The Bears enjoyed a very strong 2018 campaign, pacing the NFC North with 12 wins. Sporting the best scoring defense in the NFL, the Bears were a missed field goal away from the divisional round of the playoffs. Cody Parkey wasted an excellent last-gasp drive by Mitch Trubisky and the Bears offense, but the kick might have been blocked, so Parkey cannot take all of the blame in the situation. Regardless, the Bears will look to improve in 2019 and make it deeper in the playoffs.
Over the off-season, the Bears have been subject to a variety of criticisms concerning both sides of the ball. Here is an analysis as to whether the criticism is valid or not.
#1: Mitchell Trubisky is not the answer at quarterback.
Trubisky was named to the 2018 Pro Bowl roster after enjoying a season with 3,200 yards and 24 touchdowns in just 14 games. While Trubisky was not the cleanest with the football, throwing 12 interceptions, he was a competent starter for much of the season, completing a satanic 66.6% of his passes and leading the Bears to 11 wins in his starts. A deeper dive into Trubisky’s year shows some concern about his performances in select games. Trubisky had four multi-interception games, all of them coming in the confines of Soldier Field.
On one side, Trubisky tossed five touchdowns and three interceptions in six away games (eerily similar to Lamar Jackson’s seven starts with the Ravens). At home, Trubisky had tallies of 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions, but almost a third of those touchdowns came in the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his seven other home starts, Trubisky had a mediocre line of 13 touchdowns.
Moving into 2019, Trubisky must improve his play at home. Trubisky has shown significant promise, recording a quartet of 300-yard performances in the regular season and a 300-yard showing against the Eagles in the Wild Card Round. Despite being partially to blame for the Bears not putting the game away early, Trubisky led the Bears into a position to win the game, but Parkey’s field goal did not split the uprights. If the kick sails through, Trubisky would be viewed in a more positive light. With that said, the Bears are confident that Trubisky will continue to make strides as a quarterback.
#2: The defense will be worse in 2019.
There is little evidence that supports the antithesis of this statement. The Bears lost their defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and slot cornerback Bryce Callahan to Denver. While the rest of the defense is in place, and Khalil Mack will have a full off-season with the Bears, it seems unlikely that Chicago can replicate their ridiculous turnover rate from the 2018 season.
The Bears forced a turnover in 15 of 17 regular season and playoff games, and forced multiple turnovers in 12 of them. It can be assumed that those tallies will return to earth as turnovers fluctuate heavily from year-to-year. The eight games with three takeaways will likely decline, and the Bears will be forced to spend more time on the defensive side of the ball. As a result of decreased turnover numbers, the Bears could slip from their perch as the best scoring defense in the NFL as teams will have more opportunities for points and longer drives. The Bears do bring back stars in all three levels of the defense, but regression is due for the unit.
#3: The Bears will relinquish the NFC North.
While the media loves the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings are the most serious threat to the Bears. Both teams have high-level defenses and competent offenses. While the Vikings have the single worst position group (offensive line), they have invested resources to better protect Kirk Cousins and establish the running game. The division will likely come down to a Week 17 game in Minneapolis. However, the Bears would still be a likely Wild Card team.
Verdict: It depends on Week 17
The Bears have a handful of gigantic question marks entering the 2019 season. While the 2018 unit was one of the best teams in the league, the low-key losses of Fangio, Callahan, and Jordan Howard could spell regression for the Bears. Despite those losses, the Bears still have the likes of Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, and Kyle Fuller and project to remain as a top-five defensive unit in the NFL.
Verdict: 10 wins, division crown