We are nearly there.
The Chicago Bears are about to make their regular season bow. Difficult decisions have been finalized and the necessary cuts have been made. The depth chart has solidified. The preseason has given us reasons for optimism and areas of concern.
But now … it’s time for football.
The Bears writing team at Pro Football Spot are gearing up for the 2017 campaign. Writers Bryan Dietzler (@bdietzler) and Gareth Wood (@geeewood) took the chance to have ‘virtual sit-down’, to get their predictions on record and discuss how they think this season will unfold.
Lets start with an easy one. What is the Bears record this year?
Bryan: The Bears will go 7-9. They will start out slow but end with a 7-9 record as long as they stay healthy. If they have a bunch of guys land on IR like they did last season then they will come close to repeating last year’s record. I also expect Trubisky will be starting at some point this season, possibly after the bye week.
Gareth: In the prediction game it is always tempting to refer to what the Vegas odd-makers are indicating. They have set the line for Chicago season wins at 5.5. That line is very clearly set for their own benefit but I think it is pretty instructive.
When it comes to the Bears my default setting is wildly optimistic. I’m also going for 7-9. When I look at the schedule I’m not sure where the seven wins come from. But I’m thinking back to recent years and I can’t recall any games that the Bears won when they shouldn’t. I think this could be the year of the freak result.
Who — when all is said and done — with be the Offensive MVP on this team ?
Gareth: It is very hard to see anyone beyond Jordan Howard. He figures to be a huge part of the team’s offense this year. It would be almost a dereliction of duty to not lean on his talent. He is going to be asked to shoulder a lot of responsibility this year — more than anticipated now that Meredith is out for the year.
Bryan: The MVP this season is someone that isn’t going to gain a lot of yards or score any touchdowns but instead will be an inspiration and a leader on offense. That player is Kyle Long. I think that Long’s leadership will help carry this team through the tough times they are sure to have and that he will be the glue that keeps the offense together. The value of his leadership cannot be denied.
On the Defensive side?
Bryan: Akiem Hicks showed that he was the Bears’ best defender last season and will do that again this year. His seven sacks in 2016 were forgotten by some but his impact cannot be denied. He will have that same effect this season and be the heart and soul of the Bears defense. Hicks should even make the Pro Bowl.
Gareth: When the Bears announced their intention to go to a 3-4 package I was excited. At the time I was skeptical that the personnel was there. The Bears have taken some time acquiring guys that can fit that scheme.
To be a great 3-4 defense unit you need a great Nose Tackle. Eddie Goldman can be a great Nose Tackle in this league. The outside linebackers should get the sacks, be the disrupters and demand attention. But if this defense is to be successful — particularly against the run — Eddie Goldman should be a major factor. This is year three for him. I’m expecting big things.
Is John Fox the Head Coach of this team opening day 2018?
Gareth: My gut says no. But the bigger question to me is “if not Fox then who?”. That’s the concern for me.
I like Fox. He seems like a pretty decent guy. I’m rarely baffled by his decisions. I’m rarely blown away by him either.
I really like Vic Fangio. I am typically drawn to defensive guys. He has to be in the conversation for next Head Coach.
Despite my defensive leanings I was upset that Adam Gase was able to leave for Miami. He could have been a great successor.
I think when I look at this roster — and this organization as a whole — I see a team poised for improvement. The Bears have their quarterback. It would be great to pair him with a young, energetic, charismatic and intelligent Head Coach. Someone genuinely exciting. I just don’t see an obvious candidate.
I think John Fox is gone. But I would sooner retain him than see the Bears appoint a re-tread coach. The persistent rumors of Jeff Fisher have me in a cold sweat.
Bryan: Fox is not General Manager Ryan Pace’s coach. Remember that he was hired before Pace was hired. Now that doesn’t mean that Pace doesn’t like Fox but it looks like Pace is building for the future and that future doesn’t include Fox. The signal that Fox might be out soon came when the Bears drafted Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears did not draft to win now. Trubisky is not ready to lead this team to victory and the Bears aren’t built to get to the playoffs this season.
Fox is in the third year of a four year deal. Unless the Bears see significant improvement this season they are not going to want to undergo another rebuilding year with the same head coach. They are not going to be patient any longer. Chicago is also going to want to build the team around Trubisky so they will bring in a coach that is offensive minded and works well with quarterbacks.
If you think about it, the Bears should have never let Adam Gase go. He would have been the ideal head coach in the situation the Bears are in right now. But hindsight is 20/20.
Even if Fox wins more games than he did last season, the Bears will still probably let him go. Pace is searching for someone better and Fox is not the coach he wants. I think Fox being gone at the end of the season is pretty much a sure thing.
Can we wrap this up with something bold? What is your most outlandish 2017 Chicago Bears prediction?
Gareth: I have no idea why. But I have a sneaky feeling Sherrick McManis is going to play a bigger role this year.
Clearly a very good Special Teams guys. But I have a feeling — based on absolutely nothing — he is going to play and be a positive factor in the secondary. It doesn’t appear to be in the Bears plan so I have to assume something will occur to necessitate his involvement. That is as bold as I can get.
Bryan: You heard it here first, Leonard Floyd will lead the league in sacks this year. If he can stay completely healthy and play in every game, he will get to the quarterback more than any other player in the NFL. At the very least, he will get to the quarterback more than anyone else on the team. This will be Floyd’s breakout year and he will make all of us forget why we questioned Pace for drafting him with Chicago’s first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.