Since taking over before last offseason, Ryan Pace and John Fox have completely rebuilt the Bears defense and it should result in a team that contends for the NFC North in both the near and long term.
I don’t care what happened last year. The Packers are still the team to beat in the NFC North. They have the best coach, the best quarterback and – while they’re certainly declining – I’m not ready to proclaim the Vikings or any other team the new King of the North. But what the Bears did to the Packers on Thanksgiving wasn’t a fluke and now they’re building up their talent level to do it consistently. At the very least, with a good defense, they’ll give themselves a consistent chance.
Since 2012, the Packers are 8-15 (including the playoffs) against top-10 defenses with Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback. Simple math will tell you they’re 34-7 against teams that don’t have top-10 defenses. Ironically, two of those losses came against the Bears.
The Bears have overhauled their defense. Since Pace and Fox took over they have 10 new starters and 18 of the top 22 players on the depth chart are new. Since last season, the Bears have changed five of the seven players in their front seven with the only other two being in their second years with the team. The only holdover from the previous regime on their defense is Kyle Fuller and he’ll be battling for his job this year.
The formula the Bears are using has worked for the other two NFC North teams the last two years. The Vikings went from having one of the worst defenses in the league to one of the five best in two years with Mike Zimmer and they won the NFC North last year. The Lions had one of the five best defenses two years ago before losing their best player and are now staring another significant rebuilding project in the face.
Why do the Bears have a better chance of sustaining success than the Lions did and the Vikings do? QB play. In years in which the Bears have had a scoring defense that ranked inside the top 20, they’ve won 67.5 percent of Jay Cutler’s starts.
Obviously, the moves have to work out. But given Fox’s history and the impact defenders they were able to add in their first year, there’s reason to believe that the Bears are building a team that will contend now and in the future.