The Bears made a short run in their preseason, beating the Kansas City Chiefs B team, the Seattle Seahawks and the Cleveland Browns to a 3-0 record.
Now, the games are counted.
The Bears open the regular season by welcoming Trey Lance and the San Francisco 49ers to Soldier Field on Sunday.
Head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Pauls have spent time stripping down the roster as they embark on what could be a lengthy rebuild. Expectations aren’t high for the 2022 Bears, but the schedule is soft, and the young talent on the roster, led by quarterback Justin Fields, should be cause for excitement.
As Week 1 approaches, it’s time for the age-old tradition of making silly predictions as the leaves change color. But let’s do it anyway.
Here are five can’t-miss predictions for the Bears’ 2022 season:
Bears rush out the door
Opening the season against the 49ers and Green Bay Packers is a tough task for Eberfels. The Bears catch the 49ers when they can, with Lance still getting his feet wet in the Kyle Shanahan offense and an interior offensive line still trying to gel.
Still, the 49ers have plenty of talent for the Bears to beat. The Week 2 trip to Green Bay is not without signs of hope, however, as the Bears fall to 0-2.
Then the soft schedule is reached.
The Bears won four of their next six, defeating the Houston Texans, New York Giants, Washington Commanders and New England Patriots. A Week 8 loss to the Dallas Cowboys sees them fall to 4-4, but it’s a positive start to the Iberfels era.
Winter comes and crushes the bears’ dreams of playing
A 4-4 start to the season is enough to keep the Bears in the playoff hunt, especially in the bottom NFC.
But the loss comes as the Bears go Nov. 1-3, and the December schedule of the Packers, Eagles, Bills and Vikings ends their chances of a postseason appearance. Only New Year’s Day helped the Bears salvage the season and finish the season at 6-11.
Robert Quinn’s encouragement
After a historic 18.5-sack season and the Bears starting to rebuild, conventional wisdom suggested that star defensive end Robert Quinn would be shipped out.
But it wasn’t like that.
General manager Ryan Pauls elected to retain Quinn, believing his value to a young Bears team far outweighed a trade return.
“I’m a huge fan of Robert Quinn,” Pauls said. “He was productive. One thing, and it’s not that Khalil wasn’t, but for Robert, he brings one of those examples that Matt wants to see outside the defense by being a constant, high motor. That’s the guy. Another leader in the room can show the way to the young people. And he’s doing a great job at it.”
With Eberflus and defensive coordinator Allen Williams preferring not to make too much noise, the Bears need Quinn to get after the quarterback as much as possible this season.
While not quite matching the mark he set last season, Quinn still proved to be one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and followed up his 18.5 sack campaign with 14 tackles.
Bears rookies Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker discuss their goals for their first NFL seasons. All rookie teams, Defensive Player of the Year, etc.
Gordon’s movement and coverage skills are exceptional. But the Bears will immediately throw the Washington product into the fire, likely asking Erbless to nickel-and-dime him. Rookie cornerbacks often have an adjustment period going from college to the NFL. Given the time he missed in training camp, it’s fair to expect Gordon’s rookie season to have some early bumps.
That’s just life in the NFL.
Brisker should have an easy time adjusting to the NFL. The Bears plan to ask the Penn State product to primarily handle box safety duties, while veteran Eddie Jackson rotates around the back end.
In one preseason game, Brisker showed why the Bears are high on him. He is a tough, high IQ safety who is always around the ball. For a coaching staff fanatical about takeaways, Brisker can catch the changeup at a high clip if the ball goes up.
The last AP Defensive Rookie of the Year was safety Mark Carrier for the Bears in 1990.
Brisker took home the hardware with a touchdown, notching 10 receiving yards and finishing with 124 combined tackles in an impressive rookie campaign.
Justin Fields, Pro Bowler
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy worked on the scheme as Fields stepped in as a second-year quarterback — a noted athlete who likes to attack downfield with his big arm.
The Bears’ preseason finale in Cleveland showed us how Gatsey’s wide zone scheme and Fields’ talent can be a perfect marriage.
While you don’t want to overstate the preseason, I think Fields is ready for the offseason, even without weapons and a shaky offensive line.
Gatsy’s plan is the main reason.
Shanahan’s system has caught on in the NFL because it makes life easier for quarterbacks, plotting easy throws up the middle of the field for big gains after the run.
With a scheme that works to his strengths and the confidence to be the unquestioned starter, Fields could explode into the position and claim a Pro Bowl spot in the NFC.
After Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford, the NFC is more or less a quarterback desert filled with unproven young talent like Trae Lance and Jalen Harts and good-but-not-elite veterans like Kirk Cousins and Dak Prescott.
Whether Fields makes it in the first round or not, he will be in the Pro Bowl after what I believe will be a big season for the Bears’ sophomore quarterback if he joins after the pick.
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