Battle of Winless Bears and Broncos May Be the Caleb Williams Bowl

The loser of Sunday's game at Soldier Field will have the inside track to the No. 1 pick

The Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos line up during a preseason game.
The Bears and Broncos are both searching for their first win.
Dustin Bradford/Getty

Barring a tie, either the Broncos or the Bears will have their first victory of the season following the conclusion of Sunday’s showdown between the 0-3 clubs at Soldier Field in Chicago. (Denver, despite losing by 50 points in Week 3 to the Dolphins, is a slight favorite.) The loser of Sunday’s game will drop to 0-4 on the season and will likely have to start thinking about next season and what’s best for the franchise moving forward.

For both teams, that may mean making a long-term change at the quarterback position, a transition that will be much easier to make if they are in possession of the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft and the right to select projected top pick Caleb Williams out of USC. The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, Williams, who is preparing to take on Deion Sanders and Colorado this weekend, is projected to be a bonafide franchise quarterback and regarded by most to be a can’t-miss prospect.

For the Bears, who are currently on a 13-game losing streak dating back to last season, selecting Williams would probably mean the end of the Justin Fields era in Chicago. Projected by some to be a darkhorse MVP candidate during the preseason when he looked like a superstar, Fields has been fairly terrible to start this season and now has a bleak 5-23 record as a starter. Now in his third year, Fields has won fewer games for the Bears than Zach Wilson has for the Jets (eight). For a quarterback who is hoping to get his fifth-year option picked up, that sort of statistic is not going to help.

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His counterpart on the Broncos, Russell Wilson, has also won fewer games for the Broncos (four) than Wilson has for the Jets during his brief tenure in Denver. Should the Broncos lose to the Bears, that tenure may not extend past this season as Denver, who play the Jets in Week 5 but then take on the Chiefs twice in three weeks, may decide the best course of action is to embark on a complete rebuild and attempt to let star coach Sean Payton start fresh next season. If Denver is able to land Williams, that fresh start will be substantially easier assuming the draft experts are right.

Depleted of draft picks (they do own their first-rounder this season) after trading for Wilson and making a deal with the Saints for Payton, the Broncos do have a number of tradeable assets (Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Garett Bolles, Randy Gregory and Justin Simmons) they could look to deal before the trade deadline if they fall to 0-4 or 0-5. There’s a chance, albeit a small one, the Broncos could even find a taker for Wilson, although his contract would be an issue.

No matter who wins on Sunday, the loser will also have to worry about beating out the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings for the No. 1 pick, both of whom are also 0-3. In a fun twist, the Panthers and Vikings are also playing each other in Week 4, meaning that there are actually a pair of Caleb Williams Bowls this weekend. To the losers go the spoils.

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