The Bears had a rollercoaster 2020 but it ended with their second playoff appearance (+175) in Matt Nagy’s third season in the Windy City. The Bears started the season 5-1 and they ended the year 3-1 to make the playoffs with an 8-8 record (8-8 ATS) as the NFC’s first-ever seven seed. They scored 30+ points in four straight games in Weeks 13-16, which was a first for the franchise since the merger. Chicago’s offensive surge coincided with a soft finishing schedule and Mitchell Trubisky’s reinsertion back into the starting lineup. Chicago started and finished the year strong but they had an ugly stretch of play in Weeks 7-13 when they went winless in the toughest six-game stretch of their schedule. The Bears finished the season 1-7 against playoff teams and 7-2 against non-playoff teams last season.
The Bears allowed the 12th-fewest points per game (23.1) and they scored the 11th-fewest points per game (23.3), which resulted in an 8-8 totals mark. Chicago ended the year 6-5 in one-score games and 2-2 in contests decided by three scores or more, and they finished with the league’s 15th-best point differential (+2).
Chicago’s 2021 win total (7.5) dropped by one victory because of its smoke-and-mirrors path to eight wins last season. The Bears fell half a win shy of their 2020 win total and they locked in their under with their eighth loss of the season to the Packers in the season finale. Entering this season, I have the Bears power rated as the 24th-best team in the NFL (+5000 to win Super Bowl LVI), as the 13t-best team in the NFC (+2200 to win the conference), and as the third-best team in the NFC North (+400).
Spreads are first-look lines from the SuperBook, which were released in early June.
|1||@Los Angeles Rams||+7||8:20|
|5||@Las Vegas Raiders||+3.5||4:05|
|6||Green Bay Packers||+2.5||1|
|7||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+10||4:25|
|8||San Francisco 49ers||+4||1|
|9||@Pittsburgh Steelers||+5.5||8:15 (Mon)|
|12||@Detroit Lions||-3||12:30 (Thurs)|
|14||@Green Bay Packers||+5.5||8:20|
|15||Minnesota Vikings||+1||8:15 (Mon)|
|17||New York Giants||-2||1|
The Bears don’t get many scheduling breaks this season, and they’ll need to take advantage of matchups against the Bengals, Lions, and Raiders in Weeks 2-5, who are each lined at seven wins or worse. Chicago also has a two-game stretch against the Lions and Cardinals in Weeks 12-13.
The Bears will face the 11th-toughest schedule this season based on 2021 win totals (per Sharp Football), which includes a stretch in Weeks 6-11 when they’ll face four teams lined at 10+ wins in the Packers, Bucs, 49ers and Ravens — the Steelers and a bye are also sandwiched in there. They have another tough three-week stretch in Weeks 14-16 when they take on the Packers, Vikings, and Seahawks, who are each lined at 9+ wins. The Bears have a pair of short-week road games against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day in Week 12 and against the Seahawks in Week 16 after MNF action the week before. They also have two games against the teams coming off of byes in the Cardinals and Packers in Weeks 13-14, and the NFL scheduled them for four primetime games.
Key Off-season Moves
|Andy Dalton (QB)||Justin Fields (QB)||Charles Leno (LT, Was)|
|Damien Williams (RB)||Teven Jenkins (OT)||Mitchell Trubisky (QB, Buf)|
|Elijah Wilkinson (OT)||Cordarrelle Patterson (KR/PR)|
|Jeremiah Attaochu (LB)||Roy Robertson-Harris (DT, Jax)|
|Damiere Byrd (WR)||Brent Urban (DT, Dal)|
|Marquise Goodwin (WR)||Barkevious Mingo (LB, Atl)|
|Angelo Blackson (DE)||Kyle Fuller (CB, Den)|
|Christian Jones (LB)||Buster Skrine (CB)|
|John Jenkins (DT, Mia)|
2021 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||7.5 (+100/-125)|
Season Prop Movement
Win Total: 7 (-121) in late March to 7.5 (+100)
Super Bowl: +5000 in early February to +5000
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
Ryan Pace hasn’t had many recent victories as the Bears’ GM, but he hit a home run by trading up nine spots to land a falling Justin Fields in the draft. The Bears continue to insist that Andy Dalton will be the team’s starter in Week 1 against the Rams, but we’ll see how long that lasts since Pace and HC Matt Nagy are squarely on the chopping block if the Bears don’t improve upon their 8-8 record from 2020. Dalton may in fact start a few games to open this season to give Fields more time to get comfortable with the offense, but it would be a mild upset if Fields isn’t starting by the time the calendar flips to October.
