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It's Not Getting Easier for Bears

The midpoint break for the Bears signified no great reason to expect a second-half run even if Justin Fields has improved.

When the schedule came out in May for this NFL season the prediction on a final Bears record came in at 8-9.

Nothing occurred to change this even after Andy Dalton became starter, Justin Fields was drafted and training camp ensued. 

An 8-9 mark could be wishful thinking at this point, although players won't want to hear this.

"It’s up to us to determine what we can do," wide receiver Darnell Mooney said. "Eleven and six sounds really, really good. We can do it. 

"There’s nothing in front of us that we can’t handle, so we just gotta go out there and do it."

Even if Fields has shown great promise over the last two games, 11-6 means eight straight wins and these Bears need to focus on just getting a win to end a four-game losing streak. It's already going to be difficult for the coaching staff to argue for its continued existence after three straight seasons involving prolonged losing streaks. 

Some injured Bears could be returning soon on defense, chiefly Khalil Mack and Eddie Jackson, and this could help. 

It's often been repeated by coach Matt Nagy and throughout the NFL. The bye week came at a good time. 

The truth is, a bye week always comes at a good time. There just could be better times. Still, the Bears are at what is essentially their midpoint with a 3-6 record and now can look to top out at 7-10. This would mean a 4-4 finish to their season. 

Here are five good reasons why they'll do no better than 7-10 even if they'd like to finish 11-6.

1. The schedule

Playing the Packers and the Arizona Cardinals is not going to be fun. The Bears will have a cold-weather advantage over the Cardinals in December at Soldier Field but when was the last time something like this ever benefited them? Maybe the Houston game last year but Houston was a team with a losing record and had packed it in several weeks earlier. The Bears have won 5 of 6 over Minnesota since Nagy became coach but the Vikings could be in the thick of the wild-card chase and the Bears figure to be on the periphery until mathematical elimination. This alone could prevent the usual mastery of Mike Zimmer's team and the Bears could hope for a split of two games at best. They can figure in a win at Soldier Field Jan. 2 against the Giants because teams eliminated in playoff chases usually fold up in late-season road games. There is no way the Bears are good enough to go to Seattle a day after Christmas and beat Russell Wilson. Then there is the game this week which appears winnable based on the Ravens' disappointing loss to Miami, but that's just how Baltimore is this season. The Ravens and Lamar Jackson could explode, or they could be duds. Either way, the Bears come out of this schedule no better than 7-10 mainly because their first half was so disappointing.

2. Justin Fields

Two nice efforts in successive games is encouraging, but Nagy has cautioned against thinking they have reached all calm seas in their rookie's development. A rookie quarterback is a volatile substance.

It's going to be a learning process throughout this season. A moment of clarity usually doesn't descend on a rookie quarterback at midseason and suddenly he's far more consistent. It happens over time. 

3. Defensive Trouble

Even if Fields makes the most major strides, this Bears defense appears incapable of taking over games because they can't stop big runs and their ability to defend the pass is deceiving. Stats say they're 12th vs. the pass, but they are third in sacks per passes attempted. What this means is they're getting sacks but when they don't, then the pass coverage hasn't been capable of stopping opponents. They are 20th at stopping touchdown passes and 25th at making interceptions. Good pass coverage doesn't pull down such numbers. A very telling sign for the Bears on defense is the 6.41 yards they allow on first down. There are only two teams worse in the league, the Jets and Chiefs. It's very telling because it blends both the weakness against the run and the pass coverage, and usually it's not easy getting sacks on first downs with defenses guessing more so it eliminates that strength. When a team allows 6.41 yards on first down, opponents are just a few short gains from first downs and long drives.

4. Injuries/Age

The defense is older and injuries continue to stack. They haven't had the original starting defense on the field for a single game this year. It's always one or two and now three defenders hurt. Injuries and aging teams just seem to go together for good reason. The body is breaking down and can't hold up to the stress of a full NFL season.

5. Coaching

Matt Nagy's positive approach and "be you," mantra will hold up well with younger players. As the season wears on and losses stack, veterans have heard it all before and might even be headed out of town after the season themselves. The coaching staff's ability to keep it all together and avoid some sort of free fall worse even than their current four-game losing streak depends upon stopping this skid immediately and then going on their own winning streak. See the schedule if you think that winning streak is happening. When the team loses complete faith in the message, real losing ensues.

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What's Left

Nov. 21 Baltimore at Soldier Field

The Ravens are last stopping the pass and fourth stopping the run, first at running the ball and 10th passing it. Those numbers look like trouble for the Bears.

Nov. 25 At Detroit

Just because it's Thanksgiving and the Lions tied the Steelers doesn't make them more likely to be dangerous. They're winless for a reason.

Dec. 5 Arizona at Soldier Field

The idea of "Bear Weather" died when the 49ers beat the Bears in the NFC championship at Soldier Field after the 1988 season. 

Dec. 12 at Green Bay

Don't expect the Bears to beat their owner. Unless Aaron Rodgers has been lying about something else, he'll probably be playing in this game and doing what he always does in night games at home against the Bears.

Dec. 20 Minnesota at Soldier Field

Another Monday night game and one the Vikings likely will need for the playoff chase. There's always a chance for the Bears, with Kirk Cousins at quarterback and Zimmer coaching.

Dec. 26 at Seattle

Seattle could be in the unimaginable position of playing out the string at this point. Still, losing teams going on the road at Christmas don't normally rate a strong shot at an upset win. And playing in Seattle is never easy for anyone.

Jan. 2 NY Giants at Soldier Field

Everyone make sure to thank Giants GM Dave Gettleman for trading down last spring.

Jan. 9 at Minnesota

Could this be the final game for Zimmer? For Nagy? For both?

Twitter: BearDigest@onFanNation