Team Capsules: Chicago Bears
August 3, 2023
A look at every NFL franchise heading into the 2023 season
Anytime an NFL team goes 3-14, there’s really only one place to go.
The 2022 Chicago Bears weren’t good. There’s simply no other way to put it. The 2023 Chicago Bears should, in theory, be better (they certainly can’t be worse). The question for anyone considering a wager on the Bears is “How much better?”
Unfortunately, that’s not an easy question to answer. Last season, just about everything in Chicago felt “new.” It was the first year in Chicago for the head coach and his coordinators; it was only Justin Fields’ second year in the league. Predicting what the Bears could do, or expecting them to do much, was out of the question.
With a bigger stack of evidence to work with, and a boatload of draft capital beginning to meld in the Windy City, perhaps the Bears are working toward an identity – something they didn’t really have last season. It feels as if Chicago is headed in the right direction, but how soon can they get there?
What to like about the Bears…
- It’s hard not to like Justin Fields. He’s a gamer that’s been dealt a pretty bad hand in Chicago but has oddly made the most of it. His passing numbers last season certainly didn’t thrill any fantasy owners, but his ability to run the ball was historically great. Fields rushed for 1,143 yards last year, which was the second most ever for a QB, and it was only the fourth time a quarterback reached 1,000 yards. If nothing else, he’s a gamer.
- About those passing numbers… Who the heck was Fields throwing to when he wasn’t being chased? The low production in the passing game wasn’t necessarily on Fields. Once top wideout Darnell Mooney went out in Week 12 with an injury, the second-year quarterback literally had nobody to throw to. Bears GM Ryan Poles wisely identified this major issue and addressed it, using the first pick in the draft to bring in veteran receiver D.J. Moore from Carolina. Throw Chase Claypool and a healthy Mooney back into the mix, and Chicago’s passing game should be greatly improved.
- The defense has gotten better, which wasn’t hard to do considering how bad the Bears were defensively last season. The Chicago D was dead last in points allowed last season, and second-to last in point differential. Outside of Moore, Poles devoted most of his free agent work to bolstering the defense. In the draft, the Bears used three of their first four picks on defense.
What not to like about the Bears…
- There’s a long way to go. There’s just no other way to put it. Chicago was so bad last season that a return to prominence, much less dominance, feels like a longshot. Winning just three games, it’s impossible to really say what kind of a coach Matt Eberflus truly is. He didn’t have much to work with, so it will be interesting to see what he and his staff does with an improved roster. Regardless, Eberflus is largely an unknown.
- As much as everyone likes Justin Fields, there are reasons not to like him, too. While it’s fun to watch a quarterback run like Michael Vick, most everyone does so with one eye closed. The more a quarterback runs, the higher the risk of injury. And because his receiving options were so limited last season, it’s hard to say what kind of passer he “can be.” No matter who’s catching and throwing, 2,242 passing yards and 17 touchdowns is uninspiring to say the least.
- Most of the NFC North is decent. Without Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay is probably the only team in the division that got worse, but the oddsmakers in Vegas still have the Packers (+350) to finish ahead of Chicago (+425) in the division. The Vikings are a regular season sensation, and the Lions are a league darling on the rise. Chicago’s schedule is somewhat favorable, but the NFC North is arguably tougher than is typical.
Steve Quinne’s Pick: Bears under 7.5 wins (+105)
There’s something about a plus number following an over-under that’s appealing. The Bears will improve – nobody’s arguing that – but in order to win that bet (and only get paid at a clip of -125) they’ll need to win five more games than last year. With home games against the Broncos, Panthers, Cardinals and Falcons; paired with road opportunities against the Commanders and Buccaneers, there’s reason for hope in Chicago. Even so, they’ll need to win those “winnable” games at a solid clip to put a scare in the over. And if Justin Fields gets hurt, it will be back to the drawing board. Like the Bears all you want, but asking for five more wins feels overly optimistic.