The long hibernation is almost over. Chicago Bears fans are hungry to get last season’s awful taste out of their mouths. We don’t need to recap that lousy finale. However, it’s time for the Bears to finally get over the double-doink defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles. Move on and use it to get better. That loss has fueled the team and their fans for the last seven to eight months. Let’s preview the Bears season and how Chicago can win that elusive Super Bowl title.
Chicago Bears 2019 Season Preview
Moving forward to the upcoming 2019 season, Chicago fans are exuberant because there are a lot of reasons to be amped up for an eventful year. It’s head coach Matt Nagy’s second season. It’s quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the offense’s second year in the same system. Wide receiver Allen Robinson is another year removed from his ACL surgery. The running back personnel is a better fit for Nagy’s system. The NFL’s best defense is back with ten of eleven starters returning and possible improvements for the strong safety and nickelback positions. Finally, there’s a new kicker.
Last year, readers laughed when I predicted the Bears would go 10-6 and make the NFC Playoffs as a Wild Card behind the supposed NFC North Champion Minnesota Vikings. Then the team went out there and made my crystal ball look cloudy……… with under-appreciation. Chicago promptly went 12-4 and won the NFC North Division Championship. So what’s next?
Super Bowl LIV. In fact, we predict the Chicago Bears will be the Super Bowl LIV Champions. This is the year. In the 100th season of the NFL, in the 100th season of the league founded by George “Papa Bear” Halas, the Chicago Bears will win their first Championship since the glorious, iconic 1985 Bears trounced their way to victory in Super Bowl XX. Super Bowl LIV is on February 2, 2020, which would have been Papa Bear’s 125th Birthday. And 54 is the jersey number of Chicago’s most recent Hall of Famer, linebacker Brian Urlacher. Omens? It all seems too good to be true to Bears fans, but it’s not. Here are some reasons why it’s not just high hopes.
A Stacked Roster
General Manager Ryan Pace has built this roster into one of the league’s best. ESPN.com listed Chicago with the fifth-best roster in the NFL over this past off-season. This is the best Bears team since Coach Ditka’s heyday in the 1980s. Led by Matt Nagy, Chicago fully expects to go to the Super Bowl and beat the AFC Champion for the Lombardi Trophy.
The Football Outsiders Almanac 2019 uses their detailed DVOA system to rank teams. Last year’s Bears finished 5th in their Total DVOA and 1st in defense. They led the NFL in Pythagorean Wins, which “gives the approximate number of wins expected last year based on this team’s raw totals of points scored and allowed.” In other words, Chicago’s 12-4 translated to 11.6 Pythagorean wins, the highest mark in the league.
Football Outsiders also calculated that last year’s Bears recorded the eighth-best single-season defense since 1986 (First on that list was the 1991 Eagles. Second was the ’86 Bears.)
Will the defense take a step back this year? It’s possible that the loss of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, slot cornerback Bryce Callahan, and strong safety Adrian Amos will be too much to replace. However, these losses could be mitigated by other gains.
Outside linebacker Khalil Mack will be even better based on the fact he was able to attend training camp this summer. He’s now had time to learn the playbook and get acclimated to his teammates. With no time to get ready last year, Mack totaled 12.5 sacks. This year he could improve on that number.
Second-year inside linebacker Roquan Smith will improve too. Smith is another defender who was able to attend Bears training camp for the first time in Bourbonnais. As a rookie, Smith led the team in tackles with 121 despite his contract impasse which caused him to be the very last first-round draft pick to sign. Despite that obstacle, according to Football Outsiders Almanac 2019, Smith “bested [Leighton Vander Esch and Darius Leonard] in the area most pertinent to today’s NFL: coverage. Among his young peers, Smith’s range and instincts in coverage are unmatched.” Look for Smith to become an elite NFL linebacker.
Other youngsters such as outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and 3-4 Defensive End Bilal Nichols are entering their primes and will improve. Floyd has had injury troubles in the past. He’s overdue for some luck in the injury department. If he does, he will have his best season yet. Nichols surprised people last year as a rookie. He was a 5th rounder out of Delaware. He has seemingly surpassed Roy Robertson-Harris on the depth chart to become the starter at defensive end opposite Akiem Hicks.
On offense, everybody looks at the quarterback. Mitch Trubisky is entering his third season after improving rapidly as he learned Matt Nagy’s scheme. Rarely talked about is offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich but he will likely get more accolades as this Bears offense will improve on their 26.3 points per game of ’18. Not only will Trubisky improve with experience but the offense as a whole will get better because the running backs fit the scheme better than Jordan Howard did last year. Rookie David Montgomery is a shifty third-rounder who led the NCAA last year in broken tackles. He should also be a better receiver out of the backfield than Howard, whom Nagy got bored with as the season wore on.
At receiver, the Bears are arguably as deep as they’ve been since…. ever? A few years ago this position was clearly the team’s worst. Ryan Pace has worked at it and improved the corps by landing free agents like Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel while drafting Anthony Miller, Javon Wims, and Riley Ridley. Again, the experience gained in Nagy’s system along with the rapport from Trubisky will only increase the productivity by this unit.
Questions remain as they always do. Will new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano be able to replicate the success of Vic Fangio? Will the kicking situation be stabilized? Can Chicago handle the tougher schedule in 2019?
Probable Starting Lineup
QB #10 Mitch Trubisky – He will improve in ’19 in 3rd overall season, his second with coach Nagy.
RB #32 David Montgomery – He’s a better fit than Jordan Howard, now with the Eagles.
