Most of the games you’d think will be “easy” for the Bears come in the first half of their 2020 schedule. Road trips to Detroit and Carolina, and a home date against the Giants stand out; even Week 7’s Monday night game against the Rams doesn’t feel scary right now.
And none of the first six teams the Bears play had a winning record in 2019.
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By no means do the Bears have an “easy” schedule early on, though — that Atlanta-Indianapolis-Tampa Bay stretch should be pretty tough — but some of these games should allow the Bears a better opportunity to accomplish a goal Matt Nagy laid out back at the NFL Combine in February.
“We got to figure out what our identity is, and that's going to be an objective for us,” Nagy said. “And then last year, you heard me say, sometimes it takes five or six weeks. I feel like, personally, that's always the case, but there's a sense of urgency for us going into this year. It needs to happen sooner.”
That line about needing a sense of urgency has stood out to me for months, especially looking ahead to the Nick Foles-Mitch Trubisky competition. And if the Bears want to find their offensive identity early into the 2020 season, getting the Lions and Giants in Weeks 1 and 2 should help establish something.
Nagy has had Matt Patricia’s number since both Matts joined the NFC North coaching ranks in 2018. Two of the Bears’ five best offensive games (by yards per play) in the Nagy era have come against Detroit, and Nagy is 4-0 against Patricia.
And the Giants’ defense hasn’t been good in a few years. So barring a miraculous turnaround in Joe Judge’s second week, we can probably expect New York to have a beatable defense.
So, facing two sub-par defenses to begin 2020 can go two ways. If the winner of the quarterback competition gets off to a strong start, it could give him more rope as the defenses get tougher (the Bucs, for example, have a sneaky-good defense).
Or: Let’s say Trubisky wins the competition but struggles against Detroit and New York. If he goes to Atlanta and doesn’t play well, could we see Foles come off the bench in the middle of a game?
If Nagy is serious about that urgency to get an offensive identity earlier than normal, he’ll need to make a switch if his Week 1 starting quarterback can’t cut it against two presumaby-bad defenses. But if Trubisky or Foles do well against the Lions and Giants, it could propel them — and the Bears’ offense — to finding their identity and being better in 2020.