It’s the day after Christmas. There are five days left in 2018 and like many of you I’m taking a little time to reflect upon all that I’m grateful for, and what my expectations are for 2019.
This year marks the first in almost a decade that the Chicago Bears are actually going to be a factor in January. They’re playoff bound. A guaranteed three seed in the NFC, with the (slim) possibility of jumping up to two and having a bye. So when I contemplate my expectations for the team, I’m not even looking at the summer yet, I’m looking at next week. And as far as expectations go, the Bears have already exceeded all of mine.
Before the start of this season, I said the Bears needed to finish 8-8. That’s it. After so many losing seasons the first thing they needed to do was not have another. I even hedged a little on that. I said that 7-9 would maybe be borderline acceptable, assuming they were competitive and had shown real signs of progress. Even after signing Mack, I thought 10-6 was their ceiling. I was optimistic about where the team was headed, but if I had said in September I thought the Bears had a legitimate shot of winning the Super Bowl I would’ve been laughed off the internet.
It’s the last week of the year. The Bears have a legitimate shot of winning the Super Bowl. It’s not a joke, it’s just true.
Do I think they will? If I were a betting woman, I’d say the Saints, Chiefs, and probably the Chargers have a better shot (the Rams’ stock has kind of plummeted for me in the last few weeks.) The biggest difference I see between the Bears and the three teams I put ahead of them is QB play. Brees and Rivers are future Hall of Famers and they have the experience in playing big game situations. Mahomes is new like Trubisky, but the kid’s a freak of nature, and has complete command of the system he’s in.
Trubisky has made some excellent strides this year. He’s looking more and more in charge of the offense, and in these last two games especially he made some big time plays when the Bears absolutely needed him to, but he still doesn’t have a lot of experience. We’ve seen that when he’s pumped up and wants it a little too much he’s most prone to making mistakes, and I do worry about that in a playoff situation. Especially once the team has to hit the road.
So how far do I think the Bears go? I think they get to the NFC Championship. I think they put up a hell of a good fight, but I think they come up a little short. That’s just my guess, but if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that the 2018 Bears are full of surprises.
Throughout the year I’ve had to recalibrate my expectations for this team, because they kept on exceeding them. At the same time, I always wanted to make sure I was stepping back to enjoy the progress. That’s perhaps given a bit of a “homer”-eque quality to some of my writing this season. The truth is I just don’t have the desire to spend my free time writing about the ways in which the Bears could still improve.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still roll my eyes, yell at the TV, or tweet something snarky when Trubisky makes a bad throw, or Nagy gets a little too cute, or when Jordan Howard is running the ball well so they inexplicably stop feeding it to him. I’m just not going to write 500 words on it.
Truthfully the Bears could lose in the first round of the playoffs and I would still consider this season to be a success. That’s not to say I wouldn’t be deeply bummed out, but it wouldn’t linger, and it wouldn’t take away from the fact that they’ve given us an incredibly entertaining 2018, and the promise of many more entertaining seasons to come.