The Chicago Bears’ long march to the off-season will finally come to an end Sunday afternoon as they travel to the Twin Cities to take on Teddy Bridgewater and the Minnesota Vikings.
The Bears have lost their last four games and 9 of 12 since beginning the season 2-1. All of that losing does come with a potential benefit, however, as they could very well end up with a top 10 draft pick for the first time since the 2005 NFL Draft (they selected running back Cedric Benson with the fourth-overall pick in that draft).
With that in mind, the question becomes a simple one for Bears fans who plan on tuning into the game Sunday: Should they be rooting for the team to go into the off-season with a victory, or should they be hoping for another loss to secure a better pick when the NFL Draft takes place in the Windy City in April?
For those angling for a Bears’ loss, there is plenty of ammunition. After all, the Bears’ strength of schedule mark of .531 is high among the teams that surround them in the standings. That metric is used to break ties in the draft order, with teams possessing a poorer strength of schedule getting to move up in the order. That would mean that a win over the Vikings Sunday could push the Bears from seventh, which is where they would pick if they lose on Sunday, all the way down to 10th or 11th, depending on the results of other games.
A drop of three or four picks doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when you look at the 2014 NFL Draft, just a few places can make all the difference. The Bears ended up taking Kyle Fuller with the 14th overall pick, but if they had picked just one slot higher, they could have had defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who was named to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season with the St. Louis Rams. The seventh pick in the first round ended up yielding wide receiver Mike Evans for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He also will be playing in the Pro Bowl in late January.
Despite this potential for a better draft selection, a lot would have to go wrong for the Bears to drop precipitously in the order even if they win. Sure, the Vikings would leap over the Bears, but the Bears could still finish ahead of the Carolina Panthers, who would drop to 6-9-1 with a loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, and several other teams, including the New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams and New York Giants, would all have to lose in order for the Bears to drop out of the top 10.
In addition, a win over the Vikings wouldn’t magically save anyone’s job at Halas Hall. Marc Trestman isn’t going to remain head coach based solely on the result of this game, and Phil Emery won’t remain general manager either. The evidence to make those decisions has already piled up, and it’s now just a matter of seeing on whose neck the ax will fall.
Whether you’re rooting for a win or a loss for the Bears on Sunday, there is one thing that all fans can get behind: Change is likely coming to Halas Hall, and whether it comes with a seventh-overall pick or one substantially lower in the draft order, it’s going to be a far more interesting off-season than it has been during the regular season.