One week before the Bears’ season-opener, the Sun-Times’ Mark Potash makes his predictions for 2016:
Jay Cutler will … have his best season as a Bear, but will be challenged to lift the offense to a new level. Though Cutler was unproductive in the preseason, he did not throw an interception for only the third time in his eight seasons. He’s more efficient than ever, but though he can win a game here or there, he still is not able to put a team on his shoulders.
Kevin White will … be up and down in his rookie season. He’ll have at least two monster Alshon-like games that show how productive he can be. But rookie mistakes and drops will prevent him from producing consistently.
Leonard Floyd will … be a work in progress all season. Like White, he’ll make plays that justify his draft status, but overall, the league will expose his weaknesses better than he can utilize his strengths. But he’ll be better at the end than the beginning.
Main reason to believe in the Bears … John Fox and Vic Fangio. Solid front seven will at least give the Bears a chance to keep games winnable and give young defensive players some room to grow. Bears figure to be better at the end than at the beginning.
Main reason to doubt the Bears … Way too many question marks on the offensive line. Even if Kyle Long returns for the opener, how long will he stay healthy? With new pieces and no continuity, the line has the most to prove.
The Bears will regret … signing Pernell McPhee. At this point it looks like one of the main knocks on him in free agency last year was right on — that he’ll be unable to stay healthy as a full-time player. Bears shouldn’t have let him try to play through the injury last year.
Be excited about … the Bears’ 2016 draft class. Cody Whitehair already looks like a solid starter at right guard. Jonathan Bullard could turn out to be a third-round bargain. Cornerback Deiondre Hall could be a starter sooner rather than later. As much as anything else this season, the Bears need evidence that Ryan Pace and his personnel staff can build through the draft.
Season prediction: 8-8. The Bears will win games they are not expected to win and lose games they are not expected to lose. They’ll have a chance to surprise, but have yet to show they can stay healthy enough to reach that next level.