- A new coach, a new offensive coordinator and several new weapons are all set to help out second-year QB Mitch Trubisky's progression. But is he ready to lead the Bears to playoff contention this season?
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Bears 2018 win total: 6.5 (-145 over, +125 under)
Bears 2017 record: 5-11
Key offseason acquisitions: WR Allen Robinson, WR Taylor Gabriel, TE Trey Burton, LB Aaron Lynch, QB Chase Daniel, K Cody Parkey, HC Matt Nagy
Key offseason losses: G Josh Sitton, LB Pernell McPhee, LB Willie Young, LB Jerrell Freeman, WR Markus Wheaton, S Quintin Demps
Five things to keep in mind before betting the Bears’ win total
1. This is one of the hardest picks on the board. There’s a ton of optimism in Chicago, and with good reason. It starts on offense, where new head coach Matt Nagy has brought the Bears into the 21st century. The pass-catching group is entirely remade, starting with Allen Robinson, who gives the team a legitimate go-to receiver. The Bears also signed speedster Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton, a popular breakout pick. The team rounded out the makeover with second-round pick Anthony Miller. Add all those new pass-catchers and an aggressive scheme to holdover backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, and you get a possibly electric offense. Of course, it’s all about the quarterback.
2. Everything the Bears did this offseason was with one question in mind: Will this help Mitchell Trubisky become a franchise quarterback? From hiring Nagy and new offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, to keeping quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone on staff, to every personnel change on offense, all was done with Trubisky at front of mind. The previous regime of John Fox and Dowell Loggains babied Trubisky to an extreme degree, but he flashed athleticism and decision-making abilities that could make him a perfect fit for Nagy’s offense. The pieces are in place for the Bears to be the 2018 version of last year’s Rams. It’s up to Trubisky to bring them all together.
3. The most important thing the Bears did on the defensive side of the ball in the offseason was retain coordinator Vic Fangio. This will be Fangio’s fourth year in Chicago, and he finally has a defense built in his image. The Bears have dealt with a ton of injuries on defense during Fangio’s tenure, but when the unit has been healthy, it's been better than advertised. Remember those 49ers defenses keyed by Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman when Fangio was in San Francisco? It’s easy to see Roquan Smith and Leonard Floyd in those roles. Defensive end Akiem Hicks is one of the league’s most underrated defensive players, and the secondary suddenly became a strength last year, thanks largely to Kyle Fuller’s bounce-back season and the emergence of safety Eddie Jackson.
4. With so much trending in a positive direction, why is this one of the hardest picks on the board? The answer: Have you seen the NFC lately? This is as loaded a conference as we’ve seen in some time, and the NFC North is likely its best division. The Packers and Vikings are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The Lions are no pushover, either. With those teams in the division, the Bears will play six games against Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford. They also match up with the NFC West and AFC East, which means games with Super Bowl hopefuls in the Rams and Patriots, and possible threats in Seattle and San Francisco. The Bears could significantly improve, and still go something like 5-11 with a schedule like that.
5. Matt Nagy has created a heady environment in Chicago, but the fact remains he’s an unknown commodity. The first-year head coach was an offensive coordinator the last two years in Kansas City, but he didn’t call plays until the second half of last year. Not only will he be calling the plays for the Bears, but he’ll be responsible for everything else that applies to the head coach, both seen and unseen. He seems to have passed the X's-and-O's test. Head coaching, though, is an entirely different beast.
PICK: OVER 6.5 Wins