with the defense. Their biggest strength has been their red zone defense. The Bears have done a good job of bending but not breaking, which has allowed some offenses to move the ball on them, but they’ve done a good job keeping teams out of the end zone. Their biggest weakness has been the run defense, which isn’t encouraging given they’re facing one of the best in Derrick Henry on Sunday. They’ve also had their share of struggles defending the middle of the field, which could open some opportunities for Titans tight ends.
“On offense, the biggest strength would be the receiving corps. in Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney and Anthony Miller. Despite the fact nothing else is really working on offense, the receivers have done a good job getting separation and coming up with some big-time catches to help take some pressure off Foles. The biggest weakness is no doubt the offensive line, which has struggled getting a push up front in the run game and protecting Foles.”
Barbieri: “I know kickers aren’t the sexiest thing in the NFL, but Cairo Santos has quietly been having an impressive 2020 season for the Bears. And he almost wasn’t on their roster. Starter Eddy Pineiro suffered a groin injury ahead of the regular season, which prompted Nagy to bring in Santos. And it’s been one of the best decisions he’s made.
“Santos has connected on his last 10 field goals since his last miss in Week 3. But he’s been quite clutch, connecting on a pair of 50-yard field goals over the last few weeks, including one game-winner and one to send the Bears to overtime. Considering Chicago’s offense seems to freeze up as they near the end zone, Santos could certainly have a big impact, as he has in weeks past.”
Barbieri: “It’s not pretty. Especially considering this group was already facing a ton of scrutiny for its performance since Week 3. Chicago’s offensive line has experienced a rash of injuries over these last few weeks, losing left guard James Daniels to a torn pec, right tackle Bobby Massie was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury and center Cody Whitehair suffered a calf injury.
“Believe it or not, that was a better circumstance than what’s transpired over these last few days. Reserve tackle Jason Spriggs tested positive for COVID-19, and starting right guard Germain Ifedi was deemed to be in close contact, and both were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Then, it was reported another member of the O-line had tested positive for COVID, which is believed to be Whitehair, which caused the Bears to shut down their facility on Thursday. It’s been a mess. There’s a possibility the Bears could be without four starters on the offensive line when they suit up against the Titans, where a pair of seventh-round rookies and undrafted free agents could be the only thing standing between Nick Foles and the Titans pass rush.”
Barbieri: “While I think this is a winnable game for the Bears, especially considering the Titans’ struggles on defense, there’s just no way I can pick Chicago knowing that it’ll rely on the offense to do its part. I still think it’ll be close, as the Bears defense has done a good job doing this season. Titans 20, Bears 13.”