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Football NFL

NFL Team Previews: Chicago Bears

The Bears won the North so they also get to play the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints.

2018 Season Review: 12-4 (NFC North Champions)

The Chicago Bears were the surprise team in the NFL last year after going 12-4 and winning the NFC North over the two favorites in the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.

After the 2017 season the Bears finally canned John Fox after a few years of little success and awful offense. The Bears started off changing that by hiring Offensive Coordinator Matt Nagy who had just one year of experience calling plays under Andy Reid. Compared to some of the HC hiring’s this year, Nagy got little to no backlash over having such little experience calling plays. It could be because he was under Andy Reid, or it could have been because the Bears were so poor on offense in the past that nobody cared. Regardless, the Bears went offensive in their hiring mainly because of second year QB Mitch Trubisky who GM Ryan Pace traded up for in the draft in 2017. The Bears were counting on Nagy to come in and make Trubisky a capable QB in the NFL.

In the 2018 NFL Draft, the Bears decided to go defense and pick LB Roquan Smith from Georgia. They also made a huge splash just before the season started and acquired LB Khalil Mack from the Oakland Raiders, getting him over their rival the Green Bay Packers. Between the talent the Bears already had on defense, and the additions of Smith and Mack, the Bears defense was nasty on paper.

The defense was also nasty once they got on the field and they led this team to a 12-4 record. The Bears led the NFL in scoring defense giving up only 17.7 PPG, they forced 36 turnovers (27 INTs, 9 FF), and recorded 50.0 sacks which was tied for third in the league. They were led by newly acquired Khalil Mack who dominated from the get go in a Week 1 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Mack ended up playing in 14 games and led the team with 12.5 sacks, forced 6 fumbles, recorded 1 INT and returned it for TD, he also recorded 47 total tackles with 10 TFL and 18 QB hits.

Not far behind Mack was breakout DT Akiem Hicks who made the Pro Bowl with 7.5 sacks, 3 FF, 55 tackles, 12 TFL, and 16 QB hits. Rookie Roquan Smith was as advertised, he ended up with 5.0 sacks, 121 tackles which led the team, had 8 TFL, 5 QB hits, and 1 INT on the year.

In the secondary, Kyle Fuller led the team with 7 INTs and 21 pass deflections, he also recorded 55 tackles. Safety Eddie Jackson had 6 INTs and returned 2 for TDs, he also had 2 forced fumbles, recovered one fumbles and returned it for a TD, had 51 tackles, 2 TFL, and even had one sack. Along with Adrian Amos, the Bears arguably had the best safety duo, and secondary in the league.

Overall, Mack, Fuller, and Jackson all made First Team All Pro, while all three of those guys and Akiem Hicks made the Pro Bowl. Roquan Smith was named to the All-Rookie team as well. That’s not even mentioning other stud players on this defense in 2018 like CBs Prince Amukamara, Bryce Callahan, LB Leonard Floyd, and DTs Eddie Goldman and Bilal Nichols. The Bears were fucking loaded. In 11 of their 16 games, they held teams to 20 points of less and caused a turnover in every game but two.

As good as the defense was, the offense proved to be up to the task to support the defense in their dominance. Matt Nagy came in a completely revamped the Bears offense and made Trubisky into a capable QB, for the most part. Trubisky ended up making the Pro Bowl by playing in 14 games with 3,223 yards, 24 TDs, 12 INTs and ran for 421 yards and 3 TDs. He had completion percentage of 66.6% which was a 7 point jump from his 12 games in 2017. However watching the Bears you could tell the offense was a bit limited with Trubisky at the helm and he got away with a ton of throws. Also, division opponents that played the Bears the second time around saw more success against Trubisky and the offense.

Besides Trubisky, Nagy found a diamond in the rough in RB Tarik Cohen. Cohen came on after the first few games and ran for 444 yards and 3 TDs, caught 71 passes for 725 yards and 5 TDs, he threw for 1 TD, and also returned 33 punts for 411 yards that helped with field position. Overall Cohen led the team in scrimmage yards with 1,169 plus the 411 return yards. RB Jordan Howard also ran for 1,000 yards but ended up 65 yards short. He had 9 TDs on the year but only ran for 3.7 yards per carry which was pretty poor. Nagy wants to establish the run and although the Bears did, Howard wasn’t the most effective for them.

Receiving wise the Bears were led by Allen Robinson who caught 55 balls for 754 yards and 4 TDs. Taylor Gabriel caught 67 balls for 688 yards and 2 TDs, while newly acquired TE Trey Burton caught 54 balls for 569 yards and 6 TDs.

The Bears overall scored 26.3 PPG which was 9th in the league. They were good in rushing and passing yards per game but they gave the ball up 24 times during the year. However because their defense forced 36 turnovers this number was overshadowed. 24 turnovers was 8th in the league. Every team that was above them in giveaways had a negative turnover differential yet the Bears ended the season with a +12 differential because of how dominate the defense was.

