Is this a playoff team? Analyzing the Bears’ biggest problems at the bye

The Bears are 3-2, but their offensive problems cast doubt on where they’re heading under coach Matt Nagy.

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Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears

Bears running back David Montgomery (32, being tackled by Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes) is averaging 3.3 yards per carry this season (69 carries, 225 yards, two touchdowns).

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Sun-Times Bears beat writer Mark Potash breaks down the Bears’ biggest problems at the bye week

Will quarterback Mitch Trubisky be better upon his return?

Eventually he will be, but the standard isn’t that high — his passer rating of 81.0 ranks 27th in the NFL. Trubisky will grow if the offense grows. Expectations for Trubisky this season need to be adjusted — a small step instead of a giant leap.

What is coach Matt Nagy’s biggest challenge?

Doing what he was hired to do — develop a young quarterback and an elite-level NFL offense, out-wit the Mike Pettines and Vic Fangios and put the offense on the offensive. Nagy is great at managing people — players, coaches, media, etc., setting a tone and developing a culture conducive to winning. But his biggest weaknesses right now are many of the things that got his foot in the door. It’s often overlooked that he’s in a developmental stage as well. 

Can the defense keep this up?

Absolutely, but only if it stays healthy. For now, the letdown against the Raiders is a one-off. The lockdown performance against the Vikings is the more real performance. But if Akiem Hicks is out for an extended time; if Roquan Smith doesn’t return to form; and if the wear-and-tear of the upcoming 11 consecutive weeks of football takes a normal toll, it’s unlikely this defense will be able to carry the offense on its back for very long. 

What type of trade is worth a look before the Oct. 29 deadline?

The Bears aren’t in a great position to make trades that will significantly alter the course of this season. They have only two draft picks in the first four rounds (two second-rounders). And their depth isn’t so great they can trade assets painlessly. 

How will the Bears do the next three games?

All bets are off pending Trubisky’s status and performance level, but they will beat the Saints and Chargers at home and lose to the Eagles on the road — putting them at 5-3 at mid-season. 

Who’s winning the NFC North?

It will be as big of a toss-up as it’s been maybe ever. The NFC North is the only division where all four teams have winning records — and every team has potential for staying power. Aaron Rodgers is 22nd in the NFL in passer rating, yet the Packers are 4-1. That’s a bad indicator for the rest of the division. 

Is this a playoff team?

Not right now. At 3-2, the Bears are one of 11 (out of 16) NFC teams currently with a winning record. If that competitive level holds, the Bears can improve and still not make the playoffs. Their offense has to get better — without the defense dropping off too much — to be legitimate contenders in the NFC. 

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