When the Bears play on Sunday night against the Eagles in Philadelphia, they may be playing for the chance to win the NFC North that night. That is of course if the Lions (vs the Giants) and Packers (vs the Steelers) lose earlier in the day, but it's possible.

The bottom line is that if the Bears take their of their own business by beating the Eagles in week 16 and the Packers in week 17, they don't need to worry about what anyone else does; they're division champs.

So Sunday night's game is a huge opportunity for the Bears, and they may be getting a huge boost to the defense for it.

Linebacker practiced in limited fashion on Wednesday at Halas Hall, and Marc Trestman is optimistic that the seven-time Pro Bowl selection will be able to play vs the Eagles:
“I’m optimistic he’ll play,” coach Marc Trestman said. “How much [playing time]? We’ll see how he feels. I’ll be able to better answer that question after Friday’s practice, and it may even go into Sunday. He did get some work [Wednesday] and I did talk him afterwards and he said he felt pretty good.”
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Briggs left the Bears' game on October 20 against the Washington Redskins with a fractured shoulder, and it was initially estimated that the linebacker would miss to four-to-six weeks. Well, he's already missed more time than that, and didn't return to practice until last week.

Without Briggs over the last seven games, the Bears has been historically bad against the run, and the weak side linebacker is one of the best in the game at stopping the run.

Briggs has a +3.7 grade vs the run on the season from Pro Football Focus, good for 13th among 4-3 outside linebackers (and we would assume his grade would've only gone up with more games played), and tops on the Bears defense. And even with missing seven games, Briggs is ninth in the NFL in 'stuffs' (tackling rusher for negative yards), with nine.

Additionally, if Briggs returns, that means the Bears can put overmatched rookie linebacker Khaseem Greene back on the second-string. With Briggs out, the Bears have been starting two struggling rookie linebackers in Greene at the weak side, and Jon Bostic in the middle.

So, while Briggs certainly isn't going to be a cure-all for the Bears' run-defense woes, his return should at least help things a bit in that department. And that's very important for this upcoming game especially, given LeSean McCoy and the Eagles' superb rushing attack.

In other Bears injury news, wide receiver Brandon Marshall (hamstring and quad) missed Wednesday's practice, but Trestman certainly doesn't sound worried about No. 15's status for Sunday:
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Fourth-Quarter Rally Lifts Bears To Win- Recap of the Bears' win from the team's official website. (Larry Mayer; ChicagoBears.Com)

Re-Focused: Bears-Browns- Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus writes about the player grades handed out by PFF in this game, and what they took away from the game overall.

For the Bears, the three players Monson focused on for their performances in the game were defensive end Shea McClellin, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, and wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

McClellin came away with the worst grade in the game at -4.4, and with a pass-rushing grade of -3.0. Monson wonders the same thing many Bears fans have wondered in recent weeks: Is it time to give up on McClellin?

"Whether he is ill-suited to the scheme or not remains an open question, but for a pass-rusher if nothing else he should be able to generate pressure on the edge, and he isn’t. Against the run this season his grade now stands at an ugly -17.6 but his pass rush grade is also firmly in the red at -9.2, -3.0 of which came in this game against the Browns. He wasn’t blanked, but generated just two hurries from 49 snaps and never really looked like a factor in the game. Maybe all he needs is a new scheme, and the switch from 4-3 to 3-4 has transformed players countless times in the past, but if the Bears aren’t planning on a schematic switch that dramatic themselves it must surely be time to move on from him and start again."

Ratliff, however, looked very good in the game. He looked like the Jeremiah Ratliff that went to four Pro Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys (so, Jay Ratliff). Ratliff received a +1.4 grade from PFF, including a +1.8 grade against the run (where the Bears have needed more help than perhaps any team in NFL history).

Marshall received an offense-best +3.7 grade from PFF for his performance in the game. He received a +1.9 grade for his run blocking, a department in which he is far and away PFF's No.1 receiver on the year. Oh, and he's also their top-ranked receiver on the year overall at +35.6, far ahead of the second-highest graded receiver, Calvin Johnson (+22.2). (Sam Monson; Pro Football Focus)

Takeaways From Chicago's 38-31 Victory Over Cleveland- Matt Eurich takes a look at the main things to take away from the Bears' victory. (Matt Eurich; Bleacher Report)

Bears Brave Cold, Score 21 Unanswered 4th Quarter Points To Defeat Browns- Jay Rigdon's game recap at Bleacher Nation's brand-new Bears section. Like I said last week, make sure to bookmark them. (Jay Rigdon; Bleacher Nation)

Durkin's Rapid Reaction: Cutler Delivers Down The Stretch- Great takeaways from the game as always from Dan Durkin, one of the best X's and O's guys in the business. (Dan Durkin; 670 The Score)

Biggs: 10 Thoughts After Bears' Win- Brad Biggs covers all sorts of areas in this article, including the Bears' 2014 schedule:

