It is once again the time of the week where we talk to the folks from the SB Nation site that covers the Minnesota Vikings’ opponent for a given week. This week, it’s our annual trip to Soldier Field, and that means talking with the gang from Windy City Gridiron, SB Nation’s home for everything relating to the Chicago Bears.
I had the pleasure of exchanging some questions with Bill Zimmerman from WCG, and he’s already posted the answers I sent him to his questions, and here are the answers to the questions I sent his way. And, as an added bonus, no Taylor Swift references this week. You’re officially out of the woods.
1) Since the Bears drafted Justin Fields, he’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for them at quarterback. What sort of split do you think there is among the fanbase between the folks that think that Fields is “the guy” going forward and those that would like to see the Bears use a potential high pick in 2024 (whether it’s theirs or Carolina’s) on a new quarterback to replace him?
The fan base is still largely behind Justin Fields and believe he will succeed at quarterback for the Bears. What has really been controversial on social media and comments sections is the Caleb Williams idea. If the Bears have the number one pick again due to their own record, Justin Fields will be replaced, no questions asked and I think 99% of the fan base would agree with that plan. However, if the Fields plays well and the Panthers gift the Bears the top choice, the debate of should they go with Caleb Williams and trade Fields or keep Fields and trade the top pick for a haul has gotten heated. I think the fan base is pretty split on that but most of the NFL analysts and pundits that have weighed in on that topic believe you have to take Caleb Williams as he is just that special of a prospect. If Carolina ends up giving the Bears a top 5 pick but not first overall, and the discussion would be Drake Maye or whoever QB3 ends up being in this draft, I think a lot more fans will fall on the side of Fields and trading down (or taking Marvin Harrison, Jr) but if the Panthers do give the Bears the top pick, that’s going to be a very interesting storyline to say the least.
2) There was a bit of controversy a few weeks ago involving Bears’ defensive coordinator (and former Vikings’ defensive coordinator) Alan Williams. Who is running the defense for the Bears now and has there been a significant change now that Williams is not in charge there anymore?
This was always Matt Eberflus’ defense. Yes, Alan Williams was calling the plays, but it’s Eberflus’ system. Once Williams was dismissed from the team (he only coached week one), Eberflus took over as defensive play caller and he announced that he would do that for the remainder of the season. Eberflus has talked about bringing in a defensive consultant (perhaps someone like Lovie Smith or Rod Miranelli, but I’m just speculating), but in terms of calling the plays on the sidelines, Eberflus will continue to do that the rest of the season.
Because this was Eberflus’ defense, there hasn’t been much difference that was noticeable week to week. The first four weeks of the season, the Bears rarely blitzed and played a very vanilla defense rushing four straight up and sitting in soft zones. Against Washington on Thursday, Eberflus dialed up a lot more pressure and disguised some coverages and the Bears’ defense looked much improved schematically. However, as fans, we are nervous that he may return to the vanilla defense against Minnesota because when the media asked him about Justin Jefferson missing the game, he stated they could do more “basic” packages on defense.
3) The Bears hired Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus right around the same time that the Vikings hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell. Do you think that either Poles or Eberflus are on the “hot seat” at the present time or are they still in the honeymoon period with the ownership and the fanbase?
The honeymoon ended for both Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus after the week one loss to the Green Bay Packers. For Poles, social media chants of “King Poles does it again” were echoed after week one, but they went from sincere to sarcastic. I would say that Poles’ seat has slightly warmed but isn’t toasty yet.
For Eberflus, his seat has definitely gotten pretty darn hot. There was talk that if Chicago lost to Washington that there could be a coaching change. I never quite believed that, but I certainly believe that if Eberflus doesn’t start stacking up wins and doing it soon, that this could be his last year coaching in Chicago. For Eberflus it’s not just that the team isn’t winning, it’s that his defense has been bad. His team had given up 25 or more points in every game of their 14 game losing streak, and that was finally snapped last game when they only gave up 20 to Washington. His cover 2 concepts are antiquated, his game plans are unimaginative and he doesn’t come across as someone in command when he holds his press conferences. Eberflus looks like he might already be a sunk cost.
4) Give us one “under the radar” player on each side of the ball for the Bears that you think will be key to Chicago’s success in this game.
On the defensive side of the ball, I’ll give you a name that’s not under the radar in Chicago but is probably so nationally and that’s defensive tackle Andrew Billings. Billings plays the 1-tech in this defense and has been a wrecking ball much of the season. Billings came in as a run stuffer but has had opportunities on passing downs and does a good job creating interior pressure. For a Bears defensive line that is very weak, Billings has been the lone consistent bright spot.
On offense, it’s going to be D’Onta Foreman. The Bears had some real bad luck against Washington when all three of their active tailbacks were injured and as of right now, it looks like all three of them (Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer) will miss the Vikings game as well. Foreman was a healthy scratch the last couple of games but anyone who watched him play the second half of the season in Carolina knows how good he can be. With the team’s best run blocker, Teven Jenkins, back in the lineup, there’s a good chance that Foreman can have a nice game on Sunday.
5) Despite the Vikings losing Justin Jefferson to an injury and their general propensity to hand the ball over to the other team, the DraftKings Sportsbook has Minnesota as a 2.5-point favorite going into Sunday’s game, which is down from the 3.5 that it started at. How do you think this battle of 1-4 teams is going to play out? Will the Bears hold serve at home?
This is a tough game for me to call. Truthfully, I like over 44.5 a lot more than I do the point spread. The Bears offense looks good, the Vikings defense looks mediocre, and the Bears defense has been bad and Kirk Cousins knows how to pile up the yardage. That seems like a number that is certainly going to go over to me. In terms of the spread, I certainly think this is going to be anyone’s ball game in the fourth quarter. If that’s the case, despite the Bears having the homefield advantage, I’m going to take the more experienced roster and a coaching staff I trust more than Chicago’s and say Minnesota wins this one, 27-24.
Thanks again to Bill for taking the time to answer our questions for this week!