It’s only the beginning of fall, but the fate of the 2023 Chicago Bears (0-3) likely comes down to their Week 4 matchup against the Denver Broncos (0-3). Both teams are still searching for their first victory of the season and have lost in both dramatic and blowout fashion to begin the year. This Sunday, unless the improbable happens (more on that in a bit), one team will leave with life still left in their season while the other will need to start making their 2024 NFL Draft plans.
For the Bears, this could be the beginning of the end for this coaching staff and quarterback. If Matt Eberflus can’t get his team going and Justin Fields continues to struggle, the writing will be on the wall heading into the middle of the season. They haven’t won in nearly a full calendar year and could be on the verge of completely unraveling. Eberflus’ seat is getting hotter by the day, and he needs a win to fan the flames.
The Broncos, meanwhile, have a talented group of players and are trying to turn the corner under new head coach Sean Payton. Their offense has managed to look better in Russell Wilson’s second season, but it’s their defense that has been a problem. If they allow the Bears to find their footing, it could be a problem for them.
This game has the makings to be unpredictable and wildly entertaining, despite the team records. Desperation can make for a fun football game, and here are our bold predictions for what we’re going to see.
1. Justin Fields finally breaks out
This is the game Bears fans have been waiting to see all season. It’s finally time for Justin Fields to have a breakout performance and, for the moment, silence the doubters. It’s been tough sledding for No. 1 and the entire offense up to this point. No one can get on the same page. And even though Fields himself processed things better last week, he had nowhere to go with the football thanks to tight coverage and questionable route designs. Now facing a bottom defense, though, it’s going to all click. At least for one week.
The Broncos defense made Tua Tagovailoa look like a Hall of Fame quarterback and had Sam Howell dreaming about the Pro Bowl over the last two weeks. They’re getting carved up and don’t have much of a pass rush to make things uncomfortable in the pocket, totaling just four sacks on the year. Especially with a pass rusher like Frank Clark not playing. Fields will take that processing from last week and actually have time and space to throw the ball, resulting in a big day. He may not get to 300 yards, but it will be an efficient and encouraging display.
2. Khalil Herbert runs for 100+ yards
The Broncos struggle when it comes to pass defense but are putrid when defending the run, allowing 177 yards per game this year. That should be music to Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson’s ears, if they can actually earn double-digit carries. Since their offense has been stagnant, though, I believe offensive coordinator Luke Getsy will prioritize the running game given the favorable matchup, which will lead to a big performance from Herbert in particular.
It’s only a matter of time before Johnson gets the lion’s share of the workload, but Herbert continues to get the bulk of the carries early in the game. Assuming the Bears can sustain drives against this defense, Herbert will find opportunities to make plays and get his first 100-yard output since early last season.
3. Tremaine Edmunds gets first INT of the season
Like many players on the team, the 2023 season hasn’t started off well for linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. After five solid seasons in Buffalo, Edmunds came over to the Bears and was tasked with leading a new defense. Up to this point, he hasn’t exactly inspired a ton of confidence. But going back to Soldier Field for the first time in three weeks, Edmunds will have his best game and record his first interception as a Bear.
Wilson and the Broncos will probably have a productive day through the air considering the Bears are missing most of their starting secondary. But they will have their opportunities to create turnovers, and Edmunds will find an opening in the middle of the defense. He was sensational the last time he matched up with Wilson, totaling 11 tackles (2.5 for a loss), one sack, and one pass defensed in a 44-34 win back in 2020. He probably won’t put up those same numbers, but a pick is in the picture on Sunday.
4. Courtland Sutton and Marvin Mims each eclipse 125 receiving yards
Remember that tidbit about most of the Bears secondary being out with injuries? That’s going to be a significant problem when facing this Denver offense, and their pass catchers are going to have monster outings.
Receivers Courtland Sutton and Marvin Mims have both been heating up the last couple of weeks and will look to each take another step against a Bears secondary that is missing top cornerback Jaylon Johnson, nickel corner Kyler Gordon, backup nickel Josh Blackwell, and safety Eddie Jackson. The injuries are so bad that the Bears’ best healthy corner is rookie Tyrique Stevenson, who has been repeatedly picked on to start his career. Mims is going to find deep ball opportunities, and Sutton will command plenty of targets, allowing each player to eclipse 125 receiving yards. They’re going to look like Cris Carter and Randy Moss against these defenders.
5. This game ends in a tie
This might be the boldest prediction I’ve ever made, but I called my shot back in August, and I’m doubling down after the start both of these teams have had. Despite having talent on both sides of the ball, these are two bad teams that are on a collision course to determine who stays on the path for the top draft spot. According to Yahoo Sports Charles Robinson, teams that start 0-4 have landed the No. 1 overall pick 15 of 21 times since the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002. But what if neither team got to that point?
It’s been 51 and 36 years since the Bears and Broncos were involved in a tie, respectively, but they’re becoming more common in today’s game with more rebuttal opportunities and shortened overtime rules. This has the makings of an odd game given the unpredictability of both quarterbacks and the lack of cohesion on both sides. The Bears will appear to have this one in the bag before the Broncos storm back to force overtime, and then missed opportunities lead to a draw, leaving fans to wonder what they just saw. As frustrating as it would be, it’s the perfect result for these teams.