It has been the strangest off-season in the history of the NFL. Now, the folks around here attempt to predict how the regular season will go. And there’s plenty of reason for optimism.
10-6, Playoff Berth.
This should continue to be one of the best defenses in the league, and the offense should be better than last year, but QB issues still limit their ceiling, and I’ll be surprised if the offense finishes better than around 20th in the NFL.
I’m also seriously concerned about the lack of depth at a number of key spots, including offensive line, edge rusher, inside linebacker, and cornerback.
Still, there’s enough talent on this roster that I have a hard time seeing them fall much below .500.
I’m certainly planning on enjoying this year as much as I can, because I think this is likely their best team until at least 2023.
9-7, Wild Card Loss.
This season could go very wrong or it could go very right, why not split the difference?
There is a world in which the quarterback play is just good enough. Trubisky has learned to read defenses and has made enough fundamental improvements to hit the open receivers. Or Nick Foles comes in and plays like he did for the Eagles.
They have talent around the quarterback and will unquestionably be improved at right guard and tight end. If the rest of the offensive line can play like it did in 2018 and the zone blocking scheme clicks, the running game could be explosive.
Defensively, they have arguably more talent than they did in 2018 when they were the best unit in the league. At the very least, they’ll be able to chase quarterbacks and that should lead to a ton of takeaways.
They can ride their defense to the playoffs and hope one of the quarterbacks gets hot like we have seen many times before.
There is also a world in which Mitch Trubisky actually isn’t better and Nick Foles gets injured or is otherwise ineffective because his slow release can’t function with the collapsing right side of the offensive line.
The new running scheme might take time to get going and, we might come to find out that David Montgomery and company just aren’t that good.
We’ve already had injury scares with Akiem Hicks, who is the only defensive lineman on the team who can stop the run and rush the passer. Ideally, they’d be able to platoon him, but with Eddie Goldman opting out, Hicks will have to play a lot of snaps again at 31 years old.
My guess is not everything will turn out poorly, but not everything will hit either. The Bears will have a top-five defense that forces turnovers and the offense will be just good enough to sneak into the last playoff spot.
And they’ll lose in the first round of the playoffs because they still insist on employing bad kickers.
Last year the Bears went 8-8 with a top tier defense and an anemic offense led by bad QB play. This year they have the same great defense, and are sticking with Trubisky at quarterback, so it stands to reason their 2020 campaign won’t be too far off from 2019’s.
Ryan Pace can talk about mindset and presence all he wants, but nothing out of training camp indicated that Trubisky blew everyone away so much as he and Foles were close enough that they felt justified giving their former first round draft pick one final shot. Until we actually see several games worth of evidence that he’s improved from last year, the GM’s words are meaningless.
That said I’m still predicting the Bears to win more games this year than last year for a few reasons, the biggest one being Nick Foles. Say what you will about Foles and the money the Bears spent on what is currently their backup QB but he’s significantly better than Chase Daniel. That means the grace period for Trubisky is basically non-existent. He starts looking like the guy he did for most of last season, Nagy is not going to hesitate to pull him out and put in someone who can manage the offense and not make boneheaded mistakes. If the defense stays who they’ve always been, adequate QB play is usually enough to get the job done. I also think the Bears will see improved production from their tight ends this year, which can go a long way in taking pressure off whichever QB is starting, and help the offense move down the field.
The Bears won 8 games a year ago with some of the worst quarterback play in the sport. In a delusional gesture bordering on masochism the team has decided to start that same quarterback.
But the running game will be improved. The tight end position will not only be improved, but very good. And they’ve added a ton of speed outside with Teddy Ginn and Darnell Mooney. The offense is going to get better despite what happens at the quarterback position. And one can only hope Trubisky cleans up the attenuating mental errors that kept the offense from staying on the field in 2019. If he doesn’t, he won’t be on the field long. (I was going to argue for the Bears to have a resurgent, 12-4 campaign and compete for the title until the Bears made this QB decision.)
We know how good the defense will be and that unit will get them into the tournament. In January they’ll need a quarterback to make a run.