Adam L. Jahns: Analyzing the Bears’ successes, hurdles as home stretch begins
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The home stretch is here, with the Bears’ first playoff berth since 2010 well within reach. Sun-Times expert Adam L. Jahns breaks down the Bears’ biggest challenges, and achievements, at the quarter pole:
Are the Bears a legit Super Bowl contender?
No. At least not yet. As good as their defense has been, it still hasn’t resembled a great one that’s capable of carrying the team the distance. A great defense closes out the Packers, Dolphins and Giants. And a great defense doesn’t miss this many tackles. On offense, quarterback Mitch Trubisky still has much to prove. He certainly looks like a quarterback you can win with, and that includes the Super Bowl. But that might not be this season.
Biggest concern down the stretch …
Their schedule. At worst, the Bears need to split their final four games against the Rams, Packers, 49ers and Vikings. The Packers fired Mike McCarthy, but they shouldn’t be underestimated. Not with Aaron Rodgers. It’s still a prove-it game. Nagy’s Bears might be different than John Fox’s, but the Packers-Bears rivalry still includes a victory by quarterback Brett Hundley.
Over the final four games, Mitch Trubisky must …
Be the quarterback the Bears believe he can be. That might sound like too much for a second-year quarterback who is returning from a two-game absence because of an injury to his throwing shoulder. But the Bears’ first playoff appearance in eight years is there for the taking. His development and productive play are essential to that happening.
Does Trubisky’s injury concern you?
It doesn’t in the long term. But he might have some rust to shake off Sunday night against the Rams. Trubisky, though, should be able to find his stride heading into the season finale against the Vikings. The Rams, Packers and 49ers rank 24th, 20th and 29th in opposing quarterback passer rating, respectively.
Matt Nagy’s biggest challenge will be …
Finishing what he started. It’s a cliché, but it represents the Bears’ current predicament, with an 8-4 record and three meaningful games against the Rams, Packers and Vikings remaining.
The Bears’ MVP is …
TBD. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack, safety Eddie Jackson, cornerback Kyle Fuller and Hicks all have their cases. But a representative from the offense’s turnaround under Nagy should also be considered. Trubisky? Cohen? The Bears’ MVP — whoever it is — still has four games left.
Who makes the Pro Bowl?
The Bears should have four on defense: Jackson, Fuller, Hicks and Mack. If Trubisky plays well over the final four games, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go as a potential replacement, either. Quarterbacks with lesser numbers have appeared in the annual all-star game. Cohen also should go as a specialist.
Bears’ final record:
10-6. A five-game improvement from last season would be more than a step in the right direction under Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace; it would be a sprint.