Second-Chance Bears Look to Make Noise in North

Ryan Pace was heavily scrutinized in 2017 for trading up one spot in the draft to select unproven quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick. 

Four years later, a passionate Chicago Bears fan base was ready to serve Pace’s head on a silver platter after failing to strike a deal with Seattle for superstar quarterback Russell Wilson. Instead of getting an upgrade at the most important position in all of the professional sports, the Bears settled on beyond his prime Andy Dalton. 

A few weeks later, Pace and the Bears’ brass saved face by once again moving up in the draft and this time selecting Ohio State star Justin Fields.

Although head coach Matt Nagy insists that Dalton will be the starter heading into the season, knowing a franchise quarterback is finally on the roster has most fans willing to be somewhat patient.

In a roller coaster of a season, the Bears backed into the playoffs with an 8-8 record as Trubisky and Nick Foles (still currently on the roster) split time under center. 

According to BetUs, the Bears will take a slight step back this season as the experts on the site — which is one of the Tops Sportsbooks at Online Betting Sports — have set the Bears over/under of wins at 7.5.

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Waiting Game

As mentioned above, the Bears have repeated that Justin Fields is not the immediate starter. Andy Dalton was promised the starting gig when he signed with the team in the offseason and Nagy and company are sticking to that; for now.

According to local media that closely follow the team on a daily basis, Fields has impressed not only with his reps in practice but also in the film room and in his preparation. The bold move of trading up in the draft for a legit franchise-type quarterback that the team has desperately needed for countless years may have bought Pace and Nagy a couple of years. This is most likely a deciding factor as to slow-playing Fields into the job, but if he continues to impress, expect to see a change sooner than later and the fan base will erupt — in a positive way for a change.

Not an Easy Road

Along with the quarterback controversy, the Bears are faced with a daunting schedule. Only Pittsburgh and Baltimore have a tougher strength of schedule — based on 2020 results. Bears’ opponents in 2021 finished last season with a .550 winning percentage so hitting the projected 7.5 wins will not be an easy task no matter who is under center for the team.

The toughest stretch of games starts in NFL Week 6 and ends in NFL Week 11. 

The Bears welcome Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to Soldier Field in NFL Week 6 before traveling to face the defending Super Bowl champs and Tom Brady. Fans will be quick to point out the Bears handed the Bucs a loss last season, and we are sure Mr. Brady is well aware of this as well.

From Tampa, the Bears host San Francisco in NFL Week 8 and travel to Pittsburgh in NFL Week 9. After its bye in NFL Week 10, Chicago plays host to Baltimore. 

Pittsburgh and San Fran are favorable games and if the Bears can somehow scratch out a win in one of the other three games to finish 3-2 in this stretch, it could fare well in not only hitting the 7.5 win total but also a possible playoff berth.

Other Key Non-Divisional Games

Maybe it’s a good thing the Bears plan to start Dalton ahead of Fields…at least for the opener. Chicago travels to the Los Angeles Rams in NFL Week 1. Bovada — other top sportsbooks at Online Betting Sports — has the Rams as a 7-point favorite in this matchup at -110 odds to cover and -350 on the Moneyline. For those betting on the upset to start the season, Chicago is +275 on the ML.

In Week 3, the Bears travel to Cleveland, play host to Arizona in Week 13 which could be highly entertaining if we get a Fields vs. Kyler Murray matchup, and travel to Seattle in NFL Week 16.

Bucking the Trend

The Bears and Packers “rivalry” has been one-sided over the last 11 years. The Packers have dominated the series by winning 19 of the last 23 head-to-head meetings. With the first of two meetings, this season not taking place until NFL Week 6 there’s a good chance Fields will be under center. What better way to jumpstart a career in Chicago than knocking off the hated Packers. A pair of wins against the Packers would go a long way in reaching the top of the NFC North once again. According to Betonline.ag, the Bears are +575 odds of winning the division. 

Green Bay is the heavy favorite at -150 and are also +1100 to win the Super Bowl in what could be Rodgers’ last dance in Green Bay.

Key Players

Feeding David Montgomery may be the best plan of action the Bears could take this season. A healthy Tarik Cohen in the backfield and as a gadget back will also be beneficial to not only Montgomery but also whoever is under center.

Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, and Marquise Goodwin add some explosive dynamics in the passing game and Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham are a good combination at the tight end position.

Of course, the defense is stacked with Kahlil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, Jaylon Johnson, and Eddie Jackson. Add in newly signed Alec Ogletree into the mix and the Bears’ defense could return to elite status this season.

BetUs has Mack at +1200 odds to win Defensive Player of the sixth — sixth shortest odds. 

Prediction

No matter how long it takes for the Bears to move Fields into the starting position, Dalton should provide as a game manager at the least and will keep the team in games. Inserting Fields will be a boost of energy and could get them over the hump. With the defense playing with a chip on its shoulder the Bears should be competitive no matter who the opponent. 

Chicago should be able to easily hit the 7.5 win total on the season but unseating Green Bay may be another year away.

Final 2021-22 Season Prediction: 9-8, 3rd NFC North

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