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The Chicago Bears don't fire coaches in season. Such is history. We've heard it all before.

But the times, they are a changing, and the rules of engagement regarding hiring coaches have changed like never before, and it would be silly for this franchise not to begin moving on to its next chapter sooner rather than later, and get a jump on whatever life after coach Matt Nagy, and general manager Ryan Pace has in store.

Monday night was another ugly, undisciplined, sloppy display of football, one with little hope or little life. The 2021 season is lost, at 4-10, and outside of whatever rookie quarterback Justin Fields might flash, there is not much more to see from this team in this season. Within that organization there is a strong sense that the Bears will be moving on. Not much to be gained by putting that off another month, especially when, for the first time ever, teams will be free to begin interviewing candidates currently employed by NFL teams after Week 16.

It's right around the corner. Nagy knows it's coming at some point. Coaching out the string – at the expense of getting a jump on their coaching search – seems counterintuitive to me … But then again so does much of what this organization has done for a decade or more. They've lost eight of their last nine games; they finished last season by losing seven of their final 10 games. This is who they are and what they are.

The Bears offense, Nagy's side of the ball, rank 30th in yards per game, ahead of only the Jaguars and Texans. They rank 28th in points per drive. They rank 29th in offensive touchdowns scored. They rank 29th in quarterback rating. Are you detecting a trend?

Yeah, it really is that bad and it hasn't been trending in the right direction for quite some time. It went beyond Mitch Trubisky and it's untenable and trying to sell another year of Nagy to this fanbase is impossible. Which begs the obvious question of where do they go from here.

I'd give very strong consideration to Josh McDaniels. His work in New England speaks for itself and he's grown from where he was as a young head coach in Denver. Brian Daboll of the Bills should be in this mix as well. Byron Leftwich is ready to get head coaching attention and his mentor, Tampa head coach Bruce Arians is the one that got away from the Bears, who picked Marc Trestman over him years ago. Todd Bowles, also from Arians' staff, should merit strong consideration as well. This shouldn't just be about offensive coaches. Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has strong ties to this organization and he is someone they should speak with, too.

 And no use wasting more time getting to it.

AFC North is Bengals' to lose

It's seemed to me for quite some time that the Bengals were the best team in the AFC North – an AFC North that looks patently mediocre rather than special. And I still believe Cincy will win that division, and could take a major step in that direction hosting the wounded Ravens on Sunday.

If you read this space with any regularity you know I like to check out the league's touchdown differential stats to get a handle on teams that may be better – or worse – than some think. Well, the Bengals have a plus-9 net touchdown score, while no one else in the division has scored more TDs than they have allowed. In fact, the Ravens, Browns and Steelers combine for a minus-11 TD differential.

That ain't good.

The last time the Bengals and Ravens met, in Baltimore on Week 7, it was one-sided. The Bengals scored 28 unanswered points in the second half of that game to cement a 41-17 blowout, and it's the way they did it that makes me think it will be more of the same in the rematch. Cincy adjusted its protections for some A-gap blitzes at halftime of that game, and they destroyed the Ravens with a downfield attack in the second half.

Baltimore's secondary has no answers, and that was when Marlon Humphrey, their highest paid player, was healthy (he's on IR now) and both starting safeties were playing. Now they have just one starting DB on the active roster and keep signing corners off the street and are playing DBs who have barely even practiced. And they face a Bengals team that plays the second most three-receiver packages in the NFL (nearly 75% of the time), which can exploit all of those replacements in the secondary. Oh yeah, and Baltimore's pass rush is barely tepid and as of now edge rushers Justin Houston and Pernell McPhee are on the COVID list, and defensive lineman Calais Campbell hasn't been healthy in weeks.

In the second half of that Week 7 game, the Bengals ran 31 plays in all, and 19 out of a three receiver set against nickel packages. The Bengals produced 242 yards on those 19 plays – a staggering 12.74 yards/play – while also scoring three touchdowns out of that personnel grouping. Joe Burrow was 10-for-14 for 215 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on that half, and it could have been much worse but Cincy bled the clock in 13 personnel most of the fourth quarter, milking the big lead.

With three receivers who all could be the star, tight ends who gave the Ravens fits in the first game, and pass catching running backs, this could be a bad combination for Baltimore. The Bengals offensive line has some issues, and we'll have to see if this young team is ready to mature and win big games like this at home after slip ups against the Chargers and 49ers, but I could certainly see them making a statement here.

Expect more weeks like Week 15

COVID is going to remain the biggest story in this league – and all of professional and collegiate sports – throughout this winter. This Omicron variant is showing that now amount of juggling testing strategies is going to prevent a bevy of more positive results, and we are still a long way from the Super Bowl.

These rescheduled games this week felt more like exhibition freak shows than an actual late December NFL game, with teams being forced to compromise and adjust and play quarterbacks who hadn't even really met their teammates yet. It's awkward and unfortunate, but if you want to get through this thing and play every game, then it's what you have to do.

I just wouldn't fool myself into thinking that Week 15 was some sort of blip, or anomaly. This won't be the last time we see games shifted and teams playing under averse circumstances. The numbers we are seeing each day with testing, and the ability for this variant to spread so quickly, likely will lead to the NFL and NFLPA continuing to have to make things up and change protocols as we go along.

With any luck, things won't be any weirder than they got a year ago. But this virus isn't letting up, watching what's going on in the NBA and NHL should give everyone pause, and with playoff games no spread across more days than ever before, the specter of a Covid-impacted postseason can't be sloughed off.