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What is the Bears biggest X-Factor heading into the 2021 season?

NFL: Chicago Bears OTA Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

My early guess on the Chicago Bears 2021 record has them right about in the same spot as the last two years, 8 wins. I know I’m higher on the Bears than some are, but could see this team flirting with postseason aspirations while hovering around .500 all year, and with the new 17 game schedule I wouldn’t be surprised with an 8-9 or 9-8 finish.

This team has a lot of ‘what ifs’ they need to go their way to do better than what the analysts predict, which is another mediocre year, but I’m optimistic they’ll have some breaks go their way this season.

ESPN and Pro Football Focus recently collaborated on a overall roster ranking for each team and they have the Bears checking in at 23, and in that same ranking on ESPN Insider they gave their picks for each team’s X-Factor.

Here’s what they wrote about the Bears.

X factor for 2021: Chicago has come away from each of the past three seasons at 8-8 or better despite bottom-of-the-barrel play at the quarterback position. Justin Fields has the chance to change all of that. Fields earned 90-plus PFF grades in each of the past two seasons as Ohio State’s starter, and he was the most accurate college quarterback that PFF has charted since that process began several years ago. Allen Robinson II may finally have an above-average quarterback delivering him the football in 2021.

As a rookie, Fields is certainly the biggest X-Factor, but if the other QB is playing well that can make an impact on the Bears too. If Andy Dalton is better than the “bottom-of-the-barrel play” referenced by ESPN, then we may finally see what the Matt Nagy offense is all about.

Nagy’s stubbornness as a play caller has led to some issues during his time in Chicago, but with the cerebral Dalton — and eventually Fields taking over — Nagy has a couple quarterbacks that he feels he can work with.

And I know some of you are thinking, ‘but Nick Foles was his guy,’ and I get it. But don’t forget that Foles was playing with an o-line that only had one starter in the same spot because of several injuries and Covid issues. He clearly wasn’t good last year, but you can’t discount the Rashaad Coward factor that Foles had to deal with.

If (there’s that word again) the 2021 o-line can stay relatively intact, then the offense will have a decent opportunity to show what it can do.

The more I think about it... maybe the new offensive line coming together, and staying together, is the team’s biggest X-Factor for the 2021 season.

The ESPN Insider article also wrote up the Bears biggest strength and weakness, and you can see all about their picks for those here and here.