With the Bears’ season about to kick off, the Sun-Times’ experts predict how successful the team will be:
The schedule is a rough one, which explains why the Bears will win two fewer games than they did in 2018, when they went 12-4. The regular season should end the same way, though — with an NFC North title. It’s no secret that a lot of this is predicated on the Bears staying healthy and on quarterback Mitch Trubisky making a significant leap this season. The first is a roll of the dice. The second is still very much a question. The defense is good enough to get the team to seven or eight victories. Trubisky should be good enough to get the Bears to 10. Right? Right?
This seems like a season for the Bears to go radically up or down. I’m putting my chips on up. It’s possible Vic Fangio’s departure has ruined the defense, but I think there’s simply too much talent, with Khalil Mack and the linebackers leading the way. Offense? Well, I’m rolling the dice on third-year man Trubisky. We’ve hardly seen him or the first-team offense play this year. But Trubisky is the gamble that has to pay off. Otherwise, the Bears go back to the quarterback well and years of mediocrity. Or worse. Maybe this is just hope. But, I ask you: If not now, when?
Only twice since the Bears fired Mike Ditka have they followed a winning season with another one: 1994-95 and again in 2005-06, culminating in their last Super Bowl berth. They’ll do it again this season. This year’s team would beat the 2018 squad; Trubisky has a better sense of the offense, while Mack and Roquan Smith should be first-team All-Pros after a full offseason with the Bears. Still, circumstances will work against the Bears. Their injury and turnover luck is bound to be worse. Their schedule is tougher. And the NFC North will be better than in 2018, when the second-best team went 8-7-1. Ten wins might not win the division, but it will be enough to make the playoffs.
Predicting a season record is different than predicting a season outcome. And losing some regular-season games against good teams isn’t necessarily indicative of how far the Bears will go in the playoffs. They visit the Rams for a prime-time game. They have a game in London, which is often a coin flip, regardless of the matchup. They have to battle the Saints, Chargers, Cowboys and Chiefs. But as long as they clean up in the games they’re supposed to win, those sturdy opponents are the perfect preparation for a deep run in the playoffs.
Nagy has so far pushed most of the right buttons in the regular season as the Bears’ head coach, and if the Bears can avoid devastating injuries, all the pieces are in place for them to navigate a more difficult schedule in 2019. The early schedule — when they should be healthy — gives them a chance for a fast start. With little evidence, David Montgomery as a better fit for Nagy’s offense seems like an offseason narrative that will come to fruition. If it does, Trubisky will only have to lead this team and not carry it. That could be a significant distinction..