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5 Qs with Windy City Gridiron

Old faces and new mark a game that is likely to be just plain weird.

Chicago Bears v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears aren’t usually considered a particularly emotional rival for the Carolina Panthers, but a lot of things are new this season. The 2023 Bears hold the Panthers 2024 first round pick and are somehow significantly more successful than the Panthers at the same time. That is bound to cause some feelings.

Here to help us sort out those feelings is Bill Zimmerman from Windy City Gridiron. We talked a little about the odd coincidences around these two teams, I asked how our old friend D.J. Moore is doing, and then we drilled down to business to figure out who this Tyson Bagent character is and how likely he is to blow the wheels off the Panthers tonight, Enjoy.

The Bears have won twice as many games as the Carolina Panthers so far this season. Having keenly observed their games, what is one secret to their success that may have eluded the Panthers thus far?

The Bears are a terrible football team. That’s a bummer because this year the Bears were supposed to be “fun bad.” The Bears were supposed to win 7 or 8 games and be everybody’s pick to be the breakout team in 2024. That’s how fans (and I believe GM Ryan Poles) saw this season going. Unfortunately, that isn’t anywhere near true.

All this season has shown is that the Bears are a lot further away from actually being a competitive playoff team than everyone thought. Yes, this juggernaut has managed to win two games so far this season, but you asked the secret to the Bears success during the Matt Eberflus era? Play bad quarterbacks. The 5 wins that he has amassed over his 26 games were against Trey Lance, Davis Mills, Mac Jones, Sam Howell and Brian Hoyer. So that’s my best advice to the Panthers, make sure the other team’s quarterback is bad. Good things happen to your team when they don’t happen to the other team.

How’s D.J. Moore doing? We miss him.

As excited as all Bears fans were for the acquisition of DJ Moore, I think he has exceeded everyone’s lofty expectations. We love DJ Moore. You should miss him, he’s amazing and clearly underrated. While most fans and analysts would agree he’s a very good receiver and has strong hands and excellent speed, I don’t think many Bears fans understood just how difficult this man is to tackle. He is such a weapon on the team, I know Justin Fields got so many of the accolades for this, but Moore basically won the Washington game by himself. He’s something special for sure.

I think overall, if it wasn’t for this Carolina trade that Poles made back in March, the Bears would have absolutely no hope. It’s the one thing he’s done to keep a weak pulse beating with the fan base. I know it’s been bumpy this year, but if Bryce Young does turn out to be a legitimate QB in this league, it won’t matter what Carolina gave up. But right now, what Ryan Poles is getting for his return on the trade is remarkable. Darnell Wright is the real deal, he was able to trade down one spot and pick up a 4th round pick in 2024 before he grabbed Wright. DJ Moore is phenomenal. They drafted Tyrique Stevenson with the 2nd rounder the Panthers sent over last year, he’s been inconsistent but has definitely showed promise. And the fact that they could have the first or second pick in 2024 to land potentially a better QB prospect than Young was and still have a 2025 second rounder from Carolina in tow to use, it certainly looks like this one could have been a straight robbery by Poles. But obviously, it’s still way too early to grade this trade.

How many wins do you think the Bears or the Panthers would have if either team still had John Fox as their head coach this season? It is worth noting, for Panthers fans, that Fox’s last season as head coach of the Bears (2017) was also the last winning season the Panthers had.

We’ve spoken about John Fox as a fan base a lot more this season than we have the last several years and that’s to compare him to Matt Eberflus, who is very unpopular with the fan base. 2017 may have been your last winning season, but Chicago isn’t doing much better, 2018 was theirs. The Fox situation didn’t work here, he took over a team that was in a complete teardown mode and took over for Marc Trestman who coached the Bears in 2014 to arguably the most dysfunctional season in team history. Fox did his job. He restored the locker room, brought in a respectable coaching staff, and made the Bears “normal” bad instead of “dumpster fire” bad.

The other thing Fox did was bring Vic Fangio with him to Chicago who Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy were able to retrain for the 2018 season, which of course was a fun one in Chicago, thanks in large part to Fangio’s defense. So while Fox didn’t have the success he had in Carolina, he did lay some foundation for the success they had in 2018. Unfortunately, they really haven’t had any success since. But oh, you asked a question, I’ll say one for Chicago. John Fox doesn’t blow the game against Denver. But for Carolina, I say none, sorry.

Serendipities aside, what’s going on at quarterback this week in Chicago? Will we see Fields take the field?

Unfortunately, no. On Wednesday, Matt Eberflus announced that Tyson Bagent would start on Thursday night. That’s a real bummer because while the Tyson Bagent story was nice, it’s not every day that an undrafted free agent rookie from a division 2 school goes out and beats an NFL team (even if it was the Raiders) in his first ever start, but it’s run its course. Bagent could develop into a nice QB2, but he’s a physically limited quarterback. His arm strength is an issue. Both in velocity in terms of zipping it through defenders over the middle of the field and in distance in terms of throwing deep, accurate footballs.

Fields is certainly a flawed quarterback, but I think 99% of this fanbase really wanted him back this week. I’m confident Fields will be back against Detroit the next game, and if this game was on Sunday rather than Thursday there’s probably a much better chance that Fields would play in this one, but on the short week, it just didn’t happen.

Draftkings Sportsbook has the over/under for this game set at 39 points at this writing. That has drifted down from 40 when odds opened. Do you think the Bears are capable of scoring 39 points or should interested parties bet the under here?

I see what you did there, but what we haven’t discussed is just how bad the Bears defense is. The Bears have no pass rush. They have zero sacks and 4 QB hits (3 by TJ Edwards) in their last 2 games. They sacked Sam Howell 5 times, but have 5 sacks combined in their other 8 games. While the Bears do a good job at stopping the run, teams can absolutely pass on them. So if there is a game for Bryce Young to look better, this is certainly the one.

But I know the Panthers defense is seriously banged up and struggling as well, so we will see how much success Bagent can have against Carolina’s defense. If the Bears have success this week, I think they follow the script that they used to beat the Las Vegas Raiders. Get the running game going early, take some pressure off Bagent and keep him in 3rd and manageable so he can keep getting the ball out quick and focus on short passes. Once Bagent has to start pushing the ball 10 to 15 yards past the line of scrimmage, the wheels tend to come off the offense. It’s not that he isn’t capable (he will make some nice throws Thursday night for sure) but he certainly can’t do it consistently. So with the Bagent-led offense, I certainly don’t think the Bears can score 39 points on their own, and if I was going to play this one, I think the smart bet is the under.