Have as sparkling a first four games defensively as the 2018 Bears did, and it’s going to be difficult to sink their rankings in advanced metrics entirely. Numbers can indeed be propped up by prior performance.
The Bears have been gashed in two straight weeks by the Dolphins and Patriots, yet somehow still possess the No. 1 overall defense in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Part of them maintaining that stranglehold is the fact that they’ve been able to create six turnovers even as their defense has taken steps back in recent weeks.
The other part of it, is that no one in the NFL really plays great defense anymore. Chicago has the worst defense to ever rank at No. 1 overall seven weeks into an NFL season. This is a passing league with an abundance of bend-but-don’t-break defenses. Chances are that isn’t the case if Khalil Mack doesn’t roll his ankle in Miami 10 days ago, as the Bears would’ve continued to run roughshod on the league. But, it’s a fact nonetheless, and a question they must answer for as Mack certainly won’t be 100 percent again any time soon.
Offensive performance is a different story for these Bears, as they continue to ascend according to the numbers. They haven’t yet put together a 60-minute performance against a quality defense, but continue to show explosive bursts in intermittent periods most NFL offensive coordinators would be envious of.
In their last three games, the Bears have averaged over 470 yards of offense a game and 36 points. That kind of production led by Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky has translated into pro football’s No. 13 overall offense in DVOA. This comes after consistently ranking in the bottom over the first three games. Say what you justifiably will about Trubisky’s errant ways as a developing passer, but this Bears offense is on the right track provided they can continue to progress.
Where the Bears experienced the most precipitous drop after their 38-31 defeat to the Patriots on Sunday is in special teams play. Going in, Chris Tabor’s crew had the No. 9 overall third phase. After allowing two special teams scores in one game, they have dropped all the way down to No. 25 overall and have a lot of ground to make up. Given that there are often only a max of 15 to 16 special teams plays a game, it’ll be awhile before Tabor and company can improve their standing.
Fortunately, a reeling Jets team visits Chicago this week, so the Bears can pump up all of their relevant numbers against a team they should beat. The key there: should.
Robert is the Editor-in-chief of The Blitz Network (subscribe here!), the managing editor of Windy City Gridiron, and writes for a host of other fine publications. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.