We are officially through the halfway point of the Bears 2018 and all in all, it’s been one to remember. As the team currently sits at 5-3 and in first place, they control their own destiny heading into the final eight games.
Within those final eight games are eight conference opponents and five of those being from the NFC North. So, while the Bears currently hold the lead in the NFC North, their fate will be decided inside the division.
After a 3-1 start to the season, the Bears came sputtering out of the bye week, going 0-2 against the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. Luckily for them, they finished strong with back-to-back wins against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.
With eight games to go, let’s take an in-depth look at their last last four contests.
One of the more positive developments has indeed been the offense. Yes, it’s still been an uneven product, as evidenced by Sunday’s 190 total yards. But the points and yards have continued to mount over the last four games as this offense led by second year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is making noise, even if it’s mostly going unnoticed.
Currently, the team’s offense ranks like this:
- 5th in points (29.4)
- 7th in rushing (128.4)
- 10th in Offensive DVOA
- 17th in yards (358.6)
- 21st in passing (230.3)
- LT Charles Leno Jr.
- RB Tarik Cohen
- WR Taylor Gabriel
- TE Dion Sims
- RG Kyle Long (injury)
- WR Kevin White
Unlike the first quarter of the season, the Bears offense appears to finally be finding its identity. Trubisky’s development continues to trend in a positive direction, Cohen’s impact continues to grow and head coach Matt Nagy is getting Jordan Howard more involved.
The Bears have done most of their damage without their number one receiver in Allen Robinson II, who should be healthy enough to make an impact over these final eight games. Even when this unit has struggled to gain traction at times, they find themselves in the top 10 in points scored — with some help from the defense — but still a large improvement over last year’s product.
This is a unit that should continue to improve as we reach the final stretch of the season and will be key for any potential postseason success.
After a red hot start, this unit took a deep dive to mediocrity through their first two games of the second quarter. Despite that, they found a way to end up as the top graded defense for both Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus. Needless to say, it’s been a down year for defensive football. At least to kick off the 2018 season. Even, the Bears find themselves as one of the best units in football, with a chance for even more improvement in the final eight games.
- 1st in Defensive DVOA
- 7th in sacks (24)
- 1st in defensive touchdowns (4)
- 2nd in turnovers (21)
- 4th in points (19.1)
- 5th in yards (321.4)
- DL Akiem Hicks
- CB Kyle Fuller
- CB Bryce Callahan
- DL Jonathan Bullard
- S Adrian Amos
- OLB Khalil Mack (Injuries)
Coming out of the bye week, the majority of the focus was on the team’s offensive performance in Week 4 after Trubisky threw for six touchdowns. Yet, it was the defense that came out flat and gave up 55 defensive points in its first two games. On top of that, their stud pass rusher in Mack was hobbled by an ankle injury, which stunted the entire unit’s growth.
Even so, the defense found a way to right the ship over the previous two games, as they’ve given up just 19 total points and 471 yards, albeit against two pretty anemic offenses. Regardless, it was a nice turnaround and all of it was without their best player.
Continuing to stop the run will be a big part of their success but getting to the quarterback with more regularity is what could separate them from the rest of the pack down the stretch.
After a pretty impressive start to the season, this is a unit that appears to have taken a step back in multiple areas.
Whether it’s Patrick O’Donnell or Cody Parkey’s inconsistencies, the kick return touchdown from Cordarrelle Patterson or the mass amount of penalties their return units have been incurring over the last few weeks, this is a unit that needs big time improvement in the second half.
I wouldn’t classify this as crippling by any means, but many had high expectations for Chris Tabor coming in, despite the complaints of multiple Browns fans who had warned how many penalties Tabor’s unit have collected with his time in Cleveland. For what it’s worth, the Lions just fired their special teams coordinator for exactly that. Penalties.
The Bears will head into their final eight games, with a real chance at stealing the NFC North in what hasn’t been a banner year for the Minnesota Vikings or Green Bay Packers. Here’s what their final eight contests look like:
It’s nothing but the NFC for the remainder of the season, after seeing four straight AFC opponents. Despite facing just one divisional opponent in their first half, the Bears will come out of the gate against three straight NFC North opponents, including two games against the Detroit Lions in an 11-day period.
5-3 was a nice start from a team that won five games in its entirety last season, but this next stretch of four games is where their season could be won or loss.
Ideally, they will find a way to pull out another 3-1 stretch but at bare minimum, they need to find a way to get to 2-2 (7-5 overall) if they want a chance at the playoffs in the final quarter of the year.
Only time will tell if this team is for real but a pair of divisional wins over the next few weeks would be an ideal way to kick off the second half of their schedule. So far, so good but now is when things start counting just a little bit more.