The Bears went into last week with high hopes they could topple the lowly Detroit Lions. The Bears were on track through three quarters, but a fourth-quarter meltdown saw them lose their sixth game in their last seven tries and fall to 3-7 on the season.
On the bright side, Justin Fields continued his stellar play. The second-year quarterback went 12-for-20 for 167 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also rushed for 147 yards and two scores.
Chicago has its quarterback. The rest is a work in progress.
With that in mind, let's cap off the week that was by sorting through this week's overreaction mailbag, starting with a question about the second-hottest player on the Bears:
After going 28 games without finding the end zone, Kmet has scored five touchdowns in his last three games. That's tied for the second-most touchdowns by a tight end this season.
Kmet has improved his run-blocking and ability to separate this season, and that's starting to pay off as the Bears' passing game has got going over the past month.
Kmet is still young and has the traits to be one of the best tight ends in the NFL. I said before the season that I thought he could finish the year as one of the top-seven tight ends in the NFL.
Let's sort through that list quickly:
-- Travis Kelce
-- Mark Andrews
-- George Kittle
-- Darren Waller
After that, the list gets pretty thin. Kyle Pitts should be on the list, but the Falcons can't get him the ball. Dallas Goedert is probably next on the list, followed by T.J. Hockenson and ... David Njoku? Dawson Knox?
The point is that it's a complete crapshoot after the top four. When you add in Waller's injury-plagued year, and Kittle's disappointing season, it's easy to see Kmet placing himself in the thick of the top-six/seven conversation.
But it's a stretch to say that Kmet will be better than Kelce and Kittle.
Kelce has six straight seasons of at least 85 catches and 1,000 yards. He has never had fewer than four touchdowns over that span and eclipsed double digits twice. He likely will do that again this season.
He has been a force for over a half-decade. As for Kittle, no one is more violent running after the catch than the San Francisco 49ers star. He's also the best run-blocker of the bunch.
Could the combination of Fields' ascension and Luke Getsy's scheme maximize Kmet's physical gifts and make him a star?
That's certainly the hope in Chicago.
The Bears are two games up in the win column on the Houston Texans and have the tie-breaker. I still think the Bears land in the five-to-six-win range, but the loss to the Lions was a big blow to that.
In reality, the Bears most likely will pick between Nos. 5-7. I can't see the Texans or Panthers finishing with more wins than the Bears. The defense is terrible, but I think Fields is good enough to drag them to a few wins by himself.
That being said, if the Bears don't win one or both of their next two games, their chances to find wins will be few and far between in the final month.
Hard to see them getting the top pick, though. The Texans are cruising for Bryce Young.
Overreaction? Yes and no.
I completely agree that the Bears will be dangerous next year, depending on Ryan Poles' offseason moves. Hell, they are dangerous now, and they can't stop anyone.
That's how much of a difference having a quarterback with Fields' ability makes. A true rising tide that lifts all boats.
If Poles can rework the entire offensive line, find Fields two more weapons, and fix the front seven, the Bears very well could find themselves in the playoff conversation next season.
As for "owning the North," I'd hold off for a bit. But I'll admit, the Bears already have the most critical piece of that equation. Now it's about building around him. If they do it right, they can become the team to beat for the next 10 years.
I'd expect Mooney and the Bears to agree on an extension this offseason. Given that Poles surrendered a likely top-40 pick for Claypool, the plan has to be for him to be around long-term as well.
The rest of the motley crew might not be long for Chicago.
I think it's safe to say Dante Pettis won't return. The Bears like Equanimeous St. Brown, but he's a replacement-level receiver at best.
I had kind of talked myself into N'Keal Harry worming his way into the 2023 picture, but I'm walking that back after Harry was a healthy scratch against the Lions.
For reasons that remain opaque, the Bears like Byron Pringle and what he brings to the table. Could he return on another one-year deal? It's possible.
The most likely candidate to return in 2023 is Velus Jones Jr. because you can't give up on a third-round pick after one season. You can, but you shouldn't.
Let's break this into two parts.
Will Fields be the best quarterback in the NFC next season? The pros for this argument are that almost all of the NFL's top quarterbacks are in the AFC.
As of right now, the best NFC quarterbacks are:
-- Tom Brady
-- Geno Smith
-- Kirk Cousins
-- Jalen Hurts
-- Dak Prescott
-- Aaron Rodgers
-- Kyler Murray
-- Matthew Stafford
Not exactly a Murderer's row.
Brady could be retired next season or playing for a team in the AFC, and who knows what the future holds for Rodgers. There's a case to be made that if Fields keeps trending up and the Bears improve the straight passing game, he'll be in the conversation for the best quarterback in the NFC.
I'd offer a wild card in Trey Lance because we don't know what he's capable of with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers' weapons.
As for the number of starters that need to be replaced, I think that number might be a touch high but let's see.
On offense, the Bears need to replace at least three offensive linemen and find another top-three receiver. I'm going to assume Khalil Herbert takes David Montgomery's spot at RB1 and Montgomery heads elsewhere in the offseason. On defense, the entire front seven and CB2 in nickel need to be overhauled. I like Kindle Vildor, but he's more of a depth corner than a true No. 2 in nickel.
So that's 13 if we count Herbert as a replacement. The other three, I don't see happening.
Fields, Mooney, Claypool, Kmet, Teven Jenkins, and Cody Whitehair are probably back on offense. Meanwhile, it's safe to assume Eddie Jackson, Jaylon Johnson, Jaquan Brisker, and Kyler Gordon will all return to their starting roles.
So 16 might be a bit high, but it's not far off.