With two games to go, the Bears’ schedule for the 2014 season remains up in the air. The Bears will host the corresponding finisher from the NFC East next season and have a road game at the corresponding finisher in the NFC West. Right now, the Bears could finish in first, second or third in their division. That means any one of the four South teams could be coming to Soldier Field next season. The only thing ruled out as far as a West Division road trip is St. Louis, which is locked into fourth place. So that means a long flight to Seattle, San Francisco or Phoenix. 
(Brad Biggs; Chicago Tribune)

Bears Best Browns 38-31, Keep Playoff Hopes Alive- James Neveau's recap of the Bears win. Make sure to follow him on Twitter, especially if you're a Blackhawks fan as well. (James Neveau; Grizzly Detail)

Cutler Brushes Off Mistakes, Lifts Bears Into First Place- (Dan Wiederer; Chicago Tribune)

Jay Cutler, Bears Overcome Shaky Start In Victory Over Browns- (John Mullin; CSN Chicago)

Alshon Jeffery's Knack For Spectacular The Signature Of Offensive Renaissance In Chicago- I think the Bears may have something with this Alshon Jeffery fella. Make sure to read this great post on Jeffery & the Bears offense from Jeff Hughes. (Jeff Hughes; Da Bears Blog)

Alshon Jeffery's TD Catch Further Illustrates His Emerging Excellence- (Mark Potash; Chicago Sun-Times)

Chicago Bears Week 15 Report Card- 'Boomer' hands out some grades for the Bears' win. (Mike Burzawa; Bear Goggles On)

Report Card: Bears-Browns- Jeff Dickerson gives the Bears a pretty nice GPA. (Jeff Dickerson; ESPN Chicago)

Tuning Out The Noise- This is a must-read column from Jon Greenberg on Jay Cutler. (Jon Greenberg; ESPN Chicago)

Bears Defense Finally Bails Out Offense- The defense actually playing a solid game and being quality contributors to a Bears win? Huh? I won't believe it in 2013. (Michael C. Wright; ESPN Chicago)

Bears' Beleaguered 'D' Holds Browns Under 100 Rushing Yards- After six straight games of allowing an opposing player to run for 100+ yards (tying an NFL record), the Bears finally stopped that streak in Cleveland. They didn't even allow the Browns as a team to rush for 100 yards. (Adam L. Jahns; Chicago Sun-Times)

Bears Enjoy Big Rushing Game- Matt Forte and Michael Bush were each fantastic for the Bears on the ground in this game. (Dan Wiederer; Chicago Tribune)

Five Things We Learned Vs. Browns- (Jeff Dickerson; ESPN Chicago)

Cornerback Zack Bowman Picks Right Time To Step Up- Zack Bowman had two interceptions, including a pick-six in the Bears' win. And with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings set to be free agents, maybe this guy is a starting candidate for the 2014 squad? Remember that he's already 29, though, when thinking long-term. (Adam L. Jahns; Chicago Sun-Times)

Cutler Admits To Feeling Pressure In Tough Situation- Jay Cutler is a human being, so naturally he felt pressure going into a game in which much of the fan base wanted Josh McCown to start after playing lights out in Cutler's absence. (Patrick Finley; Chicago Sun-Times)

A Self-Aware Jay Cutler May Be Just What The Chicago Bears Need- Fantastic stuff as usual from Matt Eurich. Make sure to give the whole thing a read, but this is what he concludes with:

As he had to sit there and watch McCown direct this offense — his offense — for the last few weeks, maybe a light did click on. Maybe he realized that this may end up being his “now or never” moment. 

Sure, he could probably walk out of Chicago and make big-time quarterback money after the season is over, but for someone who has been notoriously brash throughout his career he may have realized that the best opportunity to succeed in this league is right in front of him.
(Matt Eurich; Chicago Bears Huddle)

Bears Started The Right Quarterback- (Scott Lindholm; 670 The Score)

Maturing Cutler Had Support Of Teammates All Along- (Rick Telander; Chicago Sun-Times)

Bears Becoming More Dangerous In Playoff Race- (Adam Hoge; 670 The Score)

Info Graphic: Updated NFC Playoff Picture- (Chicago Tribune)

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The Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns released their official injury reports on Friday for Sunday's game at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Bears' Jay Cutler (ankle) is listed as 'probable' and will make the start at quarterback over Josh McCown, a move that has gotten just a tad of response from many fans and the media.

I'll share what I said on here Wednesday about the Cutler/McCown situation:

Many observers think the Bears should just leave Josh McCown in the starting role even if Cutler is healthy, as McCown is putting up insane numbers with insane efficiency. The 34-year-old McCown's most recent start resulted in a 27-36/348 YDS/4 TD/0 INT/141.9 QB Rating stat line, with the offensive scoring on every single possession (for a total of 45 points). Should they make a change at the position while McCown has the offense rolling? 

Well, Marc Trestman has made it clear that when Cutler is healthy, Cutler will go back to being the starter. My opinion is simply this: Putting the Cutler/McCown debate aside, do not start Cutler if he is not 100% (100%-ish, as few players are truly ever 100% healthy). I'm quite confident in the Bears offense with either of these guys, at quarterback, provided they are healthy.

