The Chicago Bears (4-1) are heading into the bye week with a renewed sense of confidence and swagger. The Bears absolutely annihilated the Jacksonville Jaguars 41-3, executing in all three phases despite a slow first half start. Nonetheless, Chicago is in the thick of the race to win the NFC and leap atop the NFC North.
Let's take a look at who are the most valuable and least valuable players for the Bears heading into the bye.
Chicago Bears stock report: Week 5
Legend: ▲=One to watch; ▲▲=Impact maker; ▲▲▲=X-factor; ▲▲▲▲=Game changer
▼=Below potential; ▼▼=Modest errors; ▼▼▼=Dropping the ball; ▼▼▼▼= Bench-worthy
Jay Cutler ▲▲▲▲ (Heating up)
Jay had an amazing day, shaking off an unsatisfactory first half (45.8 passer rating; 10-20, 110yds, 1INT), to light up the Jacksonville secondary the entire second half (13-19, 182yds, 2TDs-0INT). Cutler aided in uncorking the spray of Bears' offense early in the second half with a 9-yard scramble for first down deep in Jacksonville territory. The ensuing field goal would put Chicago up 6-3 and capped a nine minute drive to start the half, the longest of the game.
Brandon Marshall ▲▲▲▲ (On fire)
In the past two games, Marshall has 19 receptions for 282yds and 2TDs. His 12 receptions against Jacksonville was good for 2nd in the NFL behind Wes Welker, Tony Gonzales and Reggie Wayne, who all had 13 catches. Brandon has been in the top 10 of all major receiving categories all season. It appears as if he is on pace to yet another 100 reception, 1,000yds receiving season.
The offensive line . . . sans Gabe Carimi ▲▲ (Getting started)
Sunday provided an opportunity for the Chicago Bears’ offensive line to prove that they could, at least, beat up on an inferior opponent. They did just that, dominating the Jaguars’ defensive line and holding Cutler to only one sack. Unfortunately this wasn't one of second year tackle Gabe Carimi's best game. Gabe committed two back-to-back false start penalties and allowed the sole sack on Cutler. Despite Carimi's performance, the Bears o-line deserves credit for collectively doing their jobs—in unison—for the first time in a long time.
Matt Forte ▲▲▲ (Regaining form)
Matt Forte finally rushed for 100 yards this season but it took 22 attempts. He was also par for the course catching out of the backfield with two catches for 20 yards. Forte seemed to be as close to 100% healthy as we've seen so far this season, and with the win he can rest it until October 22nd, when the Bears host the Lions on another Monday Night Football contest. It appears however, that Forte is back to form and we should expect another dynamic dimension to this high ceiling Bears offense.
Alshon Jeffery ▲▲▲ (Heat on ice)
Despite the number of targets (4), Jeffery has managed to earn the unadulterated trust of quarterback Jay Cutler. Jeffery has consistently come up big in clutch moments and has bailed Jay out on a few occasions. At 6'4'', 230lbs, he is the prototype for a No. 2 receiver to Brandon Marshall. Alshon may be the second most exciting player on the Bears’ roster at this point. Unfortunately, that will have to wait, as he could miss up to six weeks after suffering a fractured right hand.
Armando Allen ▲ (An aberration or another weapon?)
Armando Allen almost stole the show in just under five minutes of play. In the closing minutes of the game, the third-string running back busted his fifth attempt of the game for a touchdown run of 46 yards. The Bears were already up 34-3 and starters were pulled out for the most part, so this can only be graded on a curve. Nonetheless, the showcase of burst and speed in between the tackles can only be looked at a good thing moving forward.
Michael Bush ▼ (Quiet Thunder)
Bush's appearance on this side of the fence is an act of attrition. Last week his carry reduction (4 attempts, 26yds) was casuistic of Forte being on the mend. On the bright side, in just four attempts against the Jaguars, Bush managed to still average 6.5 yards per carry. If Forte comes back legit as it appears he is now, expect Bush to see a more limited role that includes primarily short yardage and goal line.
Gabe Carimi ▼▼▼ (Backsliding)
Carimi took quite a few steps backward Sunday, committing back-to-back false start penalties, and allowing the only sack of the game on Cutler, and more QB hits. Carimi has been the most consistent offensive lineman to date, but this isn't the time to regress, especially with the unit playing as well as it did collectively last week. If the line continues to play like it did against the lowly Jags, and Carimi gets on board, the Bears could prepare for a historic season offensively.
Devin Hester ▼▼ (Hero or villain?)
