Bears focused on wins, not rest

The Sports Xchange

December 24, 2018 at 6:17 pm.

Bears coach Matt Nagy is keeping the focus on what his team does and can do, rather than the rest of the NFL.

Borrowing a phrase from former Jets coach Herm Edwards — and this could change at some point Sunday during his team’s game at Minneapolis with the Minnesota Vikings — the Bears will be playing “to win the game.”
Possible playoff opponent scenarios and seeding for the NFC North champion Bears are all dependent on what other teams do even with a win over Minnesota (8-6-1), following a 14-9 win over San Francisco in Week 16.

As Nagy is quick to point out, the Bears (11-4) are not in a situation where they can just shut it down with one game remaining, as long as the chance to improve their playoff seeding exists.

“But we go out, we try to win and do everything we can to do that, we’re at least controlling what we can control and it gives us an ability throughout the week to prepare mentally, physically you stay within the same pattern that you’ve been staying in all season long,” Nagy said Monday at Halas Hall.

The Bears can go a long way toward keeping the Vikings out of the playoffs with a win, but even then, the Vikings could get in if Philadelphia loses to Washington.

As for who the Bears would face in the wild-card round as No. 3 NFC seed, none of it will be decided until the end of Sunday’s play. If the Bears fail to move up in seeding, they’ll face the worst wild-card seed in the playoffs. It could be Seattle or Philadelphia, or it could be a game for the second straight week against the Vikings — except this time at Soldier Field.
Many teams who have had their postseason seed locked up in the past, like New Orleans does this year, will pull starters in the finale to keep them healthy. Nagy isn’t sure that’s an advantage one way or the other.
“I’ve been a part of both,” he said.
It didn’t work so well last year for Nagy when he was Kansas City’s offensive coordinator.
They rested quarterback Alex Smith and running back Kareem Hunt was pulled after one long run in the regular-season finale. Then the Chiefs lost their first playoff game 22-21 to Tennessee. But this was after they’d led 21-3, and Nagy maintains the rest had nothing to do with their loss. Smith had a 116.3 quarterback rating with two touchdown passes, so it’s hard to pin the defeat on resting anyone.
Another line of thought for how the Bears use players is they could pull out some starters if they hear the Rams are winning their home game handily over San Francisco, since a Rams win would mean the second and third seeds are locked. Nagy didn’t deny this is possible, but it’s a difficult thing to gauge.
“You have to be realistic in some of this,” Nagy said. “I don’t know what that number (of points) is, where that’s at it’s going to be hard because you’re so focused in on your own game. I don’t even know where they flash the scores at in our own stadium with the games. So we’ll have to have a plan with regards to being smart about it.
“If it’s a complete blowout and word gets to me about that, then we have to figure out what the best thing is for us. But we’re going to win this game and I don’t want our guys, our coaches, our players, I don’t want anybody thinking any different.”
Nagy called it a matter of playing it by ear.
“So I don’t know if there’s 100 percent a right answer other than saying we’re doing everything we possibly can to win,” he said. “And then I think it’s one of those deals where as you go you gotta just kind of get a feel for your own game and you gotta get a feel of what’s going on in that game because that game, that other game does matter with the Rams.”

A few personnel situations might be decided by injuries and not the playoff scenario.

For one, wide receiver Allen Robinson left Sunday’s game with an unspecified injury to his midsection, then returned to finish. So he could be held out against the Vikings.

“We’ll see, we’ll keep an eye on it,” Nagy said. “He was a little bit sore yesterday. We’ll see here in the next couple days when he gets back in here, how he is. We’ll just monitor it and make a decision as we go.”

Another is guard Kyle Long. He is eligible to come off of injured reserve now, and Nagy said he is “cautiously optimistic” Long could return and play in this game with the Vikings. It would be a plus to get Long up and running in the offensive line blocking scheme before a playoff game.
Two other injury situations likely will linger until the playoffs. Safety Eddie Jackson (ankle) and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch (elbow) were hurt the previous game and missed the win over San Francisco. They’ll also be monitored through the week.

—WR Allen Robinson exited Sunday’s win with an unspecified injury to his midsection and returned to complete the game.
—G Kyle Long can come off injured reserve after missing over a month with a foot injury. Bears coach Matt Nagy said he is “cautiously optimistic” Long could return and play in this game with the Vikings. It would be a plus to get Long up and running in the offensive line blocking scheme before a playoff game.
—S Eddie Jackson sat out Sunday’s win with an ankle injury.
—OLB Aaron Lynch sat out Sunday’s win with an elbow injury.
—S Adrian Amos Jr. tied a season best by making seven tackles Sunday.