And I think Rotoworld (I assume Evan Silva) summed it up very well:

It's a risky decision to mess with McCown's success, but absolutely the right call if the Bears have any intention of bringing Cutler back for 2014.

If the Bears are considering Cutler as an option for 2014 and beyond, you have to see what he can do over these remaining three games. And if you keep a healthy Cutler on the bench in favor of McCown, you know Cutler's not going to sign a long-term deal.

While Cutler returns to game action from injury, linebacker Lance Briggs will miss his seventh straight game due to a fractured shoulder. Briggs was able to at least practice in limited fashion on Thursday and Friday, and the hope is that he'll at least be able to play in week 16 against the Philadelphia Eagles (quote via Chicago Tribune):

“I’d be much more optimistic that that could happen,” coach Marc Trestman said Friday after practice. “He got more work today, and we’ll see how he is the first of the week, but it raises our optimism, certainly.”

Without Briggs, the Bears' run defense has been historically awful.

In the six games Briggs has missed, the Bears have allowed 100+ yard rushers in every game, tying an NFL record. Opponents have run for a whopping 1,220 yards on 193 carries (6.3 yards per carry) over those six games. As the Chicago-Sun Times notes, that pace over a full season would make the Bears the worst run defense in NFL history.

Briggs is the Bears' best defender against the run (and best defender overall of players remaining on the 2013 active roster, at least), and without him, they're starting two rookie linebackers in Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene that frequently look lost out there.

Summary: The Bears desperately need Briggs back, and especially next week against the Philadelphia Eagles, owners of the NFL's best rushing unit (led by sensational running back LeSean McCoy).

The Browns' running game isn't nearly as good as the Eagles' run game, and will be missing starting running back Willis McGahee (concussion), although the veteran is only averaging 2.7 yards per carry. In McGahee's place will be 27-year-old Chris Ogbonnaya for the majority of the carries, and while Ogbonnaya is averaging 5.3 yards per carry, he's yet to have more than eight carries in a game this season. If the Browns felt very confident in Ogbonnaya helping their rushing attack, you'd think he'd get more carries when the usual starting running back  is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry.

But, like we keep saying when it comes to facing this Bears run defense: Does it really matter what running back they go up against? I mean, obviously if it's an Adrian Peterson or LeSean McCoy, you feel even worse about things going in, but the Bears' run defense hasn't shown they can stop anyone in Briggs' absence. Brandon Jacobs ran for over 100 yards and two touchdowns against this group.

Getting back to the injury report, the Browns will also be without left guard John Greco (knee) and tight end Andre Smith (calf). The Browns list a whopping 13 players as 'probable' for the game, including quarterback Brandon Weeden (concussion). Weeden missed the Browns' week 14 game, but will be the No. 2 quarterback behind Jason Campbell on Sunday.

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The National Football Post's Jason Cole reported on Wednesday that, according to a source, the Chicago Bears are likely to let quarterback Jay Cutler hit the 2014 free agent market, unless Cutler is willing to sign a "club-friendly" deal:

Unless quarterback Jay Cutler is willing to take a club-friendly deal on his next contract, the Chicago Bears are likely to let Cutler become a free agent in the offseason, a source said Wednesday. The Bears would do that even at the risk of losing him.

Cole notes that Cutler could seek a deal "in the range of $20 million a year". And Cole's source has the explanation you'd expect as to why the Bears could be okay with moving on without Cutler (especially if Cutler wants a high-dollar amount):

“(The Bears) believe in (coach Marc) Trestman after what they’ve seen from (backup quarterback Josh) McCown,” the source said. “Between his system and the two big receivers (Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery), you have a system where a quarterback can flourish. I don’t know if McCown is going to be the starter (next season), but I think the team would be fine letting Cutler test the market and then go draft someone if he left.”

As we shared with you last week, Bears general manager Phil Emery made it clear in a Q&A with ChicagoBears.Com readers that the franchise tag is a situation the organization would definitely prefer to avoid with Cutler. And when it comes to a long-term deal, there are likely be multiple suitors out there prepared to offer Cutler a highly expensive deal as Cole alluded to.

Keep in mind that, along with Cutler, the Bears have a ton of their own players set to be free agents this upcoming offseason. Among the long list of players are cornerback Charles Tillman, cornerback Tim Jennings, defensive tackle Henry Melton, defensive lineman Corey Wootton, kicker Robbie Gould, kick/punt returner Devin Hester, guard Matt Slauson, center Roberto Garza, linebacker James Anderson, linebacker D.J. Williams, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, and special teams ace Blake Costanzo.

Oh, and Josh McCown is set to be a free agent as well.

In a perfect world, the Bears are able to keep Cutler and McCown beyond 2013. But, with all of the Bears' own upcoming free agents, and with how significantly (!) the defense needs a rehaul, keeping both quarterbacks could prove to be quite difficult.

I, for one, am not envious of Emery's job in the coming months.

