The Chicago Bears traded up to the 11th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to select quarterback Justin Fields. While he hasn’t transcended the offense, he’s shown flashes of potential that keep the Windy City roaring. Nevertheless, Fields has been on the injury report due to cracked ribs the past two weeks — will he play in Week 13?
Update 12/05/21: Justin Fields is officially inactive today against Arizona. Andy Dalton will be the starter for Chicago.
Will Justin Fields play in Week 13 despite being on the injury report?
Fields suffered the injury during Chicago’s Week 11 bout with the Baltimore Ravens and was ruled out early in the third quarter. ESPN’s Adam Schefter initially reported that preliminary tests only showed bruised ribs.
However, further testing revealed small fractures on Fields’ ribs. As a result, he did not participate in practice during Week 12, resulting in him missing the team’s Thanksgiving Day bout with the division rival Detroit Lions.
A single fractured rib typically takes six weeks to heal fully, but NFL players usually return in 2-4 weeks, depending on severity. With Fields’ fractures referred to as “small,” he should be on the shorter side of that timeline.
He practiced in a limited fashion every day this week, but the team listed him as doubtful for their Week 13 game against the Arizona Cardinals. Anytime a player has “doubtful” next to their name, it’s a near-lock they won’t play that week. Plus, the Bears are 4-7 and have no reason to rush Fields back. So, Andy Dalton will presumably make his fourth start of the year on Sunday.
Andy Dalton is the starter … for now
The 11-year veteran started last week and led the Bears to an unimpressive 16-14 victory over the winless Lions — Chicago’s first win since Week 5. After the game, head coach Matt Nagy quickly shot down the possibility of a QB controversy, “When Justin is healthy, he’s the starter. It’s pretty simple.”
Dalton has completed 64.3% of his passes for 788 yards (7.0 ypa), 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions this season. Those numbers are improvements over Fields, who has struggled as a passer in Year 1 (58.1% completion rate, 1,361 yards, 6.9 ypa, 4 TDs, 8 INTs). Still, Fields adds escapability and rushing prowess at QB — two things Dalton will never be mistaken for having. Fields has rushed 56 times for 311 yards and 2 scores.
What Dalton does better than Fields is nearly everything from the shoulder pads up and in the pocket. The Red Rifle gets the ball out quickly and rarely converts pressure into sacks. He also does a decent job of keeping the ball out of harm’s way. But there is a reason for that. While Dalton is more risk-averse, he’s also big-play-averse, throwing 3 yards less downfield and not taking as many tight-window shots.
All of that said, the Bears will likely lose this week no matter who is at the helm of the offense. The Cardinals boast the best record in the league at 9-2 and are 2-1 with Colt McCoy under center. Things could get ugly if Murray makes his long-awaited return from an ankle injury. Arizona’s defense is allowing 18.4 points (fourth) and 317.8 yards per game (fifth), both top-five marks in the NFL.