The Chicago Bears could very well be this year’s surprise team. While fans in Chicago would argue this was no surprise to them, I don’t think anyone expected this team to be in first place in the NFC North halfway through the season.
But are the Bears truly contenders in 2018 or are they waiting to be exposed? Let’s take a look at the Detroit Lions’ Week 10 opponent.
5-11 record (Fourth in the NFC North)
29th in points scored, 9th in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 25th (28th on offense, 14th on defense)
Key free agent additions: WR Allen Robinson II, TE Trey Burton, WR Taylor Gabriel, K Cody Parkey, LB Aaron Lynch, EDGE Khalil Mack
Key losses: LB Pernell McPhee, EDGE Willie Young, G Josh Sitton, LB Christian Jones,
2018 NFL draft picks:
Round 1, 8 overall - LB Roquan Smith
Round 2, Pick 39 - G James Daniels
Round 2, Pick 51 - WR Anthony Miller
Round 4, Pick 115 - LB Joel Iyiegbuniwe
Round 5, Pick 145 - DT Bilal Nichols
Round 6, Pick 181 - DE Kylie Fitts
Round 7, Pick 224 - WR Javon Wims
Round 7, Pick 225 - LB Devante Downs
The Chicago Bears offense was an absolute mess under John Fox, and this offseason the Bears finally did something about it. Their biggest move was obviously hiring former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy as their new head coach, but they gave him a slew of new offensive weapons to help out, too. Grabbing Allen Robinson II was a savvy, underrated move this offseason, while Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel rounded out Mitchell Trubisky’s new slate of friends.
The defense was sneaky good last year, and that’s why Nagy decided to keep defensive coordinator Vic Fangio around despite the regime change. And then the Bears went out and put the cherry on top of a solid offseason by trading for former Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack away from Oakland Chucky Dolls.
2018 season thus far (5-3)
Week 1: Loss to Packers, 23-24
Week 2: Win over Seahawks, 24-17
Week 3: Win over Cardinals, 16-14
Week 4: Win over Buccaneers, 48-10
Week 6: Loss to Dolphins, 28-31 (OT)
Week 7: Loss to Patriots, 31-38
Week 8: Win over Jets, 24-10
Week 9: Win over Bills, 41-9
- 5th in points scored, 4th in points allowed
- 4th in DVOA (10th on offense, 1st on defense, 26th on special teams)
This has all turned around faster than I think even the most optimistic Bears fans thought this offseason—and there were a lot of optimistic Bears fans.
While the Bears are still searching for a clear, decisive win over a strong contender, they’re currently doing everything short of that: blowing out bad teams, steadily improving every week, and coming pretty darn close to taking down some good teams.
No one will argue the Bears defense is among the league’s best, but let me convince you anyways. They’re both fourth in points per game allowed and yards per play allowed. First in DVOA, first in passer rating allowed (80.5), fifth in yards per carry allowed (3.7) and second in takeaways. Oh, and Khalil Mack hasn’t even played in the last two games, and the Bears allowed just 19 points combined in those two contests.
The Bears offense, however, is probably not quite as good as the stats suggest. While fifth in points scored certainly seems impressive, that is largely aided by defensive touchdowns and turnovers. Chicago leads the league in four defensive scores, and their offense currently starts with the sixth-best average field position. The Bears are averaging the 11th-most points per drive, which is only okay considering the fantastic field position.
A look at Mitchell Trubisky’s standard statistics would make you think he’s made some drastic improvements from his rookie year. Take a look:
2017: 59.4% completion rate, 6.6 Y/A, 77.5 passer rating
2018: 64.2% completion rate, 7.5 Y/A, 96.1 passer rating
However, this is the result more of scheme change than actual improvement from Trubisky. The Bears offense is centered around shorter passes, with the occasional deep throws. Granted, Trubisky has done a pretty good job connecting on those shot plays, but if you look at his Pro Football Focus grade, he ranks just 29th among starting quarterbacks.
But Trubisky debate aside, this Bears offense has been efficient. Headed by a solid duo of running backs, the Bears are averaging 4.4 yards per carry (t-12th) and don’t sleep on Tarik Cohen as a receiving threat. The second-year player has 31 catches for 406 yards and three touchdowns this year. For comparison’s sake, Kenny Golladay has 28 catches for 477 yards and three touchdowns.
To answer this article’s question, yes, the Bears are for real. They probably are still a year away from competing for a championship, but this team is absolutely going to make some noise this year both in the division and in the playoff race. They’re still going to need to prove their worth against the NFL’s elite, but they’ve proven they don’t belong with the middle-of-the-pack teams either.
And this week, they’re likely getting Allen Robinson II, young tight end Adam Shaheen and Mack back from injury. The Lions have themselves a real challenge this week.
Vegas line for Sunday: Bears by 7