Chicago’s Chilly Challenge: Browns – Bears Preview

I’m not sure if you’ve been watching the NFL standings this year, but the Cleveland Browns are having a tough time getting their legs under them in 2017. With no wins and fourteen losses the pessimist will say the Browns are two losses away from the league’s second perfectly imperfect season. An optimist will say the Browns have two more chances for their first win. A pessimist would indicate how similar each of the losses have been this year. On Christmas Eve the Jackson 53 head to the Windy City for a date with the Chicago Bears (4-10). Will Week 16 lightning strike again?

Are the Browns Favored?

Nope; the bookmakers continue to leave Cleveland on the Naughty List. Chicago opens as 6.5 point favorites at home. That line feels about right. Sunday’s high will be only 28 degrees so cooler temps may depress scoring on both sides.

All-Time Series

Cleveland leads(!) the all-time series with Chicago 9-6. The Bears won the two most recent matchups in 2013 and 2009 with the last Browns win coming in 2005. The Browns have not beaten the Bears in Chicago since November 30, 1969 (to be fair they’ve only had three matchups in Illinois since then). Bill Nelson threw two touchdowns that day and Ron Johnson rushed for a pair of scores. If you have time, the video is great. Notice how there are no pylons, but little flags like a youth soccer game.

The Bears Season

Chicago started their 2017 season with a dramatic Draft-Day deal. The Bears dealt three picks to move up to the number two spot and draft UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky (more on him later).  The Bears scuffled early going 1-4 in their first five games. A quick two-game win streak against Baltimore and Carolina was quickly undermined by a five-game losing streak. Chicago righted the ship a little with a win over Cincinnati in Week 14, but fell to the Lions last week. The Pride of Chicago has a chance to sweep the AFC North with a win on Sunday. Like their opponents, Chicago has long been eliminated from playoff contention.

The Bears Players

Head Coach John Fox gave Trubisky his first start in Week 5 against Minnesota. He is 3-7 so far as a starter with 162-of-271 passing for 1,822 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Second-year running back Jordan Howard has racked up 1,069 yards and seven touchdowns on 245 carries. Chicago’s top wideout is Kendall Wright – 50 receptions, 558 yards, and a touchdown. Trubisky has looked like a rookie, but unlike the Browns’ freshman quarterback he has taken care of the ball a little better.

This year Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, and the Browns are no strangers to playing on December 24. Unfortunately, the results have been more coal than BB gun for Cleveland. A quick recap:

  • 2016 vs. San Diego Chargers. W 20-17
  • 2011 at Baltimore Ravens. L 20-14
  • 2006 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. L 22-7
  • 2005 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. L 41-0
  • 1995 at Jacksonville Jaguars. L 24-21
  • 1994 vs. Seattle Seahawks. W 35-9

There’s no question that the 2005 shellacking was that season’s rock bottom. Even if the Browns cannot win this week they can at least try to prevent Northeast Ohio’s Christmas Eve dinner from being bitter.

There’s no shortage of superlatives for this Browns season, but almost all of them are negative. After last year’s 1-15 campaign many fans surely thought that Cleveland could win at least one game in 2017, but even that low bar has proven nigh impossible. With the top pick all but secure the Browns would not be sacrificing their future with a win on Sunday, but the Bears do not want to become this year’s version of the Chargers. Despite the front office turnover, the abysmal offense, the questionable special teams, despite everything I can guarantee my family will be discussing this professional football team on Christmas Eve. They are for better or worse part of the fabric of our holiday gatherings. For everyone’s sake it would be nice have some highlights to watch during dessert.