We’re not even halfway through the season, but some NFL teams have already made serious claims for finishing on top of their respective divisions. The Bears are currently behind the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions in the NFC North. They are fresh off of a win over Washington, going into Sunday’s showdown with the Minnesota Vikings at home. That said, let’s recall where were the Bears this time last year and recap what’s been happening this season so far.
Last year’s preseason didn’t see the Bears off to a convincing start. After losing the first two games, and finishing with two victories out of five matches, the prep didn’t help for the team’s morale. Then again, the real battles hadn’t yet begun, and after also losing their first season face-off to the Packers, dropping the Week 1 game 24-23. The team redeemed itself with a 24-17 win over Seattle for their first victory of the year.
Albeit early in the season, it’s like the victory was a prophecy for the Bears’ ultimate triumph that was finishing on top of the NFC North. The stellar performance of coach Nagy’s boys against the ‘Hawks prompted CBS’s Will Brinson to write that “Chicago [and] Seattle look like teams heading in opposite directions” and that the Bears “look like they’re building something special.” Boy, was he right?
Of course, nothing was set in stone yet, but by the end of the year, having amassed twelve wins out of sixteen games, it had become evident that, indeed, the Bears were heading for something special. Alas, entering the playoffs as No. 3 seed and set up a showdown vs. Philadelphia, who got the better of the Bears 16-15 on a missed field goal by Cody Parkey.
This was a brief overview of the team as a whole during season 2018, but what about the players? Well, the two Bears that were most commented were Khalil Mack and Mitchell Trubisky.
Mack was traded to the Bears at the beginning of September, but his transfer from the Raiders was quite the saga. A months-long stagnation in the negotiations over his contract extension with the Oakland team led the star linebacker to holdout all throughout training camp and the preseason.
In the end, the Raiders traded him to the Bears who signed the player under a record-breaking six-year contract for $141 million, making him best-paid defense player in the history of the NFL.
General Manager Ryan Pace expressed before ESPN his excitement about the deal saying “Elite defensive players in their prime are rare, so when we knew we had a legit shot to acquire him, we did everything we thought necessary to get him.” Mack finished the 2018 season with a total of 47 tackles (solo + assist) and 12.5 sacks; for reference: the whole Raiders defense finished with 13 sacks.
Trubisky was drafted No. 2 overall and last season played a pivotal role for the Bears’ performance in offense which ended up as the ninth-best in the NFL.
Overall, throughout the season Mitchell was praised for his adaptability to coach Nagy’s distinct offense tactics and gained invaluable experience in what was only his second season in pro football.
An interesting moment in the season was Mitchells’ exceptional performance when visiting the Buccaneers, a game that Chicago won 48-10.
It was also a highlight for the QB who set a career record of six TDs, while his 354 passing yards and 53 rushing yards were equally majestic.
Something that made an impression to spectators was that Trubisky wore a compression sleeve on his right arm put there to prevent a cut from opening. But as superstitions go, Mitchell and his teammates were adamant that he wears it for luck for their next game against the Dolphins, which was ultimately lost by Chicago 31-28.
So Far This Season
So, how does 2018-2019 compare to what we’ve seen from since the beginning of the new season?
This preseason, too, wasn’t exemplary for the Bears who won only one out of four games. The team also lost its season debut to the Packers 10-3 but did rebound with wins in the next two games.
That said, is it possible that the unfavorable performance during the preseason, will once again be only a prelude to a spot on the top at the end of season-proper? While it’s way too early to make any definite predictions, the team is undoubtedly hungry to repeat and even top last year’s results.
The Bears successfully dominated the Skins for a 31:15, but at the same time, all of the other NFC North teams triumphed from their third games, suggesting that it will be a tough and competitive season.
Based on current bookmaker predictions the battle for the NFC North winner will be more contested compared with “fellow” AFC North division where the spot will likely be decided between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns based on Oddschecker’s comparison of sportsbook futures odds. On the NFC side of things, so far there doesn’t seem to be a massive difference between the odds given to the Packers, Bears, and Vikings, though with the Green Bay team having won all three first games it makes a serious claim for the division’s first place.
Player Highlights So Far
Thus far in the season, the performance of Trubisky has been a polarizing topic among Bears fans. While some are talking about inconsistent play, others are quick to point out that lapse in the form here, and there are to be expected of any player. Certainly, Mitch did get on track facing the Redskins, with 81% successful completions for 231 passing yards and three touchdowns.
“He understands that throughout this process, there’s a lot of weight on his shoulders to do well. … I like where he’s at,” coach Nagy said about Trubisky after the game, quoted by ESPN. Mitch himself commented, “If we just stick to the process and keep growing and keep learning and sticking together, we’re going to be all right.”
HaHa Clinton-Dix also shined for the Bears during the game, finishing it with two interceptions for 96 yards, including one for a touchdown. The triumph was obviously a great push for Clinton-Dix’s morale who said in a post-win video published on the team’s Twitter that he’s “come [to the Bears] to be a part of something special.”