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Chicago Bears: First quarter report card

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The Bears are a quarter of the way through the 2018 with a 3-1 start. Just how good have they been?

Chicago Bears v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The NFL is through the first quarter of 2018 and so far, it’s been another fun season filled with plenty of parity. While it’s still early, there are currently five teams that hold leads on divisions that didn’t finish at the top the year before.

The Chicago Bears are one of those, yet they are the only team that is currently on track for a worst-to-first type turnaround. Will it last? Only time will tell, but they’ve surprised many around the league with their hot start.

NFL teams often take the season week-by-week but it’s no secret that they also judge themselves by breaking up the season into four quarters, much like a 60-minute football game. With that in mind, let’s take a look at just how good the Bears have been and what’s ahead in their final 12 games.

Offense

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Chicago Bears Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

So far, it’s been a mixed bag of results for this brand new offense. The good news? It all came together in Week 4 with a 48-10 dismantling of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky finished the game with 354 passing yards, 53 rushing yards and a whopping six passing touchdowns.

Throughout their prior three games, it was a much different story though. Plenty of panic had set in with the fanbase, and analysts around the league, as Trubisky and the offense sputtered out of the gate. Some had even questioned whether or not head coach Matt Nagy should be calling plays.

Currently, the team’s offense ranks like this:

  • 8th in points (27.8)
  • 10th in rushing (121.5)
  • 20th in DVOA (-1.8%)
  • 22nd in yards (341)
  • 23rd in passing (219.5)

Obviously, some of this has been skewed since Week 4’s performance, but one could make an argument that Week 3 had a similar impact in the other direction. Regardless of the semantics, this unit needs to be better but the hope is that Sunday’s performance will act as a launching pad for Trubisky and the offense.

Three Studs:

Chicago Bears v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
  • LT Charles Leno Jr.
  • RG Kyle Long
  • RB Tarik Cohen

Three Duds:

Chicago Bears v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
  • LG Eric Kush
  • TE Dion Sims
  • RB Jordan Howard

Grade: C

If not for last weekend’s performance, this grade is sizably lower. This isn’t to overlook their struggles in the first three contests, though. We’ve seen flashes from the offense and wondered what would happen if they dialed back the complexity and started successful hitting downfield. Sunday we witnessed exactly what this offense is capable of.

No fan should expect 48 points or six touchdowns from Trubisky on a weekly basis, but everyone has seen that the second-year quarterback is capable of doing something that no Bears quarterback has accomplished since the 1940’s. If this unit can play at 60% of what it did, they could finish near the top 10. Consistency will be key moving forward.

Defense

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Chicago Bears Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Contrary to the offensive side of the ball, the defensive unit has been unbelievable. Of course adding Khalil Mack to a top-10 unit (statistically speaking) from last year never hurts.

This Bears defense has taken the league by storm. Not only are they putting up top five results in the way of traditional numbers, they’ve flat out dominated the majority of the time they’ve been out on the field.

To illustrate their dominance a little better. The Bears have seen seven quarterbacks in four games. Two starters have been benched and one was hurt for a little under a quarter.

For a better look at just how good this unit has been, here’s some numbers:

  • 1st in Defensive DVOA (-30%)
  • 1st in sacks (18)
  • 1st in defensive touchdowns (2)
  • 2nd in turnovers (11)
  • 3rd in points (16.3)
  • 4th in yards (294.5)

Through four games, the Bears have been the best defensive unit in football and have thoroughly dominated each opponent (outside of Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter of Week 1). They’ve also had arguably the best front seven in football and all of this comes without Leonard Floyd factoring in the sack department just yet.

As long as this unit stays healthy, this is a group that will end up challenging Lovie Smith’s defenses of the mid-2000’s in most statistical categories. More importantly, this appears to be a Super Bowl caliber defense that only needs a league average offense to dominate in the win column.

Three Studs:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
  • OLB Khalil Mack
  • DL Akiem Hicks
  • S Eddie Jackson

Two Duds:

Seattle Seahawks v Chicago Bears Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images
  • CB Kyle Fuller
  • DL Jonathan Bullard

Grade: A

This unit has been incredible and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, as long as they continue to stay healthy. In fact, this unit has been so good I couldn’t even highlight three “duds” because even the two listed haven’t been horrible.

If Floyd can get going over the final 12 games in the pass rush department, it’s completely possible that the Bears could end up with close to 70 sacks this year. That may seem lofty but they’ve had the lowest blitz percentage in the league at close to 12% and are still averaging 4.5 sacks-per-game so far. With quarterback pressure will also bring a consistent flow of turnovers.

Special Teams

Chicago Bears v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

So far so good for this unit. As many know, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Chris Tabor hire, but so far he’s proved me wrong.

Special teams can be hard to evaluate and I’m not going to sit here and pretend to know how to even do that. With that being said, here’s some numbers for why I believe this is a good unit:

  • 4th in made field goals (9)
  • 4th in punt return yardage (12.8)
  • 5th in Special Teams DVOA (+4.6)
  • 6th in net punting average (42.9)

Long story short, this unit hasn’t given up anything but and has continued to come up when it’s needed.

Grade: A-

What’s Ahead

The Bears have a bye in Week 5 before the attack the final 12 games on their schedule. Here’s a look at the remainder of their schedule:

At Dolphins

Vs Patriots

Vs Jets

At Bills

Vs Lions

Vs Vikings

At Lions

At Giants

Vs Rams

Vs Packers

At 49ers

At Vikings

As seen above, they’ll face the AFC East over the next four weeks. Their current 3-1 conference schedule will come into handy with any tie-breaking scenarios within the conference in the meantime.

The second half of the schedule will see nothing but NFC opponents. Five of those games will be against divisional opponents, which is where their season will likely be decided. Heading into Week 5, the Bears currently hold the top spot in the NFC North and have a chance to hold that lead with a host of winnable games for the foreseeable future.

With all of that being said, they must win within their division if they expect a playoff spot this year. Even if they match their first quarter of the season with a 3-1 record in the second installment, a 6-2 record likely won’t be enough to overcome poor divisional play in the second half.

Even so, every team in the NFC North looks beatable. The Bears appear to be in a prime position to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2010, at least on paper. One way or another, the Bears exceeded expectations through the first four games and have a chance to mirror that through the next four.