Bears vs. Browns Prediction: Can Bears make a run at a playoff berth?
Ken Blaze - USA Today Sports

Bears vs. Browns Prediction: Can Bears make a run at a playoff berth?

by - Senior Writer -

With just four games remaining in the regular season, it is time for the Bears to buckle down and potentially make a run at a playoff berth. Sure, it will be an uphill battle, but sitting one game out with four games to go, the Bears are in a much better spot than many expected them to be a month ago.

A big reason for the Bears recent surge has been the play of Justin Fields as he is starting to put together a long stretch of games where he has proven to have what it takes to be a franchise QB. You also have to look at the defense since Matt Eberflus took as they are not only getting after the QB much more frequently, but are forcing turnovers at a ridiculous clip.

The Bears will have to keep that going this weekend as they head into the DAWG POUND to take on a surging Cleveland Browns team sitting at 8-5 and putting themselves in the fifth spot in the AFC. Known for having one of the best defenses in the game, the Browns lost starting QB Deshaun Watson five weeks ago, and it was looking like their fast start to the season would come crashing down.

Whether it be PJ Walker, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, or the suddenly young Joe Flacco, the Browns have continued to impress as their defense has set the tone, allowing for the offense to come through when the game is on the line. Considering that Nick Chubb also tore his ACL in the first game of the season, there is a real chance this Browns team would be battling for home field if they had a fully healthy roster this season. Here are some things to look for in week 15.

Ageless wonder Joe Flacco

Who would've ever predicted that 15 weeks into the season, 38-year-old Joe Flacco would not only be starting a game but would be starting for a team making their second playoff run in the past four seasons? It may not be how the Browns drew it up, but Flacco has saved this team's season, which is enough for Kevin Stefanski to name him the starter for the rest of the season.

Flacco is like a fine glass of wine and hasn't aged a minute. Remember that this man was run out of Baltimore when Lamar Jackson took over and bounced around the league the past few seasons before settling in as the Jets back up last season. Flacco was then without a job to start the season, only to sign with the Browns when Watson went down, and here he is as a starting QB once again.

It's far from the level he was at in his prime. Flacco is 2-0 this season as a starter and continues to rely on one of the best deep balls in the game. He may not be good enough to get the Browns to the Superbowl, but with the defense the Browns have, Flacco is good enough to keep this team afloat, and if he continues to play the way they have the past two weeks, good things are on the horizon for this team.

Returning to the scene of the crime

This headline may be vague if you're not a fan of the Bears, but for the rest of the world, you know what this is all about. Justin Fields made his first career road start against the Browns three years ago, and it was a day to forget. Cleveland sacked Fields nine times in that game, including seven in the first half, while limiting them to 68 yards passing in their 26-6 victory.

You could make the case that it was the worst game of Fields career as he has steadily gotten better in every start since. With a chance to write the ship and prove that his last appearance against the Browns was a fluke, Fields returns to the crime scene on Sunday, hoping to leave with a win this time around.

It won't come easy as the Browns defense is just as good if not better than what they were back then and they have consistent QB play from Flacco which they didn't have out of Baker Mayfield that season. While the Bears offensive line has been playing better, it will take a Herculean effort to contain Myles Garrett and Zaderious Smith as the Jim Schwartz defense is ready to unlesh themselves once again.

Home cooking

Not only have the Browns been one of the bigger surprises in the league this season, but how they have played at home sets them apart. The Browns lead the AFC with a 6-1 home record and are second in the NFL to the 7-0 Cowboys. Not only have they won at home, but they are dominating in the process as most of their games are double-digit wins as that defense continues to shut teams down while the offense does just enough to win.

It's hard enough to go to the Dawg Pound when the team is playing badly, but when you have a Browns team competing for not only a playoff spot, but also for an AFC North Title, this will be a challenging environment for the Bears to deal with and it is something to watch for as Chicago looks to win their third straight game.

Prediction: BEAR DOWN

A month ago, you looked at this game as another lackluster game, as both teams seemed to be on the downslide. Then came the resurgence by the entire Bears team while the Browns inserted a 16-year veteran at QB to suddenly make their offense look like the unit they hoped for when the season began.

Throw in one team battling for multiple playoff spots and another sitting one game out, and this game suddenly has a lot more meaning than it did two weeks ago. There is a lot to play for on Sunday for both teams, and this could be one of the best games of the entire weekend. A loss by the Browns hurts their division chances, but they are still in a great position. A loss by the Bears all but seals their playoff fate for the 2023 season. There is something about the way that Fields and the defense are playing that stands out, and the Bears will make it three straight with a 20-17 OT win.

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