With the NFL Draft and (most of) free agency in the rear-view mirror, we are all set to embark on some way-too-early 2020 projections.
And while we don’t have a precise schedule yet, we do know which teams the Chicago Bears will face, as well as a general understanding of various roster expectations. So with that in mind, ESPN analyst Mike Clay has put together post-draft team projections, playoff participants, and the 2021 NFL Draft order.
Unfortunately, according to Clay’s math, things don’t look all that great for the Bears:
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) May 4, 2020
Six wins? The seventh overall pick in the draft? Is it really #TankForTrevor time?
If the Bears really do end up with one of the worst offenses in the league, as these projections bluntly forecast, they’d be wasting yet another prime showing by the defense, which is an all-too-familiar feeling among Chicago’s football fans. Indeed, these are terribly painful charts to consider right now. And yet, I’m having an issue processing this projected reality.
Sure, there is no obvious reason to project significant improvement from 2019 to 2020 – not with the moves the Bears have made to this point. But it is realistic to project SLIGHT improvement from the offense (should it get competent play from the quarterback) and defense (which upgraded at pass-rusher)? Absolutely.
And just the slightest improvement on that end of the field should shoot the Bears past the 8-win season they already had with a collection of problems last year. Think about everything that went into the Bears 8-8 record in 2019. That group won eight games despite sub-par play from the quarterback, a woeful showing from the offensive line, significant steps back from the offense as a whole (and at least one kick that directly cost them a game). If the defense maintains its excellence and holds onto a spot in the top 10, all Chicago would need is an offense that winds up producing something close to league average. Do that and … Voila! The Bears are in the playoff conversation, not battling for a top pick in the draft. So again … is that really all that unrealistic? I don’t think so.
And, of course, we haven’t even discussed the schedule! We may already know the Bears’ opponents, but we’re not going to get a precise schedule until later this week. That’s a problem, because when the Bears play certain teams might be just as important as which teams they’ll play. For example, it might be most ideal for the Bears to get the Texans (as Deshaun Watson adjusts to life without DeAndre Hopkins) or the Titans (before Derrick Henry builds up a lather and starts rolling) earlier in the year. It might also be beneficial to get a warm-weather/dome team like the Saints, Colts, or Buccaneers in the winter. Not that I believe #BearWeather is an unbeatable thing, but the human element is real.
So, you’ll forgive me for not freaking out until at least after the schedule is released on Thursday night. And even then this seems unnecessarily pessimistic.