This Sunday, the AFC and NFC Championship games kick off and Bears fans are once again left to wonder how far away their team is from making the playoffs and a conference final. Here are three reasons why the Bears can be closer to playing in the NFC Championship game next season than finishing in last place in the NFC North for the fifth season in a row.
1) It’s possible to go from worst to first (or at least second)– This season’s NFC Championship game features the Philadelphia Eagles who finished last season an NFC East worst (7-9) and the Minnesota Vikings who ended 2016 in 3rd place in the NFC North at (8-8). In the AFC, it’s a matchup of the New England Patriots, who are participating in their 7th straight AFC Championship, and the Jacksonville Jaguars who finished (3-13) a year ago and managed to top the AFC South at (10-6) this season. The Chicago Bears had multiple one score losses and two victories this season against playoff teams including the Falcons, Saints, Steelers, Panthers and the Vikings. NFL games are often decided on the last possession and the Bears could easily find themselves on the right side of these close decisions in 2018 with a young core that is on the rise and a head coach looking to get his team rolling in his first season in charge.
2) The Bears finally have their quarterback– The NFL is a quarterback driven league and the Bears organization and a majority of their fan base believe they have found their quarterback of the future in 2017 #2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky. Touted as a leader and a tireless worker at Halas Hall who has 12 games of NFL regular season experience under his belt, Trubisky is the player the Bears will look to in 2018 and beyond to carry the load as the face of the franchise and push the team to a championship level. Many fans are dreaming of a similar sophomore season to that of Carson Wentz who took a (7-9) team from his rookie campaign to the top seed in the NFC (13-3) and an MVP caliber season a year later before missing the final games due to a knee injury. 2018 could potentially see Mitchell Trubisky develop into the Pro Bowl caliber quarterback the Bears have been missing since…forever.
3) Another solid draft and a few superstar free agents to both sides of the ball could do the trick– With a top ten defense in nearly ever category, the Bears simply need to add a superstar or two to the mix via free agency and have another solid draft to take the next step on defense. This weekend’s championship games feature four top level defenses and the Bears could be a few impact players away from having a defense that can compete at a high level in the NFC.
While the Bears finished near the bottom of the league in offense, they have a solid young core to build around in QB Mitchell Trubisky, TE Adam Shaheen and RBs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Their biggest need comes at the wide receiver position and the Bears are clearly lacking a superstar. If the Bears could manage to attract a big name receiver like Jarvis Landry or Sammy Watkins or potentially land Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant in a trade while hitting on an early round prospect in the draft, the position will receive a much needed upgrade. Add this up with an offensive line that should see an upgrade in the draft as well and the Bears could potentially see a quicker than expected rise in the NFC standings in 2018.
Where do you see the Bears finishing in the NFC North in the 2018 season? Find me on Twitter at @c23v and let me know where you think the Bears will end up next season!