2020 NFL season

Another NFC North prediction has Bears finishing in last place

Another NFC North prediction has Bears finishing in last place

When did the Chicago Bears become the laughing stock of the NFC North?

The narrative that's dominated the Bears' offseason is that they're headed for another regression in 2020. It's expected to be so bad, in fact, that some analysts think they'll be in the running for Clemson's Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State's Justin Fields.  In order for that to happen, the Bears have to be one of the two or three worst teams in the league.

Seriously? What am I missing?

Chicago was 8-8 last season with a minor league offense. They've taken steps to make sure that doesn't happen again with the trade for Nick Foles, and their defense -- which is still universally respected as one of the best in the NFL -- got better with the signing of Robert Quinn.

So, what gives? 

Apparently, it's become fun to pile on the Bears. There's no other explanation for it. It just doesn't make sense. Yet, it continues.

Check out this NFC North prediction from The Draft Network, who has the Bears finishing in last place. Yes, behind the lowly Detroit Lions.

"Chicago went 8-8 because its defense still has a lot of teeth left in it from Vic Fangio’s days; and while Chuck Pagano is doing well to send extra rushers and generate turnovers, the loss of Fangio and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks really set the defense back a few steps," The Draft Network's Ben Solak wrote. "The Bears will need heroic play from rookie Jaylon Johnson and veteran Tashaun Gipson to account for losses in the secondary and pray that veteran passer Nick Foles can catch fire like he does so well to power them into the conversation for the division's best."

It's fair to say the Bears need Johnson to have a strong rookie season, but it won't take 'heroic play' to replace Prince Amukamara in the starting lineup. Amukamara was a solid and reliable veteran starter. He wasn't one of the NFL's best cornerbacks; all Johnson has to be is solid and reliable. And while Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had a strong 2019 season starting along Eddie Jackson, the Bears don't need a hero to replace him either.

As for Foles? Solak has a point. It feels like the Bears are betting on some of that Foles magic coming to Soldier Field in 2020. If it does, this team is more than just an NFC North winner; they'll be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. 

I'm not so sure we'll see that Foles in Chicago, but even an average version of the veteran starter will be an upgrade over the volatile Mitch Trubisky. And if he's an upgrade for a team that finished with a .500 record in 2019, where's the logic to say they won't compete for the North?

Bears fans should love the disrespect and doubt that's flooding Halas Hall. Players who have pride, who care about their legacy, will use it as fuel for a winning season.

It certainly feels like one could be on the horizon in 2020.

Chris Simms to the Chicago Bears: 'You don't have Patrick Mahomes'

Chris Simms to the Chicago Bears: 'You don't have Patrick Mahomes'

NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms joined Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk on Monday and had a clear and direct message to Matt Nagy and the Chicago Bears offense: stop trying to be the Kansas City Chiefs.

"You don't have Patrick Mahomes and some of the weapons," Simms said. "It's not going to happen. But what you do have is a borderline Super Bowl-caliber defense. So play through that and I think that's where they really messed up last year."

Simms continued by saying the Bears can be an "ugly" team that wins 10 games next season if they find a physical identity on offense.

"I won't sit here and be shocked if the Bears ended up 10-6 ... because I think if they play the game the right way and get better at playing more physical on offense, run the football a little bit. They were one of the worst running teams in football last year, their running scheme stinks to go along with it.

"I don't care how good your defense is. Khalil Mack, Danny Trevathan, Akiem Hicks; it's hard to be really awesome and dominate a game when you're out there every four plays because your offense can't get a first down or do anything. So that to me is where the Bears have to change."

Simms is on point with his assessment of who the Bears are versus who Nagy wants them to be. It's obvious Chicago's offense doesn't have the personnel to run the kind of plays he had success with at Kansas City, and that's OK. Few teams do. But the best coaches adjust to their roster and draft a call-sheet that's geared toward their team's strengths.

It's true that the Bears have weapons like Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller at wide receiver, but their best chance for success on offense in 2020 starts with second-year running back David Montgomery, who's expected to be the workhorse in Chicago's backfield. If Nagy can get the ground game fixed and put Nick Foles (or Mitch Trubisky) in a bunch of third-and-short situations, the first-down conversion rate will go up, the points will add up, and the defense will finally be able to pin their ears back and do what they do best.

And yeah, Patrick Mahomes isn't behind center in Chicago. It's a painful reality that will haunt this franchise for as long as football is played. But the sooner the Bears adjust to an identity based on physicality and ball control, the better they'll be for it.

Pro Football Focus' 2020 season simulation suggests Bears are in for a bad year

Pro Football Focus' 2020 season simulation suggests Bears are in for a bad year

Chicago Bears fans are hopeful for a return to NFC North supremacy in 2020. Two seasons ago it appeared as if the Bears would be kings of the division for years to come. Then came 2019's regression and doubt in the general manager, coaching staff and quarterback have returned.

If you're a believer in analytics, the doubt is justified.

According to Pro Football Focus' 2020 season simulation, the Bears will finish 2020 with just seven wins and in third place in the NFC North.

Keep in mind that PFF didn't just go through the NFL schedule one time. They ran 10,000 simulations in their secret lab with a bunch of variables factored in:

With the help of our PFF Elo rating systemour grades and some market data, we’ve simulated the 2020 season 10,000 times and have distributions for win totals, divisional title odds, etc. 

For football purists, computer simulations are meaningless. Games are won on the field, and things like injuries, weather and unexpected player development factor into real-life outcomes. It doesn't hurt that Robert Quinn will be hunting quarterbacks with Khalil Mack and Nick Foles will be throwing accurate passes to Allen Robinson.

Sometimes, you have to trust your eyes (and your gut), even when preseason analytics tell a different story.

Bears fans have a right to feel optimistic about 2020. The team is better. And while the popular narrative right now is the suggestion that Chicago will reside in the bottom half of the league in 2020, the on-field product should produce very different results.