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Coming off a 12-4 NFC North Champion campaign, the Bears have high hopes for the upcoming NFL season. In head coach Matt Nagy’s second year, there should be plenty of room to improve the young core the team possesses. The defense, now led by former Colt’s head coach Chuck Pagano, should follow last year’s dominance on the field. The offense should take strides forward with Mitch Trubisky getting more comfortable in Nagy’s offensive scheme. All this being said, I do think it is time to temper the expectations for the Bears in 2019.
Starting with the offense, Mitch Trubisky has shown he can be as good as Patrick Mahomes (354 yards passing, 6 TDs, and 53 yards rushing against the Bucs) and as bad as any Browns QB prior to Baker Mayfield (110 yards passing, 1 TD, and 3 ints against the Rams). It’s not that he can’t be good, he just hasn’t shown any consistency yet. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that last year was his first year in Nagy’s offense, but this season will be telling of Trubisky’s future with the Bears. Unlike the previous season, the receiving corp is healthy and also getting accustomed to their second year in the offense with their QB. One name that will be missing from the offense in 2019 is Jordan Howard. While it sounds like that’s a pretty big loss for the team, Howard didn’t quite fit Nagy’s scheme correctly and the front office did a solid job signing Mike Davis and drafting David Montgomery to go along with Tarik Cohen. Knowing all of this, I believe the offense will outperform their 2018 numbers, and potentially by a substantial amount. It truly comes down to Trubisky’s development and ability to command the offense, not just run it. If you’re a Bears fan, you should be excited to see what this offense can do.
Switching sides of the ball, the defense is the true star of this Bears team. Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith are getting their first look at training camp as both were in contract disputes last summer, so they’ll actually be ready for Week 1 this year. Along with these two centerpieces of the defense are Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, Kyle Fuller, and Eddie Jackson. Despite losing Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan to free agency, the Bears should still have a top 5 defense based on the talent they have. The biggest change comes in Vic Fangio’s departure. Chuck Pagano has some pretty big shoes to fill, but I think he can lead this defense to another dominating year. Many people will look at his defense in Indianapolis as a reason that he won’t succeed. Those people fail to realize that he inherited a below-average defense there and when you have a talent like Andrew Luck, you’re going to build around him. Prior to his time with the Colts, he was a defensive coach/coordinator with the Ravens from 2008-2011. The Ravens were a top 3 defense in all 4 of those seasons. Because of that, I’m not too concerned about Pagano’s ability to run the defense knowing the talent it has. I do expect a bit of a turnover regression, but it should still be a top 5 defense in the NFL.
The kicking situation is one of the true question marks that the Bears have to figure out. Cody Parkey was one of the worst kickers last year and will be remembered in the Windy City for having an exceptional ability to hit the uprights without the football passing through for three points. Elliot Fry and Eddy Piniero are currently in the midst of a battle to become the starting placekicker to replace him. Word out of camp says that both guys are actually impressing players and coaches on the field with their kicking ability, so we’ll have to wait until the preseason to see who performs in-game. I’d be pleased if one of these two guys could just be an average kicker in the NFL. After last year, my standards aren’t too high for a kicker in Chicago.
I know I sound pretty optimistic about the Bears and I do expect them to be in playoff contention at the end of the regular season. My concerns, however, come from the schedule the Bears have this year. The Vikings and Packers should improve from last season and playing those teams two times each will be no easy task. Outside the division, the Bears have to play the Saints, Chargers, Eagles, Rams, Cowboys, and Chiefs. All of those teams made the playoffs last year and look to do the same in 2019. Seeing this gauntlet of a schedule, I don’t anticipate the Bears going 12-4 again. I think 9-10 wins is a reasonable expectation. Going .500 in those ten games and then 5-1 in games they should be favored to win is how I’m breaking it down. While I foresee the Bears record to be worse than last season, don’t count them out as a Super Bowl contender come playoff time.