Fields could take some time to develop but he’ll instantly give the Bears’ offense a higher ceiling. He’ll have one of the league’s best all-around receivers at his disposal in Allen Robinson, who leads an intriguing receiving corps with rising second-year players Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet behind him. A-Rob has been hamstrung by terrible quarterback play throughout his career, including the last seasons when he posted a combined 200 catches and 2397 receiving yards.
The Bears still have one of the better defensive front sevens in the league despite OLB Khalil Mack failing to hit double-digit sacks in each of the last two seasons. He’s still one of the more disruptive forces in the league and they’ll get Eddie Goldman back in the middle of this defensive line after he opted out last season, which will help offset the loss of DT Roy Robertson-Harris. ILB Roquan Smith, a 2018 first-round pick, also emerged as one of the league’s best all-around linebackers in his third season.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The big question for the Bears this season is how long will it take for Fields to be ready to play as a rookie since Dalton clearly isn’t a solution at this stage of his career. Dalton hasn’t averaged more than 7.0 YPA in a season in each of the last four years after he averaged 7.5 YPA in 2013-16, and Dallas’ high-flying offense under Dak Prescott hit a wall once Dalton took over to end the season. The longer that the Bears stick to the notion that Dalton gives their offense the best chance to be successful the more likely it is that the Bears will finish under their win total.
The Bears still have one of the league’s worst offensive lines despite trading up to No. 39 to select OT Teven Jenkins, who will be asked to start right away at left tackle. Dalton has no second-reaction skills in the pocket, which is just another reason why Fields needs to play early in his career. Chicago’s defense also took a step back last season and they lost a pair of key defenders in free agency in CB Kyle Fuller and Robertson-Harris. The Bears replaced Fuller with Desmond Trufant, whose play has slipped in recent seasons before cratering last season in Detroit. Chicago is thin at cornerback behind last year’s rookie standout Jaylon Johnson, and Trufant will need a bounce-back campaign or he’ll be a frequent target this season.
Notable Player Props
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Allen Robinson: receptions (94.5), most receiving yards (+2400), OPOY (+6600)
Fantasy Points Projection: receptions (97), receiving yards (1195)
Best-Case Scenario: A-Rob’s luck of terrible quarterback play throughout his career is finally broken by Justin Fields, who immediately gives Robinson the best quarterback he’s seen in his eighth NFL season.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Robinson is once again hamstrung by shaky quarterback play with the Bears starting Andy Dalton for too long before Justin Fields comes in and shows why he was on the bench to start the season.
David Montgomery: rushing yards (1075.5), rushing + receiving yards (1275.5), OPOY (+5000), most rushing yards (+3400)
Fantasy Points Projection: rushing yards (990), rushing and receiving yards (1235)
- Best-Case Scenario: HC Matt Nagy continues to ride Montgomery after his strong finishing kick to last season, and the offense becomes even more dynamic with Justin Fields taking control of the group.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: Montgomery’s stranglehold on the backfield is loosened with Tarik Cohen returning from his ACL injury and with Damien Williams added to the mix as a runner behind him.
Darnell Mooney: receiving yards (700.5)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (780)
- Best-Case Scenario: Mooney’s connection with Justin Fields in minicamp is carried over to the season and he establishes himself as one of the better young deep threats in the league.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: Mooney gets sub-par quarterback play from Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, and fellow speedsters Damiere Byrd and Marquise Goodwin siphon away too many of his deep shots.
Cole Kmet: receptions (44.5)
Fantasy Points Projection: receptions (47)
- Best-Case Scenario: Chicago handed Kmet the starting job at the end of last season and he continues to run with it in his second season, developing into the #2 receiver in this offense behind Allen Robinson.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: The Bears keep Jimmy Graham around for the final season of his contract and he sucks away too many targets and too much playing time for Kmet to make a big leap in his second season.
Chicago Bears over 7.5 wins (+103, DraftKings) — Matt Nagy is a far better coach than he’s been able to show the last four years with Mitchell Trubisky as the team’s quarterback, and Nagy finally gets to show what he can do with Justin Fields taking over as the starter. The Bears don’t have the easiest schedule but at least the NFC North could be one of the weaker divisions in the league if Aaron Rodgers is out of the mix in Green Bay. I ultimately couldn’t bet on this win total since the Bears do seem dead set on starting the lousy Andy Dalton for at least a few games, which is a terrible idea given his declining play and his lack of second-reaction ability in the pocket behind a shaky O-line. I’m also a bit worried about their cornerback play behind Jaylon Johnson after they lost Kyle Fuller this off-season and they replaced him with Desmond Trufant, who was a frequent target for opposing quarterbacks last season.