Analysis: Are the Chicago Bears any good?

Jake Goodwill
·6-min read
Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks (96) is congratulated by teammates following a turnover during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. - AP
Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks (96) is congratulated by teammates following a turnover during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. - AP

The question on everyone’s lips within the NFL is: are the Bears actually any good?

Every week, bar a tight loss to the Colts, they have come up victorious in close games. Every week the victory has been dismissed for one reason or another, whether it be the opposition, the lack of points scored or the margin of victory.

All of these factors are worthy of consideration when evaluating a team. However, with Chicago’s win over a Carolina side that was going along very nicely, they can no longer be ignored.

The Bears are 5-1, leading a tough division - granted, the Packers have played one game less - and are holding their mettle week after week.

Telegraph Sport looks at the reasons why the Bears should be respected as well as the reasons to be sceptical.

Reasons to say yes:

Winning record

A win is a win. Five wins are, well, five wins. With the expanded playoffs this year, the Bears’ strong start leaves them in a terrific position to make it into the postseason. Even if Chicago is set to falter, just a few more wins could see them into the playoffs.

The winning record also includes some notable wins, none more so than the win over Tampa Bay - which looks even better given their dominant win over the Packers on Sunday.

The Bears defense caused problems for the Bucs, as they have done in every game this season.

Mitch ditched

It was apparent to nearly everyone that Mitch Trubisky should no longer be the starter for the Bears. It took a couple of games for the decision to be made, but Nick Foles improves this team.

Foles, although capable of standout performances, as he showed in his time as an Eagle, is no world-beater.

At the time of writing, using Football Outsiders metric, Foles has played as the 25th best QB in the league, just two places higher than Trubisky. However, the combination of Foles’ experience, poise in the pocket and ability to come up clutch in crucial moments render Chicago a stronger outfit with him at the helm.

Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles (9) passes against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. - AP
Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles (9) passes against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. - AP

Dominant defense

Chicago’s defense is ranked statistically as the fifth best in the league, with their position rising week on week.

Khalil Mack is getting back towards his best, registering 4.5 sacks so far this season with Akiem Hicks just one behind him. On Sunday, shutting down Panthers running back Mike Davis, who had looked unstoppable in previous weeks, was a key reason for their win.

The 2018 Bears made their way to the playoffs off the back of a phenomenal defense that was the league’s best according to a variety of statistics.

This defense is not at that level, but it seems to be improving. An intimidating prospect for opposition teams.

Grinding out close wins 

All five of Chicago’s wins have been one-score games - and their one loss was by just eight points. This could be seen as a negative as they are just sneaking over the line and failing to kill off games. However, good defensive teams inevitably tend to have a smaller margin of victory than good offensive teams. 

It is also worth adding that it demonstrates the Bears thrive under pressure, unfazed by the game situation. 

Reasons to say no:

Upcoming schedule

The Bears have to play the Rams, the Saints, the Titans, the Vikings and the Packers across their next five games. A run of fixtures that could easily result in just one or even no wins. 

The schedule gets a little easier after that, before a potentially division deciding showdown against Green Bay in week 17. 

Over the course of the next few weeks, the quality of the Bears is likely to be revealed. Three wins out of the next five matches would undoubtedly be a success.

Failure to score enough points 

The NFL, this season more than ever, is an offensive league that has seen high numbers racked up with regularity. The Bears have struggled to do that, scoring 30 points or more only once this season.

According to Football Outsiders, they have the 26th best overall offense. If you are thinking: ‘Maybe one of their passing or rushing offense is good’, you would be wrong. They are also ranked 26th in passing offense and 26th in rushing offense.

The Bears do have a couple of playmakers. Allen Robinson is having a good season, in particular. Running back David Montgomery is another talented player but his output varies from game to game.

However, the problem is not necessarily just the personnel, the offensive scheme is struggling to provide big chunk plays. Is that sustainable against teams like the Chiefs and the Seahawks?

Chicago Bears' Allen Robinson (12) makes a touchdown reception against Indianapolis Colts' Isaiah Rodgers (34) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Chicago. - AP
Chicago Bears' Allen Robinson (12) makes a touchdown reception against Indianapolis Colts' Isaiah Rodgers (34) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Chicago. - AP

Competition to win the division

Despite Green Bay’s thumping loss to Tampa, they will remain favourites to win the division. The Packers have also only lost once and have a game in hand to catch up to the Bears record.

While it is plausible that Chicago could win the division, the fact that they play in the NFC North makes it a lot harder. The Packers still look one of the league's premier teams. There are divisions this Bears team could win - the NFC East immediately springs to mind.

The Vikings abysmal showing this year has opened up a clear route to the playoffs for the Bears, but winning the division remains a very tricky proposition.

Verdict:

So with all these factors weighed up, are the Bears any good? The answer, in simple terms, is yes.

Their defense has the ability to put their offense into good field position from which it can capitalise. Matt Nagy deserves credit for getting his defense going, something that most teams have struggled to do with a lack of training camp and preseason.

The Bears offense is good enough to drag them over the line, but that's about it. Do not expect Chicago to start registering 40-point blowouts.

Are they Super Bowl contenders? Not at this stage. Can they make it into the playoffs? Absolutely.