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Patrick Finley: Bears’ first-half analysis, second-half predictions

Halfway through the Bears’ 16-game slate, Sun-Times Bears expert Patrick Finley breaks down the first half of the season and makes predictions for the rest of the way.

Mitch Trubisky has been …

Improving. In his first three games, he threw two touchdowns and three interceptions and posted a 77.8 passer rating. In the last five, he’s thrown 14 touchdowns and four picks and has a 108.3 rating. Even if he struggles in games during the second half  — and he will, given the inconsistency of youth — the Bears have proven they can win with him. In those first three games, after all, they were one Kyle Fuller drop away from going 3-0.

Matt Nagy has been …

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky celebrates after beating the Buccaneers. | David Banks, AP photo

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky celebrates after beating the Buccaneers. | David Banks, AP photo

The best first-year coach in the NFL. He’s the only one with a winning record, and has more wins than the Raiders’ Jon Gruden, the Giants’ Pat Shumur and the Cardinals’ Steve Wilks combined. Not bad for someone who’d never spent a full season as a play-caller.

First-half MVP …

Outside linebacker Khalil Mack has played four-and-a-half healthy games, but his presence has changed the Bears’ expectations for their season and for their franchise at large. That’s the definition of an MVP.

Biggest surprise …

The Bears have 21 takeaways through eight games. The next one they get will match their full-season total from last year. The one after that will mark their 23rd — or as many takeaways as the Bears had in all of 2015 and 2016 combined. Their knack for interceptions and fumble recoveries has been remarkable.

Biggest disappointment …

The Bears gave Cody Parkey $9 million guaranteed this offseason to make meaningful kicks. He missed a 46-yarder in a game the Bears were lucky to win by two in Arizona, and he missed a 53-yarder that would have beaten the Dolphins in overtime. He needs to be better.

The largest question remaining …

Can they learn to hold onto leads? They blew a 20-point lead against the Packers, only one point off the franchise record for a come-from-ahead loss. They led the Dolphins by 11 and the Patriots by 10, and lost both games. For a head coach whose last game in Kansas City featured a notorious blown playoff lead, it’s no small question.

One bold prediction …

After having zero defenders named to the Pro Bowl in the John Fox era, the Bears will have no fewer than four elected to the all-star game this year: Mack, Akiem Hicks, Fuller and either inside linebacker Danny Trevathan or, if he continues his touchdown barrage, safety Eddie Jackson.

Projected final record …

10-6. Games against the Giants and 49ers should be walkovers, even on the road. Win all three of their divisional home games, and the Bears finish with 10 wins, minimum.