The 2018 NFL season is right around the corner and for the majority of Bears fans, it’s never felt so good.
Between the hiring of head coach Matt Nagy, their free agent additions, what appears to be an impactful draft class, and the massive addition of superstar Khalil Mack, the arrow appears to be pointing up in a big way.
A new season brings optimism and high expectations, but for the first time in a long time, those expectations feel justified. It may not be time to project the Bears as a playoff team in the tough NFC North, but it’s justified to expect a major uptick in the quality of their play.
Since it’s 2018, here are eighteen bold predictions for the Chicago Bears.
- Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will break Eric Kramer’s single season passing yards mark of 3,838.
Comparing this to last year’s numbers may look lofty, but keep in mind, this is still not to the level of Jared Goff’s year-two increase. Couple that with the amount of weapons Trubisky has heading into the season, and this type of jump is not out of the question.
2. Linebacker Roquan Smith will win Defensive Rookie of the Year
Another high expectation? Can’t argue that, but this type of accolade may be more realistic than some think. Obviously Smith will have to compete with the likes of Bradley Chubb, among others, but the former Georgia Bulldog is a perfect fit in Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme. The rookie is Patrick Willis-like and should rack up big numbers in this defense.
It appears Smith came back just in time in order for this prediction to still hold water, even if he doesn’t start week one. It’s only a matter of time before he takes over and starts running the defense.
3. Defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris will emerge as the best five-technique not named Akiem Hicks
Much like last year, there will be a three-man rotation at the defensive end spot opposite of Hicks. Between former third-rounder Jonathan Bullard, 2018 fifth-rounder Bilal Nichols and Robertson-Harris, someone will have to emerge and “RRH” is primed to be that player. In limited snaps in 2017, he was very effective. Expect that to ramp up even more with his second year in the system as a defensive lineman.
4. The Bears will finish better than the 49ers
The constant comparison between the two teams isn’t likely to go away any time soon due to the Trubisky trade. With that being said, Mack’s addition gives the Bears a big advantage in what will likely be a close race all year between the two.
Of the three teams drafting in the top three in 2017, the Bears will not only show the most promise but have the best record.
5. Rookie receiver Anthony Miller will have more receiving yards than Taylor Gabriel
Projecting this offense is just flat out fun.
When looking at the pass catching situation, it’s easy to see how it could go a multitude of different ways. With that being said, Miller is a perfect fit in the slot for Nagy’s offense and likely sees more targets this year than the speedy Gabriel, who will be used as a decoy more often than some believe.
6. Tarik Cohen will at least 2,000 yards of all purpose yards
Desite playing in a lethargic offense led by Fox and Dowell Loggains last year, Cohen still found a way to pile up over 700 yards on offense and did well in the return game.
This year, expect a larger and more consistent role for the second-year stud out of North Carolina A&T. Whether that be out of the backfield, lined up in the slot, out wide, or in the return game, Cohen is going to have a monster year.
From what we’ve seen and heard so far, he appears to be a perfect fit in this new-age offense.
7. Kicker Cody Parkey will make at least 30 field goals and closely maintain his 86.4% career rate
This one is without much presentation. The Bears paid big money to him at the start of free agency and he will finally stop the team’s revolving door at the kicking position since the departure of Robbie Gould.
8. For the first time since 2012, the Bears will break even (3-3) in the NFC North
Make no mistake, the NFC North will be tough again in 2018 but the Bears are primed to finally break some ground in the division.
The Lions are somewhat of a Wild Card, but heading into the season, it appears the Packers are starting a slight decline. Couple that with how closely they’ve played the Vikings art home the past few years, and it doesn’t seem like a stretch to think they can do enough to split within the division.
9. Safety Eddie Jackson will lead the team in interceptions
The secondary seems to be somewhat of the forgotten factor on the defense this year, even after re-signing both Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara on lucrative deals.
The entire secondary remains intact, but I expect Jackson to take a large step forward this year and to establish himself as the playmaker he was at Alabama.
10. The Bears offense will rank top 15 in yards and points
Some may believe this is a stretch after the Bears ranked 30th in yards (287.4 per game) and 29th in points (16.5 per game) in 2017. But when you look at the focus they’ve placed on that side of the ball, it may not be as lofty as some think.
11. Tight end Trey Burton will be top five in receiving yards for all tight ends
After signing a four-year, $32 million deal on the first day of free agency, many wondered if the Bears overpaid. As things have progressed through OTAs and mini-camp, it has become evident that Burton’s involvement in this offense will be of high volume.
For reference, rookie Evan Engram was fifth in receiving for all tight ends last year with 722 yards. So, it’s not completely unreasonable.
12. The defense will have not one but two players with 10-plus sacks
This may be one of my bolder prediction on this entire list for two reasons:
- The Bears didn’t have one player hit the 10 sack threshold in 2017.
- Only three teams (Jaguars, Chargers and Panthers) reached that last year.
Here’s why it happens- Mack is a stud that has had 10 or more sacks in three times in four years and Akiem Hicks will have enough around him to stay fresh enough to jump over his 8.5 total from last season.
13. Roquan Smith will lead the team in tackles as a rookie
Maybe this is a given with my prediction of him winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
It’s also likely that he could be the only linebacker on the team that plays in all 16 games when considering the injured past with both Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski.
Last year, Christian Jones led the team in tackles with 90 and only started 11 of those games. This defense is designed for the off-the-ball linebackers to pile up tackles at the second level.
14. Running back Jordan Howard will have 40 catches and a drop rate of less than 12%
I’ve been critical of Howard’s inability to catch the ball consistently. Yet, with the coaching around him, there is little reason as to why the third-year running back can’t set a career high in receptions and lower his career drop rate from 21.21% to under 12%.
15. The NFC North will be the best division in football
This may not be as Bears related as the other 17 topics, but the Bears will be a big reason why the NFC North will end up with a pair of playoff teams and the best record of any division.
Whether that means Chicago is one of those playoff teams has yet to be determined, but their turnaround will help push the division over the top.
16. The Bears will not finish in last place and win at least eight games
To finish off these 18 predictions, I’m going to attempt to pour some Koolaid in your cup with an optimistic prediction.
Not only will they not finish in last place for the fifth straight year, but they’ll get back to at least .500 for the first time in that window as well.
Hope springs eternal as week one is around the corner and I am buying what the Bears are selling this season.
17. The Bears will make the playoffs
Last week, maybe this didn’t seem overly plausible, but after the addition of Khalil Mack things have changed. Expectations much change and fans should expect something close to the playoffs.
Yes, it seems unlikely to go from worst to first, but Pace showed he was all-in this past weekend, and fans should adjust their expectations accordingly.
18. Predicting the schedule week-by-week
Week 1: At Green Bay Packers (L)
Week 2: Vs Seattle Seahawks (W)
Week 3: At Arizona Cardinals (W)
Week 4: Vs Tampa Bay Bucs (W)
Week 5: Bye Week
Week 6: At Miami Dolphins (W)
Week 7: Vs New England Patriots (L)
Week 8: Vs New York Jets (L)
Week 9: At Buffalo Bills (W)
Week 10: Vs Detroit Lions (W)
Week 11: Vs Minnesota Vikings (W)
Week 12: At Detroit Lions (L)
Week 13: At New York Giants (W)
Week 14: Vs Los Angeles Rams (L)
Week 15: Vs Green Bay Packers (W)
Week 16: At San Francisco 49ers (W)
Week 17: At Minnesota Vikings (L)
Final Record: 10-6 (2rd place)
Now it’s your turn. Give us your bold Bears predictions!