Fans of the Chicago Bears are itching to see rookie quarterback Justin Fields take the field. However, it seems like that will come later rather than sooner. Head coach Matt Nagy has been emphatic that veteran Andy Dalton will start at first, giving Fields more time to develop.
After Wednesday’s NFL schedule release, it is more clear which matchups are most favorable to the Bears, and by extension, Justin Fields’ progress. The best week for Justin Fields to start his first game is Week 12 against the Detroit Lions. This article will examine why.
Why the Lions
The Lions have been miserable the past two years, combining for a 8-23-1 record. Their defense ranked 32nd in points allowed and yards allowed last season. Meanwhile, their offense was 20th in points and yards. Detroit’s point differential was worst in the NFC and third worth in the NFL.
This is not to mention their past offseason, in which they downgraded. They lost receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr., top defenders Duron Harmon and Christian Jones, and most importantly, went from Matthew Stafford to Jared Goff at quarterback. To Detroit’s credit, they acquired more draft picks and became a younger team. However, they certainly did not improve upon last season’s roster.
The Detroit Lions would be the perfect team to begin a career against. Detroit’s defense was worst in the NFL last year and only got worse in the offseason. It is especially depleted in the secondary, further working to Fields’ benefit. Chicago’s offense should be able to have their way against them.
Meanwhile, their offense is set up for failure with a poor receiving corps and a lot of turnovers under Jared Goff’s watch. This means Chicago’s defense will frequently set up the offense will frequently in advantageous field position.
Despite the positives, there are some not ideal factors for Justin Fields in Chicago’s face-off with Detroit. The Bears will be on the road and it is a prime-time game, so the spotlight will be even brighter. However, plenty of Chicago fans would take the short trip up to Detroit in order to watch the debut of their future star. Fields also played in many prime-time games at Ohio State with impressive performances.
There are a few drawbacks to Justin Fields getting his first start on Thanksgiving in Detroit. However, the many flaws on Detroit’s roster outweigh the negatives.
Based off of the final 2020 standings, the Bears have the third hardest schedule in the NFL next season. It certainly shows, especially during the middle of the season. This is unfortunate for Justin Fields’ development, especially if Matt Nagy wants to start him at some point during the year.
From Week 6 through Week 14, five of Chicago’s eight games are against playoff teams last year, and two of the other games are against teams that barely missed the playoffs. Most of those teams have top ten defenses as well.
The only bad team the Bears will face in the middle of the season is the Detroit Lions. Therefore, Nagy should start the rookie quarterback in a relatively easy game rather than throwing him straight into the fire.
Chicago’s difficult schedule throughout the season causes a slippery slope for Justin Fields’ development. However, the midseason game against the Detroit Lions is nearly perfect for the beginning of a career. The Lions are a terrible team, and their depleted secondary and turnover-prone quarterback will work to Chicago’s advantage.
The decision ultimately rests in Matt Nagy’s hands. If Andy Dalton is winning games or Justin Fields’ development is stunted, then it might not make sense to insert the rookie quarterback into the lineup. However, if Nagy is looking for a game to give Fields his first start, the Week 12 matchup against the Lions would be the perfect day to do so.
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