The Bears started out the season slow, getting off to a 3-3 start before winning 9 of their last 10 to finish at 12-4. Two of their losses came in OT to the lowly Dolphins, and Giants on the road. They also lost that Week 1 heart-breaker to the Packers. If you’re a Bears fan, you could have easily gone 15-1 and gotten the #1 overall seed.

Even at 12-4 the Bears still had to play on Wild Card weekend because both the Saints and Rams went 13-3. In the Wild Card Game against the Eagles, the Offenses sputtered and only scored 15 points. In the 3 of the Bears final five games of the year, they managed to score 15 points or less yet they still went 2-1. Their offense failed to score over 24 in all of those final five games and went 4-1. That just shows you how good this defense was.

The most memorable part of the season Bears, sadly for them and their fans, was the sound of a double doink. Cody Parkey missed a potential game winning field goal in the final seconds against the Eagles that ended their season. Going into 2019, the Bears no had a lot of expectations.

Key Off Season Acquisitions

DC Chuck Pagano (replaces Vic Fangio)

Pagano has been a defensive coach his whole career and was a DC at UNLV in 1991, North Carolina in 2007, and for the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. In 2011 the Ravens had a top defense in the league and lost in the AFC Championship to the New England Patriots, a game they actually should have won. After that he was the HC for the Indianapolis Colts from 2012-2017 leading the Colts to multiple playoff appearances.

Now Pagano gets the task of taking over a Bears defense for Vic Fangio that led the league in PPG and turnovers. He has an insane amount of talent plus and once in lifetime player in Kahlil Mack to work with. The pressure here for Pagano is to replicate the 2018 Bears defense, which is probably going to be impossible considering all the turnover they created. If Bears defense does fall off significantly, the fingers are going to point towards Pagano because this defense loses only two key players from last year.

CB Buster Skrine (3 Years, $16.5 Million)

Skrine comes over from the Jets to take over Bryce Callahan’s slot position on the defense. The Skrine signing leaves the Bears with one of the best CB groups in the NFL even with the loss of Callahan. We’ll see if Skrine can be effective as Callahan in the Bears defense.

S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (1 year, $3 Million)

Dix comes over form Washington where they didn’t want to resign him after trading for him mid-season last year. Dix formerly played with Packers and was solid for a year or two, and then dropped off. He doesn’t cover well, he’s constantly out of position, and hasn’t tackled well of late. However, he is coming to the Bears and their loaded defense where he’s probably the worst player in their starting 11. We’ll see if that talent, and DC Chuck Pagano can hide Dix’s inefficiency’s.

WR Cordarrelle Patterson (2 Years, $10 Million)

Patterson comes over from New England after have a resurgence to his career being used as a WR and RB there. The Bears picked him up and I trust Matt Nagy to use him in that way also. There’s reports out of camp that he’s lining up everywhere for the Bears.

RB Mike Davis (2 Years, $6 Million)

Davis comes over from Seattle more as backup to Montgomery with Jordan Howard gone. Davis is a reliable vet for the Bears that can also catch the ball out of the backfield.

2019 Draft

Round 3 Pick #73: RB David Montgomery

Bears didn’t have many picks this year after trading for Khalil Mack, so you could really add Mack to this list. But Montgomery is the only rookie I see making a huge impact for the Bears because he’s most likely going to start from day one. Montgomery was an animal at Iowa State and he’s here to replace Jordan Howard. Montgomery racked up 2,925 yards rushing, 26 TDS and 71 catches with 582 yards receiving in his three years at Iowa State. He’ll be able to do it all for the Bears.

Key Off Season Departures

DC Vic Fangio (hired as HC of the Denver Broncos)

Easily one of the biggest losses of any NFL team this year in my opionion. Fangio is one of the best DCs in the NFL and pretty much anywhere he’s gone he’s created a great defense. The Bears led the lead the PPG and turnover last year under Fangio, and now he’s gone. The Bears are loaded on defense but a coach has a lot to say in your talent performs on the field. Pagano is a good DC, but I see a clear drop off here from Fangio to him.

S Adrian Amos (via free agency to the Green Bay Packers)

Amos got a big deal from the Packers and I’m not sure if the Bears didn’t want to match, or they just didn’t have the chance to. Either way he was great safety for the Bears after they developed him. They replace him with Clinton-Dix, we’ll see if it was the player or the scheme in Chicago in 2019.

CB Bryce Callahan (via free agency to the Denver Broncos)

Callahan left the Bears to follow Fangio to the Broncos. The Bears have a great CB room and they signed Buster Skrine to a multi year deal. Although I like Skrine and the Bears probably won’t miss too much, I like Callahan better.

RB Jordan Howard (via trade to the Philadelphia Eagles)

The Bears unloaded Howard to the Eagles and drafted David Montgomery to take his spot. Howard has had 1,000 yard seasons but just couldn’t get it going in the Bears revamped offense last year. I just don’t think he was the fit Nagy was looking for in this offense. I don’t see the Bears missing his presence.