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Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (ankle) has been cleared by the Bears' medical staff to practice at full speed, and is expected to do so Wednesday at Halas Hall. If all goes well in the workout as the Bears seem to assume will be the case, Cutler will start on Sunday in the team's must-win game against the Cleveland Browns:

Bears weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder), however, is likely to miss his seventh straight game:

(Side Note: Give Rich Campbell a follow on Twitter if you haven't already. He and Dan Wiederer have been fantastic Bears/NFL hires by the Chicago Tribune)

Many observers think the Bears should just leave Josh McCown in the starting role even if Cutler is healthy, as McCown is putting up insane numbers with insane efficiency. The 34-year-old McCown's most recent start resulted in a 27-36/348 YDS/4 TD/0 INT/141.9 QB Rating stat line, with the offensive scoring on every single possession (for a total of 45 points). Should they make a change at the position while McCown has the offense rolling?

Well, Marc Trestman has made it clear that when Cutler is healthy, Cutler will go back to being the starter. My opinion is simply this: Putting the Cutler/McCown debate aside, do not start Cutler if he is not 100% (100%-ish, as few players are truly ever 100% healthy). I'm quite confident in the Bears offense with either of these guys, at quarterback, provided they are healthy.

The Cutler/McCown situation at quarterback for the rest of this season is not my concern: It's all the defense.

And never could a defense use Briggs more than the Bears' abysmal defense could right now. Missed tackles left and right, playing historically bad against the run, two rookie linebackers in Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene playing undisciplined and simply looking lost at times,... we could go on about the reasons the Bears could use Briggs for hours, really.

But, it's sounding like the seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker will miss his seventh straight game, and at this point, it's fair to wonder if he'll play at all in the remainder of the 2013 season.

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In our "Where the Bears stand" posts all season, we've looked at the Bears' schedule and suggested that there's a very good chance the team (provided they stayed in the playoff race) would get an afternoon game "flexed" in the final weeks to the Sunday Night Football slot on NBC.

After they throttled the Cowboys 45-28 on Monday Night Football, we learned on Tuesday that the Bears will indeed get at least one game flexed to Sunday Night Football. And that game will be the Bears' week 16 matchup against the Eagles in Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field).

It's a bit of a questionable flex decision, though, as Bears-Eagles replaces Patriots-Ravens in the primetime slot. The Patriots are currently a 10-3 team with Tom Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick coaching, and the Ravens are the defending champions, who are also very much alive in the AFC North with a current record of 7-6.

But, the NFL apparently found the Bears-Eagles to be the more appealing matchup, and they very well may be right. First-year head coach Marc Trestman versus first-year head coach Chip Kelly. Two of the league's best new offensive minds, leading two explosive offenses, and leading two teams currently right in the thick of the NFC playoff race. The Bears, 7-6, are currently one game behind the Lions (due to the tiebreaker) in the NFC North, while the Eagles, 8-5, are currently up one game on the Cowboys in the NFC East.

For the Bears, this gametime switch is probably a bad thing. Primetime atmospheres usually make the crowd a bit more rowdy, and going up against LeSean McCoy and company is a brutal matchup for the Bears' brutal defense on paper regardless of where/when this game is being played. Adding in some more crowd noise and an Eagles team that may be more pumped up on national television wouldn't seem to be good news for the Bears.

The Bears play the Packers in week 17 at Soldier Field, and there's a decent chance that game is flexed as well.

Source: Pro Football Talk

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The Chicago Bears sit at 6-6, in must-win mode, as they head into their week 14 game on Monday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field.

Let's take an overall look at where things currently stand for the Bears as they head into this game, looking at the NFC North, the Bears' remaining schedule, the Bears' health situation, statistical leaders on the Bears, and much more (including grades and statistics from Pro Football Focus).


(Via ESPN.Com)

In a year with plenty of missed opportunities for the Bears, they took it to a whole new level in their devastating week 13 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Now, the Bears absolutely cannot afford to blow opportunities to win games. Really, they can't even lose any of their four remaining games to have a realistic shot at the playoffs.

Yes, if the Bears beat the Cowboys, the Bears and Lions will each be 7-6 after the Lions lost on Sunday to the Philadelphia Eagles.

But as we've been saying for weeks on here, the Lions hold the tiebreaker over the Bears after winning both head-to-head matchups this season, so the Lions would essentially hold a one game lead still.

So, even if the Bears were to win out to get to a 10-6 record, the Lions would have to lose a game themselves due to the tiebreaker for the Bears to win the division.  If the Bears go 3-1 and get to a 9-7 record, the Lions would have to go no better than 1-2 the rest of the way (1-3 if we include their loss on Sunday) and you don't want to have to depend on that.

And even if that scenario played out, the Green Bay Packers can still win the division. If we eliminate the Lions from this situation, and the Bears win their next three games, while the Packers win their next two games, the Bears and Packers would be playing for the division title in week 17 at Soldier Field. The Packers can still get to 9-6-1, so if the Bears and/or Lions finished 9-7, the Packers would win the division.

Bottom line: The playoff chances are slim for the Bears and they have to just worry about taking care of their own business.

