First and Final thoughts: Are the Bears really a playoff team?


Welcome into First and Final Thoughts, one of our weekly columns with a title that's a little too on the nose. Here we'll have Insider J.J Stankevitz, Producer Cam Ellis, and a rotating cast of NBC Sports Chicago's Bears team give some insight into what's on their minds between games.


Stankevitz: From a pure talent perspective, the Bears look like they have what it takes to make a run at the long as they get better play out of their quarterback. What this defense did in the second half against Arizona was remarkable: Interception, interception, forced fumble, interception, game-ending sack. Khalil Mack really is making an already-talented group of players that much better. We know what the Bears have in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, and Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel have done well to get open. So it comes down to if Trubisky can play better than he has in the first three weeks of the season. If he does, the Bears are legitimate contenders in the NFC. If not, there's a ceiling on how good 2018 really can be. 

Ellis: While the Bears’ front seven gets most of the attention, their secondary has had their share of impressive performances so far. Both of the Bears’ wins this year have been sealed by interceptions: Prince Amukamara’s backbreaking pick-six vs. Seattle and Bryce Callahan’s pick of Josh Rosen just outside of field goal range. They still give up too many big plays, but Football Outsiders ranks them as the 5th best pass defense in football. Callahan looks particularly good this year, which is well-timed considering Kyle Fullers’ relative struggles to start the season. 


Stankevitz: No matter who's playing quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they're going to provide quite a test for the Bears' secondary. Wide receivers Mike Evans (23 catches, 367 yards, 3 TDs) and DeSean Jackson (12 catches, 312 yards, 3 TDs) are playing like the best 1-2 combo in the league, and then add in tight end O.J. Howard (11 catches, 222 yards, 1 TD) and receiver Chris Godwin (13 catches, 171 yards, 3 TDs) and it's clear how many weapons the Bucs have for Ryan Fitzpatrick or, if he gets the nod, Jameis Winston. The status of Prince Amukamara (hamstring) will be critical to watch this week, as Marcus Cooper (who didn’t play against Arizona) has been picked on when he's played in a Bears uniform and undrafted rookie Kevin Toliver II had some issues against the Cardinals. But hey, it's just as we all predicted in August, right? The first-place Bears face the first-place Bucs in Week 4. It'll be a fun one. 

Ellis: Keeping on the theme of tests, this week provides a strangely unique one for the Bears. Reports out of Tampa currently are that the Buccaneers won’t announce who their starting quarterback is until Sunday morning. Whether it’s Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bears have to spend time this week preparing for both; it’s not like their styles of play overlap much, either. It’s an interesting wrinkle to the usual week of pregame practices and meetings. My guess is that they’d rather prep for one of the Winston/Fitzpatrick combo than Aaron Rodgers (or Tom Brady later in October) but still. 

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