LAKE FOREST – For those of you unwilling to accept the Bears’ fresh start this year, while not guaranteed, it is still likely to result in them losing more than they win this season – possibly a lot more – bless you and I’m pulling for you.
But let’s take a realistic look at how they’re likely to fare in their own division to create a baseline for your hopes and playoff dreams.
I asked Matt Eberflus on Tuesday if that’s where he’s starting and he confirmed the coaching staff has already started scouting division opponents.
“Any unique type of scheme that you might see during the course of your schedule – be it run or pass, you know, a running-type quarterback – that might be doing something unique where you have to work on it during training camp.
“We’ll be working on our division during training camp as well as some of those early opponents, and that’s typical to the league.”
I asked him if that work could even effect some tweaking of his scheme and preparation, which he also confirmed.
“Yeah. I think you’re looking to put yourself in the best position to succeed and you have to look at the roster, the way they (division opponents) currently have it,” Eberflus said.
“So, you have to look at that skill set and then look and see how you’re going to match up on personnel, and then also on your scheme. So, I think that’s all encompassing … and we’ll plan those segments into training camp leading up to the season.”
So what are the Bears likely to discover?
Quarterback: 1. Packers 2. Vikings 3. Lions 4. Bears – All of this could change quickly, but we’re not guessing whom we think they can be, or saying whom we’d rather have, we’re talking about who they are now. Jared Goff has taken a team to a Super Bowl, and Justin Fields is still a pup in training.
Running back: 1a. Packers 1b. Vikings 3. Bears 4. Lions – The Bears are breathing down the Packers’ and Vikings’ necks and could turn out to be first, but today can you really rank them ahead of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon or Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison? This will be a horse race and fun to watch.
Wide receiver: 1. Vikings 2. Lions 3. Packers 4. Bears – Detroit and Green Bay would be fourth in most other divisions, please tell me no other explanation is due here.
Tight end: 1. Lions 2. Bears 3. Vikings 4. Packers – This is probably the NFL’s worst division at this position. Hockenson has the highest ceiling, Kmet can be the most complete player, Irv Smith has never arrived, and Robert Tonyan was a TD monster once but...
Offensive line: 1. Lions 2. Packers 3. Vikings 4. Bears – Knee issues for David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins keep the Packers from the top spot. Please tell me no other explanation due here.
Defensive line: 1. Packers 2. Bears 3. Vikings 4. Lions – Four average units, but Green Bay’s Kenny Clark and Chicago’s Robert Quinn are special, and we’ll have to see how all the other NFC North’s defensive lines shake out as the season goes on.
Linebacker: 1. Packers 2. Vikings 3. Bears 4. Lions – Yes, Roquan Smitch is an All Pro, but Nick Morrow is just an exciting prospect and the Bears don’t really have a SAM linebacker. The Packers are suddenly loaded here, and if Danielle Hunter transitions smoothly to the 3-4 WILL spot, look out for the Vikes’ group.
Cornerback: 1. Packers 2a. Vikings 2b. Bears 2c. Lions – Vikings are average, Bears and Lions more promising, but it’s just too early to tell.
Safety: 1. Vikings 2. Packers 3. Bears 4. Lions – Vikings Harrison Smith is aging, Pack is overrated, and Eddie Jackson needs a big bounce back to justify third.
Special Teams: Incomplete until we see the final rosters.
And the final scorecard is:
1. Packers – 16
2. Vikings – 18
3. Lions – 25
4. Bears – 27
To complete this exercise for the moment let’s rank the divisions? How about:
1. AFC West
2. NFC West
3. AFC East
4. AFC North
5. NFC North
6. NFC South
7. NFC East
8. AFC South
I know, Bears fans, it’s not a pretty picture. A lot can and will change as the season goes on, and it doesn’t mean the rebuilding plan is a bad one, but show me where I’m wrong today.