Remaining Schedule

Week 14- vs Dallas Cowboys (7-5)

Week 15- at Cleveland Browns (4-9);

Week 16- at Philadelphia Eagles (8-5)

Week 17- vs Green Bay Packers (6-6-1)

We're no longer at a "Oooh, _ looks like a favorable game for the Bears" point with any games on the schedule. When the defense (particularly the run defense) is performing as badly as the Bears' is, every game is going to be damn tough.

The Browns are 4-9 but should've won in New England on Sunday, and have weapons like Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron that will be very difficult for the Bears to slow down.

The Eagles are on fire with Nick Foles at quarterback, and their offense vs the Bears defense is a brutal matchup for the Bears on paper. I'm making myself sick just thinking about the defense trying to tackle LeSean McCoy.

And the Packers, well, we know their story. Aaron Rodgers' status is up in the air at the moment, but it seems like a pretty good bet he's back for that game, at least. With Rodgers, the Packers would likely be favored to win that game. With Flynn, the Bears would be.

And since this is equally as important... the Lions' remaining schedule: vs Baltimore Ravens (Monday Night Football), vs New York Giants, and at the Vikings. The Lions will be favored in all of those games, and it hurts that the game vs the Ravens will be on Monday night at Ford Field in a surely loud dome. But, we know that the Lions (like the Bears) frequently slip up in favorable situations, so it seems like a decent bet that they will lose at least once, but who knows. Again: Bottom line is that the Bears need to take care of their own business.

Bears' Injury Report

Pretty much the same stuff we've been saying for weeks: Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs are out (and it's really frustrating). Major Wright will play after missing week 13's game with a hamstring injury, but safety Anthony Walters is questionable with a groin injury.

Bears' Statistical Leaders

Note: Overall NFL ranking in parentheses; Bears players placed on Injured Reserve are not included. Statistical ranks based on games before week 14 in the NFL.

Passing Stats

Jay Cutler: 167-265, 63.0 Completion %, 1,908 Yards, 7.2 Yards/Attempt, 228.5Yards/Game, 13 TD, 8 INT, 11 Sacks Taken, 88.4 QB Rating, 91.11 PFF QB Rating (8th).

Josh McCown: 120-184, 65.2 Completion %, 1,461 Yards, 7.9 Yards/Attempt, 238.5 Yards/Game, 9 TD, 1 INT, 10 Sacks Taken, 100.0 QB Rating (7th), 96.01 PFF QB Rating (5th).

Rushing Stats (Top 4)

Matt Forte: 214 Carries (5th), 971 Yards (5th), 4.5 Yards/Carry, 80.9 Yards/Game (6th), 7 TD (Tied for 6th), 2 Fumble, 2 Fumbles Lost, 52 1st Downs (Tied for 4th), 37.7 Breakaway Percentage (6th).

Michael Bush: 43 Carries, 84 Yards, 2.0 Yards/Carry, 7.6 Yards/Game, 2 TD, 0 Fumbles, 5 1st Downs.

Jay Cutler: 18 Carries, 92 Yards, 5.1 Yards/Carry, 11.5 Yards/Game, 1 Fumble, 0 Fumbles Lost, 5 1st Downs.

Alshon Jeffery: 14 Carries, 115 Yards, 8.2 Yards/Carry, 9.6 Yards/Game, 0 Fumbles, 6 1st Downs.

Receiving Stats (Top 5)

Brandon Marshall: 78 Receptions (4th), 124 Targets (Tied for 5th), 990 Yards (9th), 12.7 Yards/Reception, 9 TD (Tied for 6th), 82.5 Yards/Game, 229 Yards After Catch, 55 1st Downs (3rd).

Alshon Jeffery: 70 Receptions (Tied for 8th), 118 Targets (9th), 1,109 Yards (4th), 15.8 Yards/Reception, 5 TD, 92.4 Yards/Game (7th), 353 Yards After Catch, 48 1st Downs (Tied for 7th), 2.40 Yards Per Route Run (8th).

Matt Forte: 58 Receptions, 73 Targets, 445 Yards, 7.7 Yards/Reception, 1 TD, 37.1 Yards/Game, 394 Yards After Catch, 17 1st Downs.

Martellus Bennett: 48 Receptions, 75 Targets, 545 Yards, 11.4 Yards/Reception, 5 TD, 45.4Yards/Game, 292 Yards After Catch, 30 1st Downs.

Earl Bennett: 24 Receptions, 34 Targets, 190 Yards, 7.9 Yards/Reception, 2 TD, 15.8 Yards/Game, 51 Yards After Catch, 9 1st Downs.

Tackling Stats (Top 5)

Major Wright: 76 Tackles (57 Solo, 19 Ast), 0 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles.

James Anderson: 72 Tackles (57 Solo, 15 Ast), 9 Tackles For Loss, 0 Forced Fumbles.

Lance Briggs: 64 Tackles (47 Solo, 17 Ast), 8 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles, 11.2 Run Stop Percentage (3rd).

Chris Conte: 63 Tackles (53 Solo, 10 Ast), 1 Tackle For Loss, 1 Forced Fumble.

