Are the Chicago Bears Legitimate Super Bowl Contenders?

Much of the NFC has not gone as many envisioned, and the Chicago Bears are one of the teams that have epitomized it. They finished 5-11 last year with a rookie quarterback who looked overwhelmed and with no one to throw to.

But the front office felt like they were close to the playoffs, so they decided to make a flurry of offseason moves, headlined by the hiring of Matt Nagy as their new head coach and trading for Khalil Mack.

However, because of their youth, inexperience, and developing talent, 8-8 looked like the likely next step for a young team. A three-game improvement that left them just on the outside looking in would have been a big win for them.

But what we are seeing from them has been as shocking as anything this year. They sit at 7-3 and on top of the NFC North. A division that was supposed to be run by the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.

They are led by one of the game’s elite defenses; a unit that took the next step with the addition of Mack. They are third in yards allowed and fourth in points allowed.

The secondary is statistically the best one in the NFL, according to passer rating, and they combine that with the NFL’s top run defense and an excellent pass rush that is fourth in sacks. That’s as perfect a combination a team can have.

More impressively, however, the defense has generated more takeaways (27) than anyone else and gives them the best turnover differential in the league (+13).

The Matt Nagy hiring is yet another example of how much coaching matters in today’s game. He has brought next-level creativity to the Windy City and is helping a limited quarterback look better than he is, making them a fun, complete team.

Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings was a big test for the legitimacy of their playoff aspirations, and they passed. It’s now to the point that we need to start asking “Are the Chicago Bears legitimate contenders?”

Only four teams have better records than the Bears, and if the regular season ended today, they would host a home playoff game.

They have an elite defense in all phases of the game, a top ten running attack, and a brilliant offensive mind at the helm of things. So, is the Super Bowl realistic?

They took a step forward in that conversation by beating the Vikings, but there is still a “Yeah, but….” surrounding them.

They aren’t quite ready to be included in the short list of Super Bowl contenders yet, partially because of their inexperience. But, it’s mainly because, in the Golden Age of quarterbacks, it’s their signal-caller Mitchell Trubisky holding them back. They have everything but the most important thing.

He’s thrown for 2,460 yards, 20 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and owns a 97.7 passer rating through ten games this season. He is averaging a solid 246.9 passing yards-per-game, but in today’s NFL, you can rule that as below-average. Yet, it’s a vast improvement over his rookie year.

Trubisky’s overall numbers are also skewed because of two excellent games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions. Usually, you can’t pick and choose like that because it’s part of an entire body of work, but these two games are clear outliers.

The Buccaneers own the worst defense in the game and are the worst against the pass (124.9 passer rating allowed) while the Lions are 24th in points allowed and second-worst against the pass (116.1 passer rating). And in both games, most of Trubisky’s throws to wide-open receivers, a tribute to Matt Nagy and also to the defenses.

Take away those two games, and his numbers are 1,760 passing yards (220 yards-per-game), 11 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and an 82.7 passer rating in eight contests.

That passer rating would rank him 29th among all qualified quarterbacks. Also in these games, Trubisky has three games with less than 200 passing yards, and three others with 200 and 220 (twice). That is how he performs when he plays against good competition.

And several of his incompletions have been bad decisions that should have been picked off. For example, against the New England Patriots, the 24-year-old had two picks but really should have finished the game with four or five. If defensive backs had hands, his interception total would be closer to 15 than nine.

During Chicago’s biggest game of the season on Sunday, Trubisky was the last reason they won. He had 165 passing yards on 31 attempts and two picks. “Good” for a horrid 61.9 rating. In fact, they should have lost. But he was fortunate that Vikings QB Kirk Cousins historically performs poorly vs. teams with winning records and shrinks in big moments.

One thing going for him is that he is up there with Cam Newton at running with the football. That has been when Trubisky is at his best. But that is not a quarterback’s job.

A good running game and great defense will get you to the playoffs, but a limited quarterback will only take you so far. Defenses will key in and expose that come January.

Can the Bears win a home playoff game? Sure. Do you trust Mitchell Trubisky to win you one though? Probably not.

But, even if they were to advance, they’d have to go on the road to either Los Angeles or New Orleans to take on the Rams or Saints. And for a team to be considered a contender in the NFC, they will be compared with those two powerhouses.

Do you think the Bears will be able to keep up with their high-powered offenses? Their defense will only be able to do so much, especially with both the Rams and Saints offenses likely playing at home.

Do you trust Trubisky in a shootout? Nope. He isn’t good. He’s solid, with some potential. But the second-year quarterback is closer to Dak Prescott than a quarterback you can go deep with during the playoffs.

He’s a game-manager; a glorified one because of his draft slot and perceived potential. You can’t win those. Say what you want about Nick Foles, but he balled out in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl last season. It’s probably the most magnificent two-game stretch ever by a quarterback.

Russell Wilson was a game manager when the Seattle Seahawks won their lone ring before becoming the elite passer he is today. And Peyton Manning was a shell of himself when the Denver Broncos won two years later.

But, those Seahawks and Broncos defenses are all-time greats. This Bears defense, as good as it is, is not on that level yet. And today’s rules make it harder to reach those standards. And Trubisky is no Wilson, nor does he come close to the experience and cerebral aspect a washed Peyton Manning brought.

Very rarely do you ever see a game-managing quarterback win a Super Bowl. They won’t win or lose you a game but will lose one before winning one. And with the increased importance on quarterbacks, a limited signal-caller will cap a team’s potential and lessen their margin for error.

The best teams today (Rams, Chargers, Saints, Chiefs, Steelers, Patriots, Texans) either have a future Hall-of-Famer or young stud under center. And most people will take a great quarterback over an excellent defense with a limited quarterback. Sunday’s Steelers-Jaguars game is the perfect example, as was the Bears’ Week 1 loss against the Packers.

Trubisky may turn out to be an excellent quarterback in the future, and the Bears better hope so with all they gave up to select him. But we are talking about this season alone, and he has not given us much to believe he is the guy not to hold Chicago back. Bears’ fans may think they can win it all this year, but keep in mind, “Yeah but….Mitch Trubisky.”

Featured Image via Flickr/nazrulklgassam

Sports and food enthusiast. Love reading thriller and Comic books. Will talk almost any movie or tv show (more recent preferred), especially Westworld!

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