The Professor’s 2021 NFL Preview: NFC North – Chicago Bears


Chicago Bears

Team Projection

TeamPoints ForPoints AgainstGames FavoredPythagorean Expected Wins

When I wrote my pre-draft analysis of the Chicago Bears offense, I included a snippet that became quite relevant on Draft Night.

In many ways, I’d want to target Fields. I’m aware of the negatives in his profile, but he’s universally lauded for his explosive traits as a runner and thrower. Chicago is not about to be good on the offensive line, where they’ve seen every remaining member of the solid 2018 group turn in progressively worse results in the seasons since, or to field a deep, dynamic group of receivers. Circling back to (Allen) Robinson, he seems a perfect fit with Fields, assuming the reports that Fields struggles to move off his first target to find secondary options are accurate. Robinson is essentially always open; getting Robinson or someone similar for Fields seems important to help him maximize his talents.

I won’t pretend to have any insider knowledge of Chicago’s interest in quarterback Justin Fields, but as I wrote at the time, it seemed like a natural fit. The Bears needed a quarterback who could play, in the words of the excellent quarterback analyst Dan Orlovsky, “above the X’s and O’s”. They got one in Fields.

The Bears were also aligned with my assessment of their offensive line, as they’ve since moved on from their starting tackle tandem of Charles Leno and Bobby Massie. Tevin Jenkins, selected early in the second round, will need to step into one of those spots, and Germain Ifedi, who kicked back out to right tackle after originally signing to play guard for the 2020 season, may stay on the edge. That would allow the Bears to play Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, and Sam Mustipher in some configuration on the interior; all three can play center, but given that Daniels had his best season as a guard, it seems likely Mustipher will continue to man the pivot spot, where he played solid ball in the second half of 2020, while Whitehair and Daniels handle the guard spots.

The skill group remains thin, but Robinson is a bonafide number one target, and receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet have the potential to build on solid rookie seasons. The Bears took a flier on two speed threats in Damiere Byrd, who showed notable improvement last season playing for the Patriots, and Marquise Goodwin. Another variable is the return to health of Tarik Cohen; with Cordarrelle Patterson no longer in the fold, head coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor may be able to get the once-dynamic playmaker’s career back on track if Cohen is recovered from the ACL tear that ended his 2020 campaign early.

They also added former Chiefs running back Damien Williams to complement David Montgomery, who is coming off a breakout season, and will now enjoy the benefits of running in an offense that features the quarterback as a run threat. It’s important that the offense clicks quickly, because the window for Chicago’s defense to play at an elite level has been shrinking for years, and even with the breathing space that would be created by Field’s contract if he’s a hit, this team will be short on draft capital and cap space given the number of highly-paid veterans they have in the fold.

General manager Ryan Pace will have to pray that his signing of edge rusher Robert Quinn before the 2020 season produces more results in 2021 than it did last season because he was forced to cut corner Kyle Fuller due to their cap situation, leaving them with nothing but question marks at the corner behind Jaylon Johnson. The defense still has playmakers at every level in edge, Khalil Mack, interior lineman Akiem Hicks, inside linebacker Roquan Smith, and safety Eddie Jackson, and could get a big boost from the return of nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who will return after a COVID opt-out, but the potential holes in other areas could prevent their stars from maximizing their output.

Chicago will need a number of bets to pay off to win the NFC North, but the addition of Fields made that a viable possibility. This roster isn’t good enough to win with Andy Dalton at quarterback, but if Fields can translate his dynamic athletic ability into results early, the Bears will be a dangerous opponent.

QB Passing Projections

Justin Fields2414320.8481.60.676.663205.320.610.318.75
Andy Dalton37366.3100.50.666.51654.

QB Rushing Projections

Justin Fields241492.25.78533.63.225.432.118.75
Andy Dalton3739.03.6232.

Skill Projections, Rushing

David MontgomeryRB3917246.74.401085.66.555.953.912.17
Damien WilliamsRB2021764.73.92253.72.214.618.63.50
Anthony MillerWR217178.83.9935.
Tarik CohenRB2671720.13.5972.

Skill Projections, Receiving

Allen Robinson IIWR361767.0100.912.111221.76.425.825.912.42
David MontgomeryRB391773.940.48.49342.
Darnell MooneyWR1191768.062.110.29638.74.415.717.87.13
Jimmy GrahamTE1241764.553.810.78580.35.814.323.47.04
Cole KmetTE1801763.736.37.55274.24.39.817.44.20
Damien WilliamsRB2021781.514.76.86100.
Anthony MillerWR2171764.129.39.40275.
Damiere ByrdWR2621758.522.29.94220.
Tarik CohenRB2671776.718.27.96145.
Javon WimsWR3331746.39.26.5259.

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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.