Jason Lieser: 7 big questions (including a trade idea) facing the Bears
A look at whether the Bears are still the favorites in the NFC North, what to expect from Trubisky in the second half and what’s on the table as they approach the trade deadline.
Regardless of how early it is in the season, the Bears are in danger of their championship ambitions sliding away from them. Many teams would be pleased to be 3-2, but that’s unimpressive when the Bears talked Super Bowl in July.
When they come back from the bye week with a home game Sunday against the Saints, they need answers to several problems — nearly all of which are on offense.
As they dive into arguably their most challenging stretch of the season, Sun-Times beat writers Patrick Finley, Mark Potash and Jason Lieser look at some key questions facing the Bears:
Will quarterback Mitch Trubisky be better upon his return?
No. Trubisky has a lot of work to do after his slow start — an 81.0 passer rating over four games — and it that won’t be any easier playing through pain in his non-throwing shoulder. He’ll be in a hurry to get back and surely won’t be back to 100 percent when he does.
What is coach Matt Nagy’s biggest challenge?
If you assume Trubisky s pretty much going to hold his current form, next up for Nagy is straightening out his inconsistent offensive line. The Bears invested tremendous long-term money in this group, and their performance has been unpredictable. The best thing they could do is get left tackle Charles Leno Jr. on track, and that should have a ripple effect through the rest of the line.
Can the defense keep this up?
This absolutely remains a Super Bowl defense. They’re overwhelming and they’ve already shown they can win games without any help from the offense. Throw out the dreadful performance against the Raiders as an aberration. They’ll be a powerhouse as long as they stay healthy, and they’ve already survived a few injuries.
What type of trade is worth a look before the Oct. 29 deadline?
If the Bears want to do anything, it needs to be on offense. They could consider alternatives at backup quarterback, but it’s unlikely Nagy would want anyone other than Daniel. The more enticing move would be to fortify the offensive line. The Bears can’t afford to offload any more future draft picks, so they’d have to part with someone from their surplus of skill players, most likely one of the receivers other than Allen Robinson.
How will the Bears do the next three games?
They’ll lose at home to the Saints, beat the Chargers and win at Philadelphia. That would put them at 5-3, and that’s a tough place to be at the halfway point with tough divisional road games ahead and matchups against the Rams and Chiefs.
Who’s winning the NFC North?
The Packers have a significant edge at the moment with a one-game lead and a head-to-head victory at Soldier Field. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t found his rhythm yet and they’re still off to a great start. Nonetheless, the Bears have the defense to keep them in the race until the end. It’ll come down to the December game at Lambeau Field. Whoever wins that is taking the division.
Is this a playoff team?
Certainly, but that’s not good enough. After going 12-4 last year and bringing almost the entire roster back, the expectation was higher than merely winning nine or 10 games and slipping into the playoff field. The defense alone is good enough to get the Bears at least a wild-card spot, but they’re far behind the Super Bowl contenders and there’s little to suggest they’ll make up that ground this season.