At the halfway point of the 2018 NFL regular season, the Chicago Bears are sitting in an advantageous situation. They currently lead the NFC North with a 5-3 record and coming off of a two-game winning streak, have a bit of momentum heading into the second half of the year.
Judging by their upcoming schedule, they’ll need it. With five divisional games and a game against the 8-1 Los Angeles Rams among their imminent matchups, the Bears’ pursuit of a playoff spot will be anything but easy.
However, for the first time in quite a while, Chicago has a relatively favorable injury situation. Save for right guard Kyle Long, none of their starters are currently projected to miss considerable playing time down the line. Considering their numerous run-ins with injuries in recent years, that’s encouraging to say the least.
Outside linebacker Khalil Mack and wide receiver Allen Robinson, both of whom having missed the past two games, participated in full at Wednesday’s practice. Defensive lineman Bilal Nichols also returned to practice after missing last week’s game against the Buffalo Bills. Even tight end Adam Shaheen, who has missed the entirety of the season with a sprained foot, returned to practice. Although his return on Sunday is unlikely, his inevitable return should be a huge boost for the Bears’ offense.
The Bears could afford to let Mack and Robinson sit for the last two games considering their opponents in each week, so they did so. Now, they enter a crucial part of the regular season with their two biggest offseason acquisitions back and ready to make an impact. With their playing the Detroit Lions twice in 11 days with a game against the Minnesota Vikings in the middle, the Bears can’t afford to lose any more trap games. Even though the Lions have struggled in recent weeks, they have given Chicago fits in recent years. Even though the Vikings are half of a game behind first place in the NFC North, they are still an incredibly talented team who has put their cold start behind them. Coming out with at least two wins in this span is crucial to the Bears’ playoffs hopes, so having to of their best players back and healthy should be a huge boost for them.
Barring a devastating injury in the coming weeks, Chicago is as close to fully healthy as possible as they make a run at the playoffs. With a fully healthy Mack returning to a defense that has seen several players step up in his absence, they could give opposing offenses as hard of a time as they did early in the year. With Robinson returning and providing the Bears with a big-bodied target, other weapons like Tarik Cohen, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel will see less attention given to them, increasing the efficiency of their spread offense.
Though history may not be on their side, one can only wonder if the Bears can manage to continue staying healthy going forward.