Tim Jennings: 43 Tackles (36 Solo, 7 Ast), 0 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles.

Pass-Rushing Stats (Top 5 in Sacks)

Note: QB hit and QB hurry stats are via PFF.

Julius Peppers: 6.5 Sacks, 4 Quarterback Hits, 22 Quarterback Hurries.

Shea McClellin: 3.5 Sacks, 6 Quarterback Hits, 15 Quarterback Hurries.

Corey Wootton: 2.5 Sacks, 2 Quarterback Hits, 20 Quarterback Hurries.

James Anderson: 2 Sacks, 3 Quarterback Hits, 7 Hurries.

Lance Briggs: 2 Sacks, 3 Quarterback Hits, 1 Quarterback Hurry.

Coverage Stats

Tim Jennings: 3 INT, 2 INT Returned For TD (Tied for 1st), 10 Pass Deflections, 64.8 QB Rating Allowed (Tied for 8th among cornerbacks).

Chris Conte: 2 INT, 5 Pass Deflections.

Major Wright: 2 INT, 1 INT Returned For TD (Tied for 4th), 3 Pass Deflections.

Zack Bowman: 1 INT, 4 Pass Deflections.

Special Teams Stats

Devin Hester: 36 Kick Returns (1st), 1,015 Yards (2nd), 28.2 AVG (4th);  15 Punt Returns, 167 Yards, 11.1 AVG, 1 TD (Tied for 1st).

Robbie Gould: 21-24 On Field Goals (87.5 %), Long Field Goal Of 58 Yards (1st).

Adam Podlesh: 55 Punts, 41.6 AVG, 38.6 NET, Long Punt Of 65 Yards, 23 Punts Inside The 20 (Tied for 9th).

Bears Grades From Pro Football Focus

Before looking at some grades of individual players on the Bears, let's look at Pro Football Focus' cumulative Bears grades (combining the grades of each player that apply) in specific departments through week nine.

Note: Bears players placed on Injured Reserve are not included. Grade ranks based on games before week 14 in the NFL.

Bears Cumulative PFF Grades

Offense Overall: +26.4 (14th)

Passing Offense: +42.6 (5th)

Rushing Offense: +5.0 (14th)

Pass Blocking: -48.7 (31st)

Run Blocking: +8.9 (7th)

Penalties (On Offense): +18.6 (12th)

Defense Overall: -111.9 (32nd)

Run Defense: -85.0 (32nd)

Pass Rush: -13.1 (23rd)

Pass Coverage: -24.9 (24th)

Penalties (On Defense): +11.1 (Tied for 14th)

Special Teams: +4.2 (21st)

And here's some PFF grades of individual players on the Bears...

Bears Individual Player PFF Grades

Top 5 Overall Grades On Offense: 

1. WR Brandon Marshall, +19.0 (1st)
2. WR Alshon Jeffery, +14.2 (7th)
3. QB Josh McCown, +13.8 (8th)
4. OG Matt Slauson, +9.3 (Tied for 9th)
5. QB Jay Cutler, +7.5

Bottom 5 Overall Grades On Offense:

1. OT Jordan Mills, -33.5
2. OT Jermon Bushrod, -6.5
T-3. HB Michael Bush, -5.7
T-3. OG Kyle Long, -5.7
5. WR Earl Bennett, -2.7

Top 5 Overall Grades On Defense:

1. DT Stephen Paea, +4.1
2. LB Lance Briggs, +2.5
3. DE Cheta Ozougwu, +1.9
4. CB Tim Jennings, +1.0
5. DE Julius Peppers, +0.8

Bottom 5 Overall Grades On Defense:

1. S Major Wright, -23.1
2. DE Shea McClellin, -18.7
3. LB James Anderson, -11.6
4. S Chris Conte, -11.4
5. DT Landon Cohen, -8.6

Top 3 Overall Grades On Special Teams:

1. K Robbie Gould, +14.4
T-2. LB Blake Costanzo, +5.0
T-2. KR Devin Hester, +5.0 (+2.3 as kick returner; +3.5 as punt returner)

Bottom 3 Overall Grades On Special Teams:

1. HB Michael Ford, -4.2
2. P Adam Podlesh, -4.1
T-3. CB Zackary Bowman, -3.5
T-3. LS Patrick Mannelly, -3.5

The offense continues to grade well in every department but pass protection, where rookie Jordan Mills is really bringing them down. Mills has a -33.2 grade in pass blocking, the worst PFF grade (by a lot) among offensive tackles. PFF has Mills down for 54 quarterback hurries allowed, putting him on pace to shatter their previous record (going back to the begining of PFF's database in 2008). And still, the Bears have only allowed 21 sacks, which is a testament to the scheming and play-calling from Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer, as well as the tremendous job Jay Cutler and Josh McCown have done avoiding pressure.

Defensively, the grades tell you what you've been seeing on the field in recent weeks- This defense (at least without Lance Briggs, and guys like Stephen Paea and Jeremiah Ratliff getting back into the swing of things), is quite possibly the worst unit in the NFL right now. I think we can at least say for sure that it's the worst defense out there against the run right now.

