We might officially have our most compelling evidence that the Bears are headed to Super Bowl LIV in Miami in February. It comes from CBS’ Jason La Canfora, who rarely finds the ocean from the beach in his “reporting” and predicted Friday that the Bears are his “poster boys for 2019 regression,” poised to cede the division to the Minnesota Vikings and drop out of the playoff field altogether.
La Canfora didn’t bother explaining much of his thought process on his prediction of the Bears regression, instead teasing that he’ll expound on the subject next week.
In the meantime, here are a few guesses as to what La Canfora will say to explain his prediction, followed by our retorts:
The Bears ‘D’ will take a step back under new DC Chuck Pagano, not coming close to replicating their league-high 36 takeaways and six return touchdowns.
We agree Chicago is unlikely to repeat its incredible clip of forcing turnovers and scoring on ‘D,’ two fickle stats that rarely remain steady from year to year. The most recent example: one year after leading the NFL in both categories in 2017, the Baltimore Ravens last season forced only 17 turnovers—worse than only five teams—and their defensive touchdowns decreased from six to an albeit still respectable three.
Ironically, the Ravens were actually even stouter overall on ‘D’ last season, when they led the league in fewest yards permitted and finished second in scoring. The Bears, unlike those Ravens, are led by a younger nucleus, and history suggests Chicago could get even better production from a healthier Khalil Mack after his first full offseason with the team.
But, like Baltimore last season, Chicago is handing the keys to a new coordinator, Chuck Pagano, who in his lone previous NFL season with the same title, coincidentally in Baltimore in 2011, oversaw a defense that ranked third in the NFL in sacks (48) and was among the AFC’s leaders in takeaways (26).
Mitch Trubisky remains too inconsistent and won’t be up to this challenge.
Are we completely sold on Trubisky as the Bears franchise quarterback for the next decade? Not yet, no. And we know La Canfora wouldn’t be alone if this indeed is one of his assessments, with plenty of advanced analytics folks sharing concerns regarding Trubisky’s low floor.
But the arrival of top pick David Montgomery is expected to make Trubisky’s life easier, providing higher efficiency attempts and creating less predictability for defenses to seize onto in defending Matt Nagy’s offense.
The comparisons we’ve long made for the Nagy-Trubisky marriage are Sean McVay-Jared Goff and, going back farther, Andy Reid/Nagy-Alex Smith. Both quarterbacks made big-time improvements in Year 2 of their respective relationships with their QB developers. And at least in the case of Goff, he didn’t have the previous year’s final performance in the playoffs as a springboard like Trubisky, who showed signs of coming of age in the fourth quarter vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.
Lest we forget, Trubisky raising his game in crunch time of the playoffs wouldn’t have been possible without Allen Robinson, who, now nearly two years removed from the ACL, could be poised to return to the Pro Bowl this season. Along with Montgomery, a healthy Anthony Miller and what should be an improved O-line, the offense theoretically could be positioned to pick up any slack left by the defense.
Trubisky might remain a question, but there are now even fewer around him.
Tougher schedule will torment the Bears
It certainly appears tougher on paper in May than it was last season, and it’s possible the Bears are a better team but fail to win as many games as a result of the stiffer slate. But they were only 6-5 in one-score games last season, so it’s tough to say their wins were fluky.
They were also among the healthier teams in the league last season, and although it remains to be seen whether they can start a new trend after last season was preceded by three consecutive years ranked near the top of the league in players on IR, they should be better equipped to weather adversity because of their improved depth and experience.
The Bears season could be defined by difficult three-game stretches coming out of the bye (vs. New Orleans, vs. Los Angeles Chargers, at Philadelphia) and in Weeks 14-16, when a visit to Green Bay is flanked around home primetime clashes with the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs. Yet the Bears could improve their margin for error later by starting the season hot with the reigning top-rated ‘D,’ returning 10 starters, battling four consecutive foes in September with a new offensive scheme and/or quarterback.