Because I’m a Packers fan some people will probably read this as a reverse jinx (and maybe that’s true on a subconscious level?) but the first place Chicago Bears are legitimate contenders to win the NFC North, where at 2-1 they’re in first place after the Vikings and Packers lost on Sunday.
The Bears’ defense is menacing, and that obviously starts with Khalil Mack. For all the great expectations anyone could’ve had for that acquisition from Jon Gruden and the Raiders, he’s been even better. Through three games, he has four sacks, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a pick-six.
And it’s not just Mack. Akiem Hicks has two sacks and two forced fumbles, Danny Travathan is having games good enough where he can call out Jason Witten for not saying his name right. Roquan Smith, still finding his footing in the defense after a long training camp holdout, does that thing where he comes from off the screen to make a tackle on a ball carrier that you were expecting to get several more yards. The Bears’ front seven is nightmarish for opponents.
The elephant in the room is Mitchell Trubisky. Because, the Bears traded away two first round picks to get Mack, and then had to pay him, it’s going to be very tough for them to move on at QB if Trubisky doesn’t pan out. He has shown capacity to make great throws, but is also prone to overthrowing open receivers or misreading the secondary and throwing picks.
That being said, it’s not inconceivable that he could show a lot of improvement this season. He only has 15 career starts in the NFL and started just 15 games in college. Going from John Fox to Andy Reid acolyte Matt Nagy could be like going from a rotary phone to an iPhone X. (Yes, the jury is still out, but it should at the very least be an upgrade to a flip phone.)
The Bears also have weapons. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are a robust backfield, Allen Robinson is a formidable receiver, Anthony Miller (who injured his shoulder and left early from yesterday’s game) projects to be one, Trey Burton is a solid pass-catching tight end and Taylor Gabriel could be a fun gadget guy.
If Trubisky can even get to the level where Blake Bortles was at last year — 60% completions, 21-13 TD/INT ratio, 7.0 yards per attempt — the Bears could easily be this year’s Jaguars. Everyone who thought it was going to be a two-team race for the North between the Packers and Vikings needs to be on notice already.