RB #29 Tarik Cohen – Tarik is the ideal “Joker Back” for this offense.
WR #12 Allen Robinson – Robinson will thrive in ’19 as he is another year removed from his ACL injury.
WR’s #18 Taylor Gabriel & WR #17 Anthony Miller – Gabriel is a quick, twitchy player. Remember him on Atlanta? As for Miller, he’s now entering his second season and this time he should be healthy, unlike his impressive rookie season when he was dogged by a nagging shoulder injury that held him back from possible Rookie of the Year honors.
TE #80 Trey Burton – A big reason for the loss to Philadelphia was the fact that Burton contracted a mysterious injury just two days before the Playoff game. Was his injury physical or mental? Some questions remain about Burton and his reliability.
LT #72 Charles Leno – Leno is underappreciated.
LG #65 Cody Whitehair – Whitehair is moving back to Guard. This should earn him a Pro Bowl berth.
C #68 James Daniels – Daniels’ natural position is Center. Offensive Line Coach Harry Hiestand is a great line coach and he believes Daniels is best suited at Center. This move could help two positions because Whitehair gets to move back to his more natural position of LG.
RG #75 Kyle Long – A fighter, but how much longer can he defeat Father Time?
RT #70 Bobby Massie
DE #96 Akiem Hicks – A mountain of a man, Hicks should be named All-Pro this year after earning his first Pro Bowl invitation last year.
DT #91 Eddie Goldman
DE #98 Bilal Nichols – Nichols is ready to break out.
OLB #52 Khalil Mack – What needs to be said about Mack? Not much. Mack is a favorite for 2019 Defensive Player of the Year.
ILB #58 Roquan Smith – Smith will break out in his second season and earn All-Pro honors.
ILB #59 Danny Trevathan – Trevathan is a valuable veteran winner. Don’t forget he led Denver’s defense in tackles in 2015 on their way to the Super Bowl 50 Championship.
OLB #94 Leonard Floyd – Floyd has so much potential. He should blossom this year more than ever with his surrounding cast.
CB #23 Kyle Fuller – What a rollercoaster it’s been for Fuller. He almost lost his roster spot prior to last season. Then he worked hard to lead the NFL in interceptions. This year he is a potential All-Pro selection at CB.
CB #20 Prince Amukamara
SS #21 Ha Ha Clifton-Dix – He’s a question mark. Can he fill in for the departed Adrian Amos?
FS #39 Eddie Jackson – Jackson is another potential All-Pro. His ankle injury that kept him out of the Playoff loss was probably the single biggest reason that Chicago did not prevail against the Eagles. Had he played, he might have created that big takeaway just like he had been providing for the Bears defense all season.
K #15 Eddy Pineiro – He nailed every kick at Indianapolis the other day, including a 58-yard bomb. He once hit a 70 yarder in practice at Florida. Nonetheless, he’ll be a question mark until he proves otherwise.
P #16 Pat O’Donnell
Looking at the schedule, it’s definitely more challenging than last season’s easier slate of games because of the NFL’s “4th Place schedule” versus this year’s “1st Place schedule”. Nonetheless, Chicago’s biggest challenges and probable losses look to be three separate road games in November and December. Facing the Eagles in Philadelphia on November 3 is a tough game that the Bears will likely lose.
Two weeks later, Chicago travels to the West Coast to play the Rams in Los Angeles. The Rams are so good at home (7-1 last year). After the Bears demolished L.A. last year in Soldier Field by shutting down Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, look for Rams HC Sean McVay to adjust and take the Bears defense by surprise.
Then in the season finale, Chicago must travel to Minnesota. Look for a loss there in a possibly meaningless game if the Bears have already clinched home-field advantage. Add it all up and look for Chicago to go 13-3 overall by winning all eight at Soldier Field and going 5-3 on the road. A 13-3 record will likely earn the Bears the Playoff bye as the #1 seed. Chicago will beat New Orleans at Soldier Field in the NFC Divisional Round. The Bears will then exact revenge against the L.A. Rams from their regular-season loss in the Coliseum by crushing the Rams at Soldier Field in the NFC Championship Game.
Finally, on February 2, 2020, the Chicago Bears will beat Kansas City in Super Bowl 54 in Miami, FL’s Hard Rock Stadium. The old adage “Defense wins Championships” will be proven once again in what would be a spectacular Super Bowl matchup between mentor Head Coach Andy Reid and protege Head Coach Matt Nagy. Plus, this fantastic showcase will be billed as the “best offense versus best defense” matchup between Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs offense against the dominant Bears “Monsters of the Midway” defense.
As you can see, there are high hopes for Chicago this year. Here are some other predictions from around the globe this preseason:
Lindy’s Pro Football 2019 Preview picks Chicago to lose in the NFC Championship to New Orleans.
Athlon’s 2019 NFL Preview predicts the Bears to win the NFC but lose to Kansas City in Super Bowl 54.
ESPN The Magazine calls for an NFC North Division Championship for Chicago but ultimately a loss before the NFC Championship game.
Sports Illustrated’s NFL Preview 2019 has the Bears in last place. Who wrote that Crystal Ball? Does SI think Detroit will finish ahead of anybody?
Given that the National Football League is built to promote parity at all costs, we realize anything could happen. Having said that, Chicago has as good a chance as any NFL team to go all the way. For now, the Crystal Ball envisions Virginia McCaskey hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy on her father “Papa Bear” George Halas‘s 125th birthday. The Bears will win Super Bowl LIV. What do you see happening this season?
Embed from Getty Images