Bear Down, Nerd Up: Catching up on where things stand in race for No. 1 overall draft pick

Plus more on Cole Kmet’s career day

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles walks on the field before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Chicago.

It was a happy holiday season for the Bears. Pretty much everything the Bears needed to happen happened.

The Bears beat the Cardinals. Additionally, the Panthers lost yet again. The Patriots came up with a surprise win. Those two results will help the Bears’ draft stock tremendously.

Every week in the NFL is unique. Here are the stats, numbers and figures that stood out in Week 16 for the Bears, starting with a look at next spring’s draft.

Race to the bottom: The Panthers almost made it a sad holiday for the Bears.

The Panthers came back to tie the game against Green Bay on Sunday. Jordan Love and the Packers found a go-ahead field goal in the final minute. Bryce Young and the Panthers nearly reached field goal range, but the clock ran out moments before Young could spike the football.

The Bears, of course, own the rights to the Panthers’ first-round pick, thanks to the blockbuster trade last March.

Additionally, Bears fans could rejoice after seeing the New England Patriots upset the Denver Broncos on the road Sunday night. The Patriots, thanks to a poor strength of schedule, previously were the top threat to take over the No. 1 pick should Carolina win another game.

Currently, the Panthers have a one-game lead over the Arizona Cardinals for the top pick. The tiebreaker, should teams finish with the same record, is opponents’ win percentage. The team with the worse strength of schedule earns the better pick.

Even if the Panthers end up tied with Arizona for the top pick, the Panthers almost certainly will have the worse strength of schedule. Now, Carolina would have to win both of its final two games in order to tie with Washington or New England, who sit at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively.

The Bears’ own pick sits at No. 8. Another win or two to end the season could push it outside the top 10.

Here’s what the race to the top 10 would look like if the season ended today, per

  1. Panthers (traded to Bears): 2-13, .522 SOS
  2. Cardinals: 3-12, .561 SOS
  3. Commanders: 4-11, .518 SOS
  4. Patriots: 4-11, .522 SOS
  5. Giants: 5-10, .514 SOS
  6. Chargers: 5-10, .525 SOS
  7. Titans: 5-10, .525 SOS
  8. Bears: 6-9, .467 SOS
  9. Jets: 6-9, .514 SOS
  10. Falcons: 7-8, .420 SOS
Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet makes a catch but is injured on the playnduring their game against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Kmet’s career day: Bears tight end Cole Kmet totaled 107 receiving yards in the first half before leaving Sunday’s game with a knee injury. Kmet caught four passes, including a 53-yard completion that set up the Bears’ first touchdown of the game.

It’s unfortunate Kmet left the game, because he and Fields were on the same page and Kmet could’ve had a truly huge performance if he played all four quarters.

Here are Kmet’s top three receiving games, following Sunday’s performance:

  • Sunday vs. Arizona: 104 yards, four catches, no touchdowns
  • Nov. 8, 2021, vs. Pittsburgh: 87 yards, six catches, no touchdowns
  • Oct. 1, 2023, vs. Denver: 85 yards, seven catches, two touchdowns

Kmet’s 53-yard reception in the first quarter marked the longest of his career. Kmet has passed Greg Olsen for fifth all-time receiving yards for a Bears tight end. Kmet now has 2,077 receiving yards in his career. His 678 receiving yards during the 2023 season are a career high.

Running wild: The Bears’ 250 rushing yards Sunday marked a season high. Their previous high was 183 yards in their first matchup with the Detroit Lions.

The Bears rushed for 250 yards or more three times in 2022. They did it in games against Detroit, Miami and Houston last season. The 281 rushing yards against Houston was the high mark of the Matt Eberflus era.

Running back Khalil Herbert had the fourth 100-yard game of his career Sunday. He ran for 112 yards, which was the second-highest mark of his career. He totaled a career-high 157 rushing yards in that game against Houston last year. His last 100-yard game was a 103-yard performance against Denver this season.

Herbert’s rushing touchdown Sunday also marked his first rushing touchdown of the 2023 season. He previously scored one receiving touchdown.

Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Herbert ran for 37 yards and a touchdown when running wide of the left tackle. That was his most successful direction. The Bears had veteran Cody Whitehair playing in place of Teven Jenkins at left guard. Jenkins missed the game because of a concussion. Generally, Herbert was pretty successful running in every direction.

With 97 rushing yards, Fields finished 3 yards shy of his sixth career 100-yard rushing game. Fields now has 585 rushing yards on the season and three rushing touchdowns.

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Gervon Dexter dives for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray in the fourth quarter of their game Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Pass rush: Rookie defensive tackle Gervon Dexter was the Bears’ closest defensive lineman to the QB on Sunday, per Next Gen Stats. On average, Dexter was 3.68 yards from the quarterback. League average is 4.54 yards.

Dexter, a rookie second-round draft pick, has been playing well lately. He had one quarterback hit against Cardinals QB Kyler Murray. That brought his total to 10 quarterback hits.

The Cardinals did a decent job against Montez Sweat, who had a 4.5-yard average in Sunday’s game.

Big dog: Marcedes Lewis caught his 40th career touchdown pass. He also surpassed Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the most starts by an active NFL player with 225. Drafted in 2005, Rodgers entered the NFL one season prior to Lewis.

In addition to starts, Lewis ranks No. 1 among active players with 266 games played in his NFL career.

He gets respect when he walks right into the building because of the 18 years in the NFL. That’s hard to do in the NFL now. Just the man he is. He’s a true leader. He helps the younger guys. He’s very wise inside of football and outside of football as well.”

—  Matt Eberflus, Bears head coach

Lewis is one of three NFL tight ends to start more than 200 games in his career and total more than 400 career receptions. The others are Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten.

“He gets respect when he walks right into the building because of the 18 years in the NFL,” Eberflus said. “That’s hard to do in the NFL now. Just the man he is. He’s a true leader. He helps the younger guys. He’s very wise inside of football and outside of football, as well.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.