The Bears began the 2018 NFL regular season by making headlines with one of the biggest trades in recent memory. They gave the Oakland Raiders their 2019 first and sixth round picks and their 2020 first and third round picks for Khalil Mack, a 2020 second round pick and 2020 conditional fifth round pick.
Within a few days, Mack was signed to a six-year, $141 million extension with $90 million guaranteed, making Mack the highest paid defensive player in history.
The question on everyone’s mind: was Mack worth it?
Last year’s NFL defensive player of the year seemed to answer that question right away in week one against Green Bay, recording a sack, pass defense, fumble recovery and an interception returned for a touchdown in the first half before Aaron Rodgers led his team to a second half comeback in typical Hall of Fame fashion.
But what are the NFL Odds on the Bears?
Since losing their first game, first year head coach Matt Nagy has won three straight, and the Bears sit in first place in the NFC North.
Suddenly the Bears look like serious contenders for the first time since 2010 when they lost to the Packers in the Conference Championship.
But how much of that success is due to Mack and the defense, and more importantly, will it last the rest of the season?
Chicago is second in the NFL with 18 sacks this season. Mack leads the team with five, which is tied for fifth in the NFL behind Geno Atkins, J.J. Watt and T.J. Watt with six, and Demarcus Lawrence with 5.5.
The Bears are number nine against the pass, allowing 230.5 yards per game, and number one against the run, surrendering only 64 yards per game on the ground. But what matters is the scoreboard, and they allow the second-fewest points per game with 16.3.
In short, they’re pretty good, and Mack is a big reason why.
As the Broncos proved in their Superbowl L run with a tired Payton Manning, who struggled to throw the ball more than 30 yards, defense wins championships. While that may be true in the aggregate, offense wins games, especially in today’s NFL where defenses have been crippled by rule changes.
Chicago’s offense currently ranks 30th in the NFL in total yards with 1364, 28th in passing yards with 878 and is tied with Detroit for 19th in rushing yards with 486. Despite ranking near the bottom in total offense, they manage score 27.8 points per game.
That number is skewed by a 48-point performance against the Buccaneers last week, and their average drops to 21.3 points per game without it, but the fact remains that they consistently put up respectable numbers on the scoreboard.
They have scored two defensive touchdowns so far this season, one of which propelled them to a 24-17 victory against the Seahawks week two. Only the Bengals have recorded more defensive touchdowns.
The offense needs to step up their game if they want to keep winning football games, and they certainly have all the pieces to do so.
Last week’s 354-yard, six touchdown performance had to give Trubisky some confidence. Jordan Howard may not be lighting up the stat sheet, but he has the speed and strength to be one of the better runners in this league, and Tarik Cohen provides some soft hands out of the backfield to give defenses something to fear in the passing game.
They have a big, young receiving corps with some speed down the field and a tight end in Trey Burton who Trubisky is growing more confident in.
Add all that to a very winnable upcoming schedule, the toughest competition of which is the Patriots, Rams and hitherto inconsistent division rivals, and the Bears have a very clear path to the playoffs.
The Chicago Bears are for real.