Our Overall Take

Welp, it's desperation time for the Bears. But all they can do is take it one week at a time and focus only on what they can control: Winning their own games.

Hell, they just need to get a win before we can get too carried away with playoff hopes. Two straight bad losses, to bad teams, and now they get a winnable home game on Monday Night Football.

The Bears need to stop blowing opportunities and find a way to come away with a win over the Cowboys.

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On Thursday afternoon, several Chicago Bears reporters tweeted out pictures of quarterback Jay Cutler participating in the team's practice, and given that the Bears don't play until Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys, it seemed to be a great sign that Cutler would be good to go for the game.

Well, Bears head coach Marc Trestman eventually met with the media and poured a bucket of cold water all over the idea Cutler could play in the game.

Trestman said that Cutler has been ruled out for the game, and that linebacker Lance Briggs has been ruled out for the game as well:
So, this means Josh McCown will start for the third straight game at quarterback in place of Cutler, and Briggs will miss his sixth straight game. The initial timetable for Briggs' shoulder injury was four-to-six weeks, and here we are at week seven, with the star linebacker still out. It's especially frustrating when you consider that the Bears' run defense is, you know, the worst in the entire league.

Briggs did not participate at all in practice on Thursday, while Cutler was officially limited.

Trestman says that Cutler "absolutely" will play again this season:
After Monday night's game, the Bears only have three games left, so the Bears clearly think Cutler isn't too far off. And if he's already practicing, that's certainly encouraging for his week 15 chances.

ChicagoBears.Com has more on other Bears injury news following Thursday's practice:
In other injury news Thursday, receiver Brandon Marshall (quadriceps) did not practice; safeties Anthony Walters (groin) and Major Wright (hamstring) were limited; and guard Kyle Long (ankle) worked out without restrictions.
The severity of those injuries is unknown, but there doesn't appear to be any concern about Brandon Marshall's status at the moment. And in some positive news on the injury front, Kyle Long was able to practice fully after leaving the locker room on Sunday in a walking boot.

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Here At DBN

Jay Cutler, Lance Briggs ruled out for Monday night's Bears game vs Cowboys

Around The Web

GM Phil Emery Discusses Cutler's Contract Situation- Bears general manager Phil Emery did a Q&A with fans on ChicagoBears.Com Tuesday (and I don't even want to know 99% of the questions he was asked).

One of the questions Emery was asked was about Bears quarterback Jay Cutler's contract situation in the offseason, and specifically if the Bears would possibly slap the franchise tag on Cutler. Here's what Emery had to say:

"The franchise tag for the quarterback position has unique challenges because the average comes out to be such a big portion of your cap and your total money available to spend on other players to acquire to help your team. 

With the franchise tag being so high for the quarterback position, to use it and not sign the individual to a long-term deal hurts the team because you lose the ability to prorate the amount of guaranteed salary over the length of the contract. Proration lowers the salary cap number in relation to that player's contract. Obviously the lower the number in relation to the salary cap, the more players you can sign to help your team reach its goals."

So, that certainly sounds like a road Emery would not like to go down, but I wouldn't completely rule it out yet. The Bears may want to still see more out of Cutler before handing him a long-term deal, Cutler's contract demands may prove high but the Bears don't want to let him walk either, etc, etc. There's several things that could alter the Bears' plan here, but you can tell by Emery's comments that tagging Cutler is a scenario they'd rather avoid. (Larry Mayer; ChicagoBears.Com)

Emery Talks Tag, Offseason Challenge- Michael C. Wright reacts to the Emery Q&A, with some more detail on the situation Emery has to consider with Cutler and the franchise tag:

The franchise tag for quarterbacks in 2014 is projected to fall in the neighborhood of a little more than $16 million, which would be fully guaranteed with that entire amount hitting a team's books next season. So if the team decides Cutler is the team's franchise quarterback moving forward, it would rather work out a long-term deal with him than be forced to apply the tag. 

If the team tagged Cutler, it would be on the hook in 2014 for the projected $16-plus million as well as the cap charge of $18.183 million tied to the contract of Julius Peppers if the defensive end's deal isn't renegotiated. The Bears would have to fit in those deals with potential new contracts for defensive tackles Henry Melton, Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins as well as cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson, defensive end Corey Wootton and safety Major Wright provided the club decides it wants to bring them back. 

Center Roberto Garza's deal expires at the end of this season, too, as do the contracts of left guard Matt Slauson, kicker Robbie Gould, return man Devin Hester and McCown.

As you can see, the Bears have a lot of upcoming free agents and using the franchise tag on Cutler would figure to complicate things even more in terms of being able to re-sign some of these other players. (Michael C. Wright; ESPN Chicago)

Peppers' Contract Isn't Up, But Bears Have To Make Key Decision- This topic goes in line with what we were just talking about. Julius Peppers is not set to be a free agent in 2014, but he's set to make a crapload of money, while the Bears have a crapload of key free agents, and a crapload of needs on defense (along with figuring out what to do about the quarterback position of course).

