The most surprising team this year was without a doubt was the Chicago Bears as they finished 12-4 but lost in the wild card round to the Philadelphia Eagles 16-15 as kicker, Cody Parkey, double doinked off the field goal post (sorry Bears fans, just getting it out of the way now instead of later).
The Bears in the 2018 offseason made some nice moves as they got their head coach for the foreseeable future in Matt Nagy, they tempted to get weapons for Mitch Trubisky with Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and Anthony Miller. Defensively the Bears had a top ten defense in the 2017-2018 season and just improved it by selecting Roquan Smith and trading for a super star in Khalil Mack. So could the Bears be a dark horse in the NFL for years to come?
They could but I think that comes down to the play of quarterback Trubisky. The defense is elite, there’s no question about it, but the offense still has many holes. The offensive line seems solid enough, the only issue I would have is Kyle Long and Eric Kush as both are a little older than the rest and injuries has taken a toll on Long. The Bears are a really good pass blocking team as according to Football Outsiders, the Bears have only given up 33 sacks and the adjusted sack rate is six percent, meaning the protection is good. The run blocking is the issue for the Bears. The Bears on average rush 3.83 yards per carry, fifth worst in the league and are stuffed at or before the line of scrimmage 20.5 percent of their runs, 22nd worst.
I said earlier the Bears attempted to get weapons for Trubisky because let’s be honest, none of them are special. As a receiving core, the Bears totaled 3,747 yards (22nd) and was tied with 28 touchdowns (T-14th). I believe the Bears don’t have a true number one wide receiver. Robinson is the closest to WR1 but he’s not there. 754 yards, 4 touchdowns with 55 catches isn’t jumping out to me. Tarik Cohen, a running back, has more receptions with 71, 725 yards and 5 touchdowns. Burton has a great first half of season and dropped off in the second and Miller, a rookie, looks like he can build himself as a WR2 type player, but needs to stay healthy. Running back Jordan Howard had a decent year in which the Bears didn’t utilize him compared to years past. He ran for 935 yards with 9 touchdowns while Cohen and Trubisky would get some carries.
Now with Trubisky, I’m still not wowed with him. He is the best quarterback the Bears have had since 2010, but he’s mediocre at best. This season he reminded me of 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback, Blake Bortles. Trubisky this year threw for 3,223 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Bortles last year threw for 3,687 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Trubisky did more on the run as he ran for 100 more yards than Bortles and had an extra touchdown. I know many of you won’t like the Bortles comparison but we saw this in the playoffs with the Eagles. When Bortles lost to the New England Patriots in the 2017-2018 AFC Championship game his stat line was 22-36, 293 yards and 1 touchdown. Trubisky against the Eagles was 26-43 with 303 yards and a touchdown. Both players failed to win the game for their team on the last drive. For the Bears I know it came down to a kick, but I would thank Cohen on that kick return to set them up near midfield as one throw got them into field goal position. If Trubisky can at least play decent and turnover free he can win games with that defense. Just like when we saw Bortles with the Jaguars defense. Can Trubisky get better? Of course, but I think his ceiling is Alex Smith where he can become a good game manager that needs to protect the ball.
The Bears defense is again elite, but only one thing that can stop this defense is the off-season. According to Spotrac, this year the Bears have $9.4 million in cap space, so unfortunately we can see key players leave. This year it can be Bryce Callahan and/or Adrian Amos. In 2020, the Bears have the 29th most cap space in the league with $29.6 million, which can easily go down due to players like Amos and Callahan and possibly other free agents if the Bears decide to bring in any. The Bears free agents in 2020 on the defense is just Danny Trevathan and for the offense is Howard. Then in 2021 the Bears are the 31st in the league with cap space with $70 million with big name free agents like Robinson, Leonard Floyd, Eddie Jackson and Cohen. In 2022 the cap loosens up for the Bars with the 21st most in the league at $146 million, but that can easily go down on that if they decide what they want to do for the years of 2019 – 2021. Now 2022 is a huge year for the Bears as Trubisky is a free agent, Akiem Hicks, Kyle Fuller, Charles Leno, Burton, Miller and Gabriel.
I don’t see the Bears keeping all these players and they simply can’t because of salary cap issues. Maybe some trades and pay cuts could keep this team together but this would be a long shot. Another thing that is going to hurt the Bears is the draft. This year’s draft the Bears don’t have a first or second round pick, The first pick for the Bears will come in the third round. Then in 2020, the Bears don’t have a first or third round pick but they have two second round picks. I think with no first or second pick the Bears can trade up but how much will the Bears have to trade? There’s been rumor of Nagy wanting former Kansas City Chiefs running back, Kareem Hunt. Could a trade package involving Howard be in the mix to move up in the draft?
The Bears also have a very tough schedule for next year as the NFC North will the AFC West which includes the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos. Luckily for the Bears the two toughest teams in the Chargers and Chiefs go to Solider Field. The NFC North also faces the NFC East which for the Bears will include a home game against the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. But the Bears will face both NFC Championship teams with the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field and the Los Angeles Rams in L.A. So let’s get this straight… the Bears have to play the Saints, Eagles, Cowboys, Rams, Chargers, Broncos, Chiefs, the Green Bay Packers twice and Minnesota Vikings twice. Yikes!
Do I think the Bears are going to be the team to watch out for many years? No. I think the Bears are in a win now state of mind due to all the cap space and draft pick issues coming up. The Bears have a championship winning defense, but the question for next season will be, can Trubisky and the offense get it done? If the Bears offense can click, they should be a Super Bowl contender for next year, if not, the Bears will join a group of one-hit wonders like the 2017 Jaguars.