The NFC North Projects to be Wide Open in 2020 - Even for the Chicago Bears

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The NFC North Projects to be Wide Open in 2020 – Even for the Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears have been dragged at every turn throughout the offseason, and at first blush, ESPN’s 2020 FPI projection model appears to pile on ….

Check it out:

FPI’s projections sit the Bears down at No. 21 overall, which, in a 32-team league, is obviously not very good. They’re also projected to win 8.0 games with a 41% chance to make the playoffs – a far cry from the 3-win projections we’ve seen previously – which is nice, but I don’t think anyone from the Bears org is pinning this one up on the fridge. However … perhaps that was a rash reaction. A deeper look into the projections unearth a slightly different, more optimistic perspective.

The Bears (21st) may be projected for just 8.0 wins and a 41% chance at postseason football in 2020, but the Green Bay Packers aren’t too far ahead: (1) Ranked 15th, (2) projected for 8.1 wins, and (3) given a 43% chance of making the playoffs. That’s right. The Packers, who won 13 games and made it to the NFC Championship Game last year, find themselves virtually on equal footing with a Bears team that went 8-8 in 2019. Go figure. And even the 13th ranked Vikings (tops in the NFC North) are projected to win just 8.6 games with a 54% shot at reaching the postseason in 2020.

Indeed, the NFC North is pretty clearly the tightest division in football:

As you can see, the Bears, Vikings, and Packers all appear to be in the same ballpark as far as projected wins are concerned in 2020. That should come as no surprise, as they’re the most talented teams in the division (each with selling points that could convince you this is their year and warts that could convince you it’s not). And that helps explain that while the Bears playoff odds/projected win total are apparently low, they’re actually not quite that dire, relatively speaking:

Vikings: 54%
Packers: 43%
Bears: 41%
Lions: 17%

So then, perhaps the game-changer is how Chicago handles the softer parts of its schedule (which is, of course, somewhat baked into the calculus already, but still …). For example, the Bears have seven games against six teams projected to have fewer wins than them by FPI’s calculations next season: Two against the Lions (6.6 wins, 14% chance to make the playoffs), and one against the Jaguars (4.9, 4%), Panthers (5.6, 7%), Giants (6.1, 12%), Texans (7.6, 38%), and Falcons (7.5, 31%). I’m not saying Chicago should take these games lightly (and, indeed, the Packers/Vikings will also play the Lions twice). But I will note that the Bears’ path to the postseason won’t be as treacherous if they find a way to take care of business against teams they should beat.

All of which is to wind up here: The actual projected odds number of the Bears making the playoffs (41%) matters less than that numbers relative positioning among the other teams in their division. And since we know the Packers odds (43%) are virtually the same while the Viking are projected to win less than a full game more than Chicago this season, I take this as one of the more optimistic takes on the season yet.

Perhaps that’s not saying much given how bleak most projections have been, but hey … take the wins when you can, right?

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.