By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
A question has been on my mind about these Chicago Bears, I think it first popped in my head as the buzz in town started around the team and as the noise has continued so has the ruminating of the question.
Fans are ready to go crazy as soon as Mitchell Trubisky becomes a consistent player. Everything has been going well for the Bears for the most part, they are a first place 3-1 team that really should be undefeated. The question is, what would make this season at this point a success or failure?
Many felt before this season that as long as the team progresses and can get to .500 or better by its end then its been a good year, maybe even an unqualified success. Normally for the Bears, I would agree with such an assessment, especially seeing as the club has been in the NFC North’s basement for four straight years.
Obviously it is important to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run — steps have to be taken in order for a franchise to progress and it doesn’t happen overnight.
All that being said, look at the landscape of the NFL right now, there is a ton of unknowns floating around on top of the well-established league-wide parody. Some teams may become elite by November, but in October no more than two or three teams can be seen as having that sort of promise (depending on how you look at the Patriots coming back alive).
The North division, which looked so daunting prior to September, has to its credit a struggling Green Bay team, an underachieving Minnesota team, and a Detroit team that needed 13 points in missed points by Mason Crosby and three turnovers to beat the Packers this past Sunday
The Bears may not have to grow too much higher to establish itself as the cream of the crop at this point. Expectations are changing for this team and that lends itself to greater intrigue as this season continues.
It’s been amazing how much intrigue the Bears have generated in the past month plus when you look back at the end of last year falling back to essentially 2014. For several years intrigue was a pretty ineffective word to use to describe the Bears, but from the most recent coaching hires to the Khalil Mack trade this franchise has put in the work to develop a sort of organic curiosity that lends itself to success and not wondering how bad things could get..
Along with the aggression the franchise has taken an element of fortunate luck has accompanied the Bears with how the schedule has worked out for them. A couple early prime-time games provided great fun and could have done much to galvanize the efforts of a young squad and coaching staff. The last two weeks have featured the Bears conquering a tough, cross country road trip and putting on an offensive explosion at home has fans buzzing.
The bye week that the Bears are now spinning out of might have came at a bad time for the team momentum-wise, but for fans it has only sharpened our hunger for more football. October rolling into November features the Bears going four straight against the AFC East with a measuring stick game at home against the rejuvenated Patriots in two weeks. After the AFC East part of the schedule the Bears will have five of their final eight games against the home division.
Also within those final eight games is a match-up against arguably the best team in the conference in the Rams. Before the season the second half of the Bears’ schedule looked like a potential murderers row but after the good start there’s a chance it could be more of an establishing sequence and a chance to make lasting competitive statements.
So, lets get back to what would be considered a successful year by the Bears… does contending for a wildcard spot still cut it? That may sound greedy and too presumptive for a previously-established also ran but the only true great team in the NFC is the Rams and even they have looked brilliant on offense while being questionable defensively in giving up 31 points in each of the last two weeks.
Injuries will play a big part in determining who is riding high or low by playoff time, but lets assume the Bears don’t sustain a major injury. The Bears are a consistent quarterback away from competing with any one any week in the conference and potentially the league.
Matt Nagy was brought in to coach up the second overall pick quarterback that he inherited, the one with all the tools any offensive coach would want. The expectations have to change for the Bears, they spent well on compiling both a competitive defense and offense and that D is arguably championship level right now.
The playoffs are definitely a possibility if the Bears stay at the current level they are at and if the team’s confidence takes no hits. If the offense can establish itself as a consistent compliment to the defense like they did against the Bucs then the Bears can definitely win their division, setting themselves up for a possible January run. And if by any chance Trubisky evolves into the guy in the next couple months then we can all let our imaginations run wild.
A successful year by the Bears would now be categorized by taking advantage of being in first place by winning the division and by not letting development issues be an excuse for not seizing an increasingly available moment.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR