It’s almost time for football, so there is no better time to look into a crystal ball at a glimpse of what might be coming this season.
ESPN’s Mike Clay shared his final projected stats for the 2018 Chicago Bears, and we’ve got some numbers to comb through here:
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) September 5, 2018
Let’s circle some highlights:
Khalil Mack Provides Instant Impact
The Bears haven’t had a pass-rusher produce a double-digit sack season since 2014 and have had just seven such seasons since 2000. Khalil Mack figures to make us forget about the likes of Willie Young, Julius Peppers, Mark Anderson, Adawale Ogunleye, and Rosevelt Colvin.
Clay’s projection has Mack down for a team-leading 11 sacks in 950 total snaps. To put that in perspective, Leonard Floyd – who was projected to be the team’s leading sack artist prior to Mack’s arrival – has 11.5 sacks in 22 career games. It doesn’t look like Mack is going to be some one-trick pony either. Mack is projected to rack up 80 tackles and 20 tackles-for-loss, too. Both of those numbers represent the best projections for the team’s edge defenders.
Roquan Smith Will Overcome Preseason Inactivity and Produce a 100-Tackle Season
The Bears’ first-round pick missed the entirety of training camp because of a contract holdout. And even when the deal was signed, Roquan Smith didn’t even set foot on the playing field during the preseason as the team played it safe after he suffered a hamstring injury. Smith will make his debut on Sunday against Green Bay and the expectation is that he’ll bring it from the get-go.
Projections for Smith’s rookie season have the University of Georgia product playing 817 snaps, making 105 tackles, coming up with a pair of sacks, and even snagging an interception. Only fellow inside linebacker Danny Trevathan is projected to come away with more playing time and more total tackles. This type of production would be welcomed with open arms from a team looking for its top prospect to make big plays and become the latest in a long line of stud linebackers.
Mitch Trubisky Has an All-Time Great Year (By Bears QB Standards)
Jay Cutler re-wrote the record books when he was slinging it for the Bears, but ultimately left us wanting more from a won-loss record standpoint. The hope is that Mitch Trubisky makes the Cutler era looks like child’s play. And if he lives up to Clay’s projections for 2018, he would be off to a good start.
Trubisky is projected to throw for 3,954 yards and 24 interceptions. The 3,954 yards (or 247 per game) would be the most in a single-season in franchise history, while the 24 touchdowns would represent the most thrown by a Bears signal caller since Cutler tossed 28 in 2014. If you plug in Trubisky’s projected stats into a quarterback rating calculator, it comes out it comes out to a respectable 86.8 rating. Increases in touchdown percentage (from 2.1% to 4.2%), yards/attempt (from 6.6 to 6.98), and completion percentage (from 59.4% to 61.3%) should not be ignored.
So, you want the bad news? OK, but I hope you’re sitting down for it.
Trubisky is projected to take 40 sacks in 2018, which feels like more than I’d want my quarterback to take in a given year. But I suppose dropping his sack percentage from 8.6% to 6.6% counts as an improvement as far as that stat is concerned.
And then there is that whole interception thing. Trubisky’s interception total is projected to nearly double in 2018. Clay projects Trubisky will throw 13 picks. But before you start nervously chewing your fingernails (seriously, it’s a bad habit … don’t do it), note that his interception rate of 2.3 percent would be in line with his 2017 number (2.1%) and lower than the INT% posted by Jimmy Garoppolo (2.8%), Derek Carr (2.6%), Aaron Rodgers (2.5%), and Kirk Cousins (2.4%) last season. That’s decent company if you ask me, and if it comes with increased touchdown and yardage numbers, so be it.
The Bears Are Projected to Win Eight Games, But Could Do Better
When Clay steamrolled through projections back in May, the Bears were in line for a 7-win season. That would have been an improvement, but it would have left us wanting more. But an updated projection with the addition of Mack on the defense has boosted that projected win total to 8.1.
Hey, that’s not bad! But it could be better. Chicago is projected to have a win probability of at least 52 percent in eight of their games this season. And of the games in which they’re not favored, they could conceivably pick up road wins against the 49ers (7.8 projected wins) and Giants (6.7 projected wins). That means a 10-win season isn’t all that far-fetched. Get. Pumped.