Hester did make an exciting lay-out catch in the fourth quarter for 39 yards, however that was the most the Bears got out of the slash player. Devin, who is approaching Deion Sanders’ record of total returns for touchdown, appears to have his eyes more set on breaking the record than putting the Bears in the best position to win. No. 23 is starting to revert back to his east-to-west maneuvering instead of getting going downhill for positive yardage.
Kellen Davis ▼ (Progress stalled)
Davis probably won't be targeted a lot from game to game, so he must make the most out of the opportunities he is dealt. Against the Cowboys he only caught three passes but went for a total of 62 yards, going 16, 21 and 25. Sunday against the Jags, however, Davis only took advantage of two out of a possible four targets for 26 yards. Despite the lack of production Sunday, Davis is still on course to eclipse his production from seasons past. Unfortunately this season, the bar is set far higher for the 6'6'', 259lb, 26yr old TE/WR.
Lance Briggs ▲▲▲▲ (History in the making)
10 tackles, one sack two interception returns for over 110 yards (both for touchdown) in the past two games. Lance is making a steadfast argument for who the defense belongs to moving forward. Lance Briggs leads the NFL in interception return yards (110), longest return for touchdown (74) and tied with teammate Charles Tillman for non-offensive touchdowns (2).
Charles Tillman ▲▲▲▲ (Continuing greatness)
No other duo in NFL history have both returned interceptions for touchdowns in consecutive games besides Charles "Peanut" Tillman and Lance Briggs. Peanut also cemented himself more into the Bears’ history books, returning his seventh career touchdown, more than any other player in Bears’ history. He also picked off his 32nd pass, tying Donnell Woolford and is only six behind all-time leader, Bears' safety Gary Fencik. He also ranks fifth overall in career tackles (648), behind Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Steve McMichael and Shaun Gayle.
Corey Wootton ▲▲ (Monster in the closet?)
Corey Wooton displayed great strength as he pushed around Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive linemen all game long. From the nose, Corey had two tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble on one of his two sacks on Blaine Gabbert. All around domination from the 6'6'', 271lb 4th round pick from 2010. Corey has more sacks in the past two games than he's had in his three years career, participating in 16 total games. A huge upside in favor of depth that the Bears' four man rush package carries.
Tim Jennings ▲▲▲▲ (The quiet Pro-Bowl)
Jennings’ performance early in the season is nothing short of Pro-Bowl worthy. He leads the NFL in passes defended (10) and is tied for the lead in interceptions (4). If Briggs and Tillman weren't having the historic season's that they are, Jennings would undoubtedly be the talk of the Bears’ defense thus far in the season.
Julius Peppers ▼▼▼ (Stupefaction)
Julius Peppers recovered the fumble forced by Corey Wootton on the sack of Blaine Gabbert. That was all Peppers contributed to the stat sheet. A lot of Julius' contributions aren't seen on the stat sheet, but in order for the Bears to stay atop league's best defenses, he must find a way to show up in the sack column. Peppers was held out of practice days prior to the game, which would be indicative of his third game as a Bears where he recorded no tackles. There have been reports of possible plantar fasciitis.
Stephen Paea▼▼▼▼ (Non-carpe diem)
Stephen Paea wins the "Not Making The Most Out of Opportunities" award. In four starts, Paea has only produced three tackles and an assisted sack, including back-to-back one tackle games against both Dallas and Jacksonville. On a good note, Stephen told media before Sunday's game at Jacksonville that he was focused on improving from that Monday night effort,
"I thought I didn't pass rush very well. I know I can contribute more than I did in that game. But our linebackers, corners, safeties, they did all the work and saved me that day."
The bye should correct some scheme and technique issues that may be causing the curtailment of Paea's production. Only time will tell.
Brian Urlacher ▼▼ (Fading Famer)
Brian isn't holding the defense back by any means, but there is a very noticeable dip in production and it is apparent that he is unable to perform at his highest level due to a debilitating knee injury. Brian continues to provide leadership by merely being on the field as the Bears' defensive general. Be that as it may, Urlacher has only recorded six tackles in the past two games. That is half of his previous two. It is hard to know whether the drop in Brian's production is due to injury or age, but his window isn't get any bigger, so savor what is left of the future Hall of Famer.
Israel Idonije ▼▼▼ (Izzy producing or not?)
Izzy's past two games (4 tackles, 0 sacks) have been a cut in half of his production in the two games prior (8 tackles, 2.5 sacks). This could be a result of the dual emergence of Corey Wootton and Henry Melton, nevertheless, it appears that Idonije has taken a backseat to the younger, more athletic defensive linemen. I don't not expect for his production to remain at this level for long, unless his reps begin to get taken away.