By: Alex Patt
One more preseason game before the Chicago Bears kickoff the 2021 NFL season in Los Angeles. The Bears have a few bubble spots up for grabs, but overall we have a good idea of what the roster will look like.
Like it or not, Andy Dalton is slotted to be QB1. The three-time pro bowler has started 142 regular season games in his career, as well as five playoff games. His last pro bowl season was in 2016 when he threw for 4,206 yards and 18 touchdowns vs. eight picks in 16 games. Preseason games so far have…not looked so great with him under center…but that might not be all on him.
Look, the team has concerns. The offensive line has issues at tackle and the Bears hope future Hall of Famer Jason Peters has something left at age 39. Matt Nagy is taking back the playcalling…not Bill Lazor. As much as I like Nagy as a headcoach, his calling has not produced good results on the scoreboard and it can be INCREDIBLY frustrating to watch. A lot of the crap we saw the past few years we have seen in preseason. Bad calling, undisciplined play (lots of penalties in preseason so far) and lack of protection will be difficult for any QB, whether it is an aging veteran like Dalton or a potential upcoming star like Justin Fields. Just MOVING the ball has been a real challenge the past few years. That has to be better if they want to win.
There is also the matter of the defense, which is aging and teams seem to be able to scheme against better lately. They also let go of pro bowl corner Kyle Fuller in the offseason.
The defense still does has the talents of Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Goldman and Roquan Smith in the front seven with Eddie Jackson and Jaylon Johnson in the secondary, but they need to get back to getting better pressure on the QB (especially Robert Quinn) and produce takeaways. Hopefully Sean Desai can bring this team back to the Vic Fangio days and everyone stays healthy. This defense on paper still looks very good but it has to produce closer to what it did a few years ago.
Special teams and WR depth outside Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney is also a concern. The special teams (outside kicking) have looked awful in preseason and they need to clean it up.
Overall, the Bears need to:
-Get good QB play from Dalton and/or Fields (feels like he will play at some point in 2021)
-Protect the passer
-Establish a run game and get David Montgomery going to help balance out the offense
-Simplify the calling when needed but do not be too predictable
-Front 7 needs to get to the QB to help the secondary make their jobs easier
-Defense needs to generate takeaways
-Play. Disciplined. Football.
Here is my early prediction on how the Bears will do week-by-week:
Week 1 @ Rams: L
This Rams team, now with Matt Stafford under center, has a great defense and can put a hurting on the Bears in more ways than one.
Week 2 vs Bengals: W
Even with Joe Burrow back under center, the Bengals still have a lot to prove and I think the Bears can handle them in their home opener.
Week 3 @ Browns: L
The Browns can either build off the season they had last year…or go back to being the Browns. As it stands right now this can end up being a real tough game for the Bears if the Browns keep trending upwards.
Week 4 vs Lions: W
The boys from Motor City are in a rebuild and the Bears ideally should be able to take care of them at home.
Week 5 @ Raiders: W
While not a horrible team, the Raiders are beatable and I feel the Bears can take them on the road.
Week 6 vs Packers: L
The Bears can’t beat Aaron Rodgers.
Week 7 @ Bucs: L
Even though they won against Tom Brady and the eventual champs last year, going on the road to Tampa will be very tough.
Week 8 vs 49ers: L
If the 49ers rebound from last year, they can be a contender in the NFC again and their defense (if healthy) can give the Bears fits.
Week 9 @ Steelers: W
The Bears have the Steelers number, and Mack and Co. can feast on what ever the hell is left of Big Ben.
Week 10: Bye
Week 11 vs Ravens: L
Bears historically suck coming off the bye, and the Ravens are one of the better forces in the AFC.
Week 12 @ Lions: W
Bears have won three-straight games in Detroit, including two on Turkey Day. They look to get another Thanksgiving victory.
Week 13 vs Cardinals: L
This game feels like a coin toss, but do not be surprised if the Bears struggle against Kyler Murray and J.J. Watt.
Week 14 @ Packers: L
Hopefully this is the last we see of Aaron Rodgers in a Packers uniform.
Week 15 vs Vikings: W
Minny can certainly contend for a playoff spot and they have talent to do so, but they do not scare me that much and the Bears have historically been good against them at Soldier Field.
Week 16 @ Seahawks: L
The “Legion of Boom” is long gone, but Russell Wilson can pick apart any defense with his arm talent and weapons he has on offense. Especially in Seattle.
Week 17 vs Giants: W
Is Daniel Jones the answer in New York? Who knows, but the Bears can certainly beat the Giants at home I feel. Though this might not be as easy of a game as we think.
Week 18 @ Vikings: L
Again, this could go either way. I just feel like the two teams will split this year so I gave benefits to the home teams.
I think at least they are a seven win team and if some close games go their way, can get eight or nine wins at the most. The schedule is tough and it will be a big test for them. When Justin Fields plays can make a huge impact, but until then we assume Dalton will be starting under center.
I want the Bears to be better and make the playoffs…I really do. I just do not think they are quite good enough to do so. Competitive? Sure, but contenders…meh. I hope I am wrong! Go Bears.