The Chicago Bears could find their way into this year’s playoffs despite being written off by everyone from here to Tottenham Stadium across the pond in England. As fans experienced with former Bears head coach, Matt Nagy, the real trick is to not overthink yourself into mistakes.
They took the league by storm to a 12-4 record and their first playoff berth in eight years, getting back to the postseason in 2020 after the NFL expanded the field to 14 teams.
Going 14-19 in the other two years of Nagy’s tenure, including 6-11 in 2021, is why the new regime of Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus are here while Nagy and his former general manager, Ryan Pace, are elsewhere.
Now, the organization is trying to get back on the path to the postseason.
Don’t Sleep on the Possibility of Chicago Bears Sneaking Into the Playoffs
Football is a Simple Game
Second-year quarterback, Justin Fields, has quickly become of the few holdovers from (former Bears GM) Ryan Pace and one that most hope will stick around for a long time. He certainly has the most potential to uplift the entire franchise due to his talent and the position he plays. Quarterback is unquestionably the most important position on the field.
While his first season wasn’t what many hoped it would be – the embattled passer sent out a message of gratitude for everyone helping through last season – he still showed some flashes of what made him a tantalizing prospect.
If he and the Bears want him to take the next step, though, they will need to get him on the move more this season
Not to oversimplify things, but Fields finished with the seventh-highest time to throw in the league last year at 2.91 seconds, per NFL Next Gen Stats. That was tied with Teddy Bridgwater then of the Denver Broncos. As bad as that sounds, he is ahead of Lamar Jackson and right behind Josh Allen.
The problem is that he ranked fifth among quarterbacks with 420 rushing yards last season.
That is only three fewer yards than Kyler Murray whose time to throw was 2.77 seconds but well below the leader of the pack, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts rushed for 784 yards while averaging the highest time to throw in the NFL last season as 3.12 seconds.
The only other players to even reach 3.0 seconds were Jameis Winston who played in just seven games for the New Orleans Saints before getting hurt and last year’s second-overall pick, Zach Wilson of the New York Jets. Neither of them is the running threat that Fields is as someone who possesses legitimate 3.3-speed.
The Bears traded up to get Fields 11th overall in last year’s NFL Draft. The move cost them and this new regime their first-round pick in this upcoming iteration. That will complicate Fields’ ascension.
They can make waves with a strong running attack led by David Montgomery and their quarterback’s dual-threat ability. Perhaps even all of the way to the postseason much in the way that Hurts’ Eagles did despite ranking 25th in passing yards and 32nd in passing attempts last season.
There are two things Fields doesn’t have, at least not yet anyway. They are the fourth-ranked offensive line by DVOA, per Football Outsiders, and a stud wide receiver like DeVonta Smith.
Those Don’t Grow on Trees
The Bears offensive line ranked 23rd overall and 32nd in pass protection last season. They allowed the most sacks in the league.
As for weapons, Darnell Mooney might not be Smith, but he did record the franchise’s second 1000-yard season since 2014 and just the 18th in franchise history last season.
To be fair, the Eagles’ offense didn’t play the same way all season. This piece from Johnny Page of Bleeding Green Nation details how they went from a shotgun passing attack to one that had Hurst lining up under center. That was something Fields was known for coming out of college.
The praise of Justin Fields from the college football world and in NFL circles consistently lands on his toughness and his ability to test defenses in so many different ways. In the pocket. On the move. Under center or shotgun. As a thrower. As a runner. So much to work with.
— Dan Wiederer (@danwiederer) April 30, 2021
New Bears receiver Byron Pringle gave his impressions on Fields via Alyssa Barbieri of Bears Wire:
“Justin Fields, I see him as an elite quarterback,” Pringle said. “He definitely knows how to extend plays, and that is something that I did in Kansas City [with Patrick Mahomes]. When the play broke down, I always tried to get in the quarterback’s vision. So with [Fields] being able to keep plays and drives alive, I know I fit perfect in this offense, especially with a quarterback like Justin Fields.”
Fields completed just 58.9 percent of his passes for 1870 yards with seven touchdowns to 10 interceptions last season. But five of his interceptions came in two road games – Tampa Bay in Week 7 and Green Bay in Week 14. He also showed more comfort as the Bears got him on the move more often as the season went on.
The Bears own the second-easiest slate in the NFL next season. They went to the postseason the last time they had that in 2018. Last year’s schedule ended the season ranked 19th while the Eagles played the 23rd-ranked (10th easiest) schedule, per TeamRankings.com data.
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