2019 Season Preview

The Chicago Bears have all the pieces in place to be a Super Bowl contender, but the most important position in sports is still a question mark for them. Yes, Mitch Trubisky had a solid 2018 and led this team to a 12-4 record, although I would argue it was more due to the defense and Matt Nagy’s coaching.

If the Bears want to be a Super Bowl contender, Trubisky needs to take a step up and become a Top 15 QB. The thing is, the Bears defense had a historic 2018 and its hard to repeat that. I am of the belief that a defense can still carry a team to a Super Bowl but its going to be very difficult and everything needs to fall your way. It seemed like last year, besides the double doink, everything fell the Bears way. The defense was phenomenal, Trubisky played well, the Vikings were somehow worse with Kirk Cousins, and the Packers were in disarray from the get go with Rodgers injury. The Vikings, Packers, and Lions all got much better in the offseason. Not so sure the Bears did, until we see what Trubisky can do in year two under Nagy.

In most OC switches, it takes a year or two for things to click for a QB, especially a young guy like Trubisky. So we’ll see if he’s made that jump but most people are not sold on him. Most people view Trubisky as a solid backup in the NFL, not a top guy whose going to make a playoff run. Watching Bears games you could see Trubisky getting away with a lot of throws, and there are multiple reports of Nagy being unsure of Trubisky. If Trubisky is the same guy he was last year, this team isn’t going to win 12 games. Partly because teams now have tape on Nagy’s offense in Chicago and have watched for Trubisky’s decencies as a QB. If Trubisky can improve, the Bears should be right back in the mix for the NFC North crown and a first round bye in the playoffs.

Other than the QB, the other question for the Bears comes in new DC Chuck Pagano. Can he lead this Bears defense to the level they were at with Vic Fangio at the helm? Pagano is a good coach but only has one year of being a DC in the NFL under his belt. Now he’s got Pro Bowlers all over the field to work with, but it will be interesting to see the changes in the defense with Pagano there.

Other than those two main things, the Bears are pretty stacked everywhere else. Even so, the Bears are a good team to pick for regression in 2019. I can’t emphasize enough how good the Bears defense was last year, and how lucky they got, if you want to put it that way, with almost no major injuries. Those things happening two years in a row is unlikely, and they play in arguably the toughest division in football. Speaking of that division, lets take a look at the schedule the NFL gave the Bears this year.

Schedule

The NFC North plays the AFC West and NFC East this year. The Bears won the North so they also get to play the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints.

The Bears have six prime-time games this year. They kick off the year at home against the Green Bay Packers in the Thursday Night opening game of the year. In week 2 they play on Monday Night Football at the Washington Redskins, Week 11 they play at the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football, Week 13 they play on Thanksgiving at the Detroit Lions, Week 14 they play on Thursday Night Football again at home against the Dallas Cowboy, and in Week 16 they play at home on SNF against the Kansas City Chiefs.

On top of that, the Bears play in London this year against the Oakland Raiders, and they have two 4:30 PM games that could easily be the game of the week during Week 4 at home against the Minnesota Vikings, and Week 7 at home against the New Orleans Saints.

The Bears schedule is pretty evened out as far as home and away games go. They do play back to back away games in Weeks 2 and 3, while playing back to back home games in Weeks 7 and 8. However, their bye week comes during Week 6 and the schedule prior to that, is very favorable compared to after. Based on records from last year the Bears only play one winning team in the first 5 weeks. After their Week 6 bye, they play six teams that made the playoffs last year and have a pretty brutal schedule. Saints, Chargers, at Eagles before they play the Lions at home, then they also have the Rams, Cowboys, and Chiefs.

Bears benefited from playing the bottom teams last year and an AFC East that is usually always poor besides the Patriots. This year they don’t get any favors, especially late. The’ll have to take advantage of those early games if they want to make the playoffs again.

Fantasy Player You Want

I’ll take Tarik Cohen all day. No matter who gets snaps at RB for the Bears, Cohen is going to get his touches in the passing game, and running games. He is really a match-up safe player as a RB3 or FLEX guy. Even with David Montgomery, Mike Davis, and Cordarrelle Patterson in the mix, Cohen could have the most fantasy points out of the bunch.

Fantasy Player to Avoid

I’m going to stay away from Trey Burton as my TE1. Burton was big signing last year from Philadelphia but has a fantasy player, he was pretty poor. I don’t want Burton as my number one guy this year either. The Bears will want to run the ball and then I expect Robinson and Miller to get more targets than Burton. Combine that with me not being sold on Trubisky and I’ll let someone else start Burton week after week.

Ceiling

The Bears are last NFC North team of the previews, and like all the others I can see this team winning the division. There is a big IF though and this is Trubisky. If Trubisky improves on last year, I can see the Bears winning 11 games this year.

Floor

If Trubisky doesn’t improve, teams are getting a second look at him, and then combine that with maybe a bit of a drop off on the defense this team could finish last in the division. However, I see them winning at least 7 games.

David Montgomery scores a TD in a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers via Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images
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