The 2018 Chicago Bears had their share of motivating factors helping push them to a 12-win season and division championship. And, of course, losing the way they did in the postseason should be enough to keep the competitive juices flowing at a high level. But if anyone is looking for more, they can find it in a projection by ESPN’s Mike Clay.
Using the Westgate SuperBook’s projected win totals as a guide, Clay made over/under projections for each of the NFL’s 32 teams as he cross-checked his own formula for projections with that of the legendary Vegas sports book. Clay’s math has the Bears coming in with 9.3 wins, which has him seeing the UNDER 9.5 wins the SuperBook put out as a value for bettors.
Here is Clay’s explanation: “Quarterback remains a question, as Mitch Trubisky has posted one of the league’s seven worst off-target rates each of his first two seasons while posting the league’s 11th worst interception rate in 2018. Chicago will face the league’s eighth-hardest schedule.”
Ahhhh, there is nothing like collecting bulletin board material in April.
Sure, all of the points Clay brings up seem troublesome and aren’t necessarily unfair or incorrect. The combination of a tough schedule and a quarterback who still has some growing to do is going to bring out the skeptics, even if their star-studded defense remains legit.
But here’s the thing(s) …
(1) The Bears are already well-equipped to deal with a challenging schedule, because that’s precisely what they did in 2018.
When CBS Sports ranked the 2018 schedules from hardest to softest, the Bears checked in as having the eighth-hardest schedule. Their list of opponents included the Super Bowl runner-up Patriots, four games against three teams that made the playoffs the year before, and four other games against teams that missed the playoffs despite finishing with a .500 record or better.
The Bears went 8-1 in those games, so the fact that the same formula has this year’s schedule as the fifth-hardest shouldn’t be as concerning as it would otherwise be. Now, this isn’t to say the Bears have it in the bag … but let’s not jump off the ledge because a boogieman is trying to scare you with tales of the strength of schedule monster.
(2) As for Trubisky, he showed real, tangible, and undeniable progress in Year 2 as a pro – all while acclimating himself in the first year playing in Matt Nagy’s system. The arrow should be pointing up as he enters his second season under Nagy’s tutelage. In that vein, Matt Nagy is preparing a game-plan to attack the Trubisky’s inaccuracy issues and other deficiencies. Trubisky owned a league-best 104.1 passer rating on short passes in 2018, so it’s not like it was all bad. Trubisky might be a question, but the Bears aren’t sitting around and doing nothing about it – they’re seeking solutions.
It’s only April, but it’s evident that (once again) the Bears will have to earn respect from outsiders.