Residents of the NFC North basement the past four years, the Chicago Bears seek their first division title since 2010. How can they pull it off in ’18?
We haven’t seen a team from the NFC North make a Super Bowl appearance since the Green Bay Packers won it all in 2010. A year ago, the 13-3 Minnesota Vikings outlasted the Detroit Lions by four games to win a division title for the second time in three years.
At the other end of the spectrum these days are the Chicago Bears. They have finished in the NFC North basement each of the past four seasons and have a combined 19-45 record over that span. Since Lovie Smith took this club to the NFC title game in ’10, there have been a few head coaching changes. And the team enters this season with former Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator now at the helm.
As has been well documented in this series, it’s not that unusual to see a club go from last one season to first the next. It happened twice in 2017 in Jacksonville and Philadelphia, with the Eagles eventually winning Super Bowl LII.
So what are the Bears’ chances of escaping fourth place in the NFC North and winning the top spot in 2018? If it’s going to happen, the following three things would go a long way towards that achievement.
3. Defense takes another step forward
One of the franchise’s best moves this offseason was not letting coordinator Vic Fangio get away. While Fox was given the pink slip, the Bears were able to retain the highly-regarded coach. This past season, Chicago made a big jump on this side of the football. The club allowed only allowed 320 points and just 28 offensive touchdowns in 16 games. Consider this same team allowed at least 40 offensive touchdowns and an average of 429 points per season the previous four years and Fangio earns big kudos.
The Bears’ pass rush was much-improved in 2017, with Akiem Hicks leading the way with 8.5 sacks. The club also produced 22 takeaways – twice as many as the previous seasons (11). And the addition of 2018 first-round pick Roquan Smith (Georgia) should be a big plus for the front seven. If Fangio’s unit can up its game a few more notches, it will pave the way for a few more wins.