So, it's naturally been speculated that Peppers will be cut, or at least will have his contract restructured... again. Adam L. Jahns has more:

Cutting Peppers still would cost the Bears money — more than $8.3 million in dead money — but it also would free up ample salary-cap room. 

Let’s just say this: The Bears should thoroughly examine Peppers’ play over the last four weeks as much as the production of those players whose contracts are expiring. If he continues to perform like he did in Minnesota, it might serve the Bears best to keep him around for at least one more year. 

Of course, his deal can be renegotiated to give the Bears more flexibility — remember, it takes both sides to do that — like it was in September. His base salary dropped from $12.9 million to $9.9 million by converting $3 million into a signing bonus. 

But an interesting result from that renegotiation is that Peppers’ cap hits for 2014 and 2015 increased to $18,183,333 and $20,683,335. That’s a small fortune for an inconsistent, aging player and for a team that has other players to lock in.

Peppers is making the decision a difficult one with his up and down play over the season, and we see glimpses of his ability to take over a game, as was the case on Sunday when he had 2.5 sacks and two tackles for loss. But with a cap hit of $18 million+ in 2014? We need to see the kind of production he had Sunday on a more frequent basis. Of course, on a defense this bad, it will be tough for the Bears to give up on one of its few players that can make a game-changing impact. (Adam L. Jahns; Chicago Sun-Times)

Bears' Playoff Chances To Plummet To 15%- With two straight losses, the Bears are now barely hanging onto playoff hopes. (Charlie Roumeliotis; CSN Chicago)

Letter Of Introduction- We've long been friends with Brett Taylor, who runs the Cubs blog powerhouse Bleacher Nation, and guess what? Bleacher Nation now has Bears coverage. Jay Rigdon (@BearsBN; give him a follow) is in charge of their Bears coverage, and he really knows his stuff. Make sure to give the site a bookmark, and you'll see us linking much of their content on here as well. (Jay Rigdon; Bleacher Nation)

Refocused: Bears at Vikings- Pro Football Focus' reaction to the Bears-Vikings game. (Ben Stockwell; Pro Football Focus)

Under Marc Trestman, the Bears Offense Is Built For The Long Haul- With Bears fans in a fairly depressed mood right now, it's nice to be reminded that this offense looks damn good at least, and it should be damn good for a long time. (Zach Kruse; Bleacher Report)

Trestman's Decision-Making Must Improve After Another Loss- While Marc Trestman's done a tremendous job overall with the offense (and this is being underestimated by many fans), he's made some head-scratching decisions on that side of the ball in recent weeks. And the most recent notable decision proved costly, as Bears kicker Robbie Gould missed a game-winning 47-yard field goal attempt in overtime... on second down.

James Neveau with a great read on how Trestman's decision-making must improve going forward. And for what it's worth, I do think Trestman will improve in that department; he's no dummy and it's his first year as an NFL head coach. (James Neveau; Grizzly Detail)

Marc Trestman's Honeymoon Phase Over With Chicago Bears Fans- Matt Eurich also writes about Trestman's decision-making in detail. Must-read stuff here. (Matt Eurich; Chicago Bears Huddle)

Do You Want A Strictly By The Book Head Coach?- (Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.; Windy City Gridiron)

Inside Alshon Jeffery's Emergence As Game-Breaking NFL WR- Cian Fahey with a tremendous breakdown of Alshon Jeffery. We have ourselves one hell of a receiver, folks. Two of them, even.  (Cian Fahey; Bleacher Report)

Bears Coming Up Short In Key Area- This title could be taken a number of ways... but it's in reference to the Bears' struggles in short yardage situation. It's been brutal and must change for the Bears to win games down the stretch. (Bob LeGere; Daily Herald)

Bears Concentrating Only On What They Can Control- (Larry Mayer; ChicagoBears.Com)

Bears Sign Defensive Tackle Tracey Robertson To Practice Squad- (670 The Score)

Know Your Opponent: Dallas Cowboys- Dan Durkin with a great breakdown of the Bears' week 14 opponent. (Dan Durkin; 670 The Score)

Pleased To Meet You, Dallas Cowboys- More on the Cowboys. (Steven Schweickert; Windy City Gridiron)

Chicago Bears Week 14 Early Look: Dallas Cowboys- And... even more on the Cowboys. (Cameron Curtis; Bear Goggles On)

Durkin's Playbook: Dez Bryant's Scouting Report- Dan Durkin with a fantastic look at Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant. I sure wish the Bears had Peanut Tillman around to cover this guy. (Dan Durkin; 670 The Score)

Sean Lee To Return For Cowboys- Bad news for the Bears in that Cowboys star linebacker Sean Lee looks good to go for Monday night's game. (Calvin Watkins; ESPN Dallas)

The All-22: Teams Are Turning Primary Receivers Into Slot Machines- The Bears are using Brandon Marshall a lot as a slot receiver this season, and other teams are doing the same more frequently with their top receivers. Doug Farrar examines this new trend and how it's working out. (Doug Farrar; Sports Illustrated)

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