The Chicago Bears are walking into the 2017 NFL season fully aware they are smack dab in the middle of a complete rebuild. The team forced star quarterback Jay Cutler into retirement, brought in Mike Glennon and went out of their way to trade up to land Mitchell Trubisky.
If that’s not a sign the Bears are starting over, I’m not sure what is.
Changes are upon us in the Windy City, but few are left confusing this team with one that could be a contender. The Bears have some interesting talent to develop, but the emphasis is on “develop” following their sixth straight season sitting on the outside of the playoff picture.
Heading into 2017, Chicago is near the bottom of everyone’s list when considering NFC North threats or teams that can make a run at the playoffs or the Super Bowl. Chicago owns some of the worst Super Bowl 52 odds (+10000) at Bovada, are favored to win five games or fewer (-165) and hold the worst odds (+1200) to take the NFC North.
Things don’t look good in Chicago. Of course, for NFL bettors, it might be worth wondering if there is any reason at all for optimism. The upside doesn’t even need to be out of control, either. Per top NFL betting sites like Bovada and Topbet.eu, Chicago simply making the playoffs can win us some serious cash.
The bet at either site is whether or not the Bears can sneak into the playoffs in a competitive NFC:
Talk about playable odds. Granted, the Bears looked awful while going 3-13 a year ago, but there have been positive reports about a possibly improved defense and there could actually be a mild argument for believing in Chicago this year.
The logic isn’t air tight, but we’ve got a few reasons why the Bears might not be the worst flier beats in the world. Here’s our favorite five:
Last year Pro Football Focus noted Chicago’s improved defense and even went as far as to say it could have been a playoff-caliber unit. That might have been a bit of a stretch, but if it hadn’t been for a slew of injuries, PFF might not have been that far off base.
It takes a stable offense to help even things out, but Chicago does have a lot of talent on defense and displayed encouraging signs of that in 2016. The Bears got hurt by injuries and a weak offense, but the fact that they still managed to ranked 15th in overall defense, 12th in sacks and 6th at stopping the run.
On paper, the Bears have an interesting unit that can bottle up the run and put pressure on the quarterback. If the pass defense can come close to matching what the Bears did on the ground a year ago, Chicago just might have something here.
If the defense does its job or even morphs into an elite unit, all it would take is a merely passable Chicago offense for the Bears to make some serious noise. Mike Glennon could potentially get the Bears to where they need to be. The Chicago front office backed him against recently and after handing him a three-year deal, seem to believe he can get them going in the right direction.
There is some optimism with Glennon, too. He was looked at as a potential first round pick back in the 2013 NFL Draft and he has flashed potential when given opportunities with the Buccaneers. After rotting behind Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay over the last two years, Glennon could jump at the opportunity to finally have his own team again.
Glennon only had that chance when he was a raw rookie. He doesn’t have the best weapons and it’s possible we’ve already seen his ceiling, but what if we haven’t? Glennon has the size, arm strength and experience to possibly end up being a bit of a steal for the Bears. Chicago doesn’t need him to be elite to threaten for the playoffs, anyway.
It’s a good bet that Glennon isn’t Chicago’s long-term answer under center and likely just as good of a bet that we’ll all realize that in 2017. That could lead to an early entrance for Trubisky, who the Bears traded up to the #2 pick this year to get.
The North Carolina product is raw, but he’s extremely talented and has all of the physical attributes GMs lust after when it comes to franchise passers. Who is to say he can’t push Glennon for the job, take over before the middle of the season and lead the Bears to the playoffs?
It’s not necessarily logical for things to play out that way, but rookie quarterbacks have enjoyed early success in the past. If Trubisky is the franchise passer the Bears drafted him to be, perhaps he gets a head start on a brilliant career by carrying this team to a postseason appearance.
Something a little more likely than Glennon or Trubisky beasting out is second-year running back Jordan Howard carrying Chicago’s offense. The Bears seem to have drafted a gem in Howard, who lasted until round five out of Indiana.
Howard quickly turned into a household name in Illinois, as the Big 10 rival piled up over 1,600 total yards and seven scores while giving the Bears one of their few bright spots on offense. Howard displayed his explosiveness and decisive running during a whopping seven 100+ yard rushing days on the year – all as a rookie.
If Howard – who is said to have been working on his speed during the offseason – can be even better, the Bears could have an underrated offense on their hands. We all saw what a top flight running back can do for an offense when Ezekiel Elliott dominated for Dallas in 2016 and it’s not crazy to imagine a more seasoned Howard to do something similar for the Bears.
Howard is going to put up numbers, the defense should be solid and it’s worth wondering if one of Chicago’s top two quarterbacks will deliver. All of that can play a hand in the Bears’ plight to prove the critics wrong and make it to the playoffs, but perhaps the best reason why they might have a shot is their division.
Yes, the Bears were awful last year and didn’t come close to the top of their division, but every team in the NFC North has serious flaws. The Green Bay Packers over-achieved despite a terrible defense a year ago, needing an insane 6-game winning streak to close out the regular season just to snag the division crown.
The Minnesota Vikings boast a top level defense, but didn’t have a running game and got erratic results from their passing game. After a 5-0 start, the Vikings regressed into a pedestrian club. Ditto for the Detroit Lions, who looked like a lock to steal the NFC North title last year before losing their final three games and backing into the playoffs.
Green Bay and Detroit, at least for the moment, seem slightly overrated and need to prove their defenses aren’t as bad as they were a year ago. Minnesota probably needs to do the same on the other side of the ball.
If Chicago’s defense is legit and Howard gives them a reliable ground game, they might be able to threaten for the division, and maybe for the playoffs.
Betting on the Bears to make the playoffs is still a huge risk and we probably wouldn’t do it. However, there is an argument for taking that flier bet and it’s impossible to deny the upside of their odds at +1000 on most pro football betting sites.
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