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For the first time in years, the Bears have legitimate hope at quarterback in the form of Justin Fields. The former Buckeyes star might finally be the person that takes the Bears over the top. More importantly, he might be The Guy to help them join the modern NFL of competent offenses.
There is one caveat to Fields’ potentially simmering star: In Year 2, he’s probably going to have to do it by himself for the most part.
After the Bears decided to bolster their defense during the 2022 NFL Draft — while ignoring the addition of any premium receivers — they more or less put the offensive burden on Fields’ plate. That might be a dicey prospect for a still-developing player on a squad with a first-year head coach (Matt Eberflus).
Though, if matters break well for Chicago, they could surprise. They do have a promising skeleton with up-and-coming playmakers on both sides of the ball like Roquan Smith, Darnell Mooney, and Jaylon Johnson. Whether that core amounts to anything is To Be Determined.
Here are the most important games of the Bears’ 2022 season, as Justin Fields tries to put his team, and himself, on the map.
What a perfect early-season litmus test for Chicago.
When the Bears and 49ers met last year, Fields and Co. somewhat kept pace with the eventual NFC runner-up. But a porous defense (wait, is this why they went all secondary in the draft?) eventually let them down in a 33-22 loss.
This time around, in the Bears’ 2022 home opener, we might even see Trey Lance. That could give us an intriguing matchup of two top quarterbacks from the 2021 draft class. Oh, how spicy. Needless to say, but we’ll know a lot about where the Bears stand after this one.
The Bears have yet to beat their storied rival in the 2020s. Yes, that is entirely true and looks even more harrowing in print.
As seems to be the tradition, the Bears will once again go on the road and try to beat the Packers in the NFL’s marquee Sunday Night Football slot. I certainly wouldn’t bet on them winning. But if they’re going to maximize 2022, the Bears better at least put out a good showing.
Every now and then, the schedule gives you a “gimme.” If the Bears can’t beat Washington in their first primetime home game of the year, it’s probably safe to write off the rest of their season.
Of course, the Commanders will likely be saying the same thing about battling the similarly hapless Bears on the road. Parity!
As usual, chances are that any battles for NFC playoff spots will go down to the wire. That makes the Bears’ late-year matchup with the Eagles all the more imperative. If they’re still afloat by late December, the Bears and Fields might be jockeying for Wild Card positioning with Jalen Hurts’ Eagles.
Let’s call this one a must-win, shall we?
Fun fact: This Week 18 battle between the Bears and Vikings will be the fifth time in the last six years that the two have met in the season finale. So, uh, the NFL clearly likes closing with Chicago and Minnesota?
Another no-brainer, if the Bears are in the playoff picture on Week 18, they’re probably going to need a win to cement themselves. And they, again, very well might be in a dead heat with the Vikings for Wild Card pole position. Kirk Cousins and a big-game situation: What could go wrong?