ESPN’s Football Power Index simulated the entire 2021 NFL season a whopping 20,000 times to create their win-loss projections, which had the Bears winning 7.4 games and losing 9.5 games.
But there was one simulation in particular — No. 13,330 — where Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields came to the Chicago’s’ (eventual) rescue, replacing Andy Dalton in Week 4, after the Bears got off to a 1-3 start.
At first, Fields struggled, where Chicago dropped their next three games to the Raiders, Packers and Buccaneers, where the offense scored just 10 points against Green Bay and Tampa Bay. But then, Fields settled in and led the Bears on an incredible 4-0 run, which included wins over the 49ers, Steelers and Ravens.
Sitting at 1-6, Chicago fans began turning their eyes to 2022. And then the version of Fields that Ohio State fans have enjoyed over the past few years emerged, and the winds shifted at Soldier Field.
First, it was a surprise win at home against the 49ers. Then came a road victory at Heinz Field against the Steelers. Next was an upset over Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, followed by a brushing aside of the Lions. And the Bears weren’t done just yet.
But it all came down to a Week 17 showdown against NFC North foes, Minnesota, with a playoff berth on the line. It just always seems to come down to the Vikings in Week 17.
Entering Week 18, the 7-9 Bears headed to Minneapolis to take on the 8-8 Vikings, with both teams still in the running for a wild-card spot. It was receiver Darnell Mooney (two touchdowns) and safety Eddie Jackson (one interception off Vikings QB Kirk Cousins) who stole the show, and in the end, the Bears won 20-16, pulling off an incredible season turnaround that yielded a playoff berth despite a sub-.500 record. But a playoff berth is a playoff berth.
In that simulation, the Bears finished the season 8-9, which was good enough for a playoff berth. What happened in the postseason in that scenario is unclear, but it surely was pretty exciting for Fields to lead his team to the playoffs as a rookie.