Chicago Bears

PFF predicts Bears will be in bottom half of NFL this season

Why the football analytics site is low on the Bears' chances to take a big step forward this season

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The popular narrative around the NFL this season is that the Bears will be much improved compared to last year. Pro Football Focus isn’t buying the hype, however.

On Wednesday, PFF released their rankings of every NFL roster and they put the Bears at No. 20 overall. They believe they’ll win eight games, or fewer.

“On one hand, the Bears are a team with an ascending defense and a loaded receiving corps,” Jim Wyman and Dalton Wasserman wrote for PFF. “On the other, they are a team with a rookie gunslinger, a new offensive coordinator and bottom-five trench units on both sides of the ball. Expectations are high, but patience will likely be needed as the Bears try to build a sustainable future.”

Even with Montez Sweat in the fold for a full year, PFF views the defensive line as the Bears’ biggest weakness.

“The midseason addition of Montez Sweat was much needed, but the Bears’ defensive line still ranked last in the NFL in pass-rush grade in 2023. Given the dynamic offenses in the NFC North, that unit will need to find greater production, especially with the low-blitz tendencies in Matt Eberflus’ defense.”

The Bears drafted Austin Booker to help Sweat on the edges, but Booker is viewed as a project player, not someone who will come in and start right away. Other free agent additions like Jacob Martin and Byron Cowart project to be depth players. Meanwhile the Bears will need Gervon Dexter to step up as a starting three-tech with Justin Jones off to Arizona this year.

The site did say new quarterback Caleb Williams might be the “most talented passer ever to wear a Bears uniform,” even though he’s yet to play a single down for the team. They also acknowledged his phenomenal cast of wide receivers headlined by DJ Moore, Keenan Allen and fellow first-round pick Rome Odunze. They’re curious how he’ll respond if the offensive line can’t hold up, however.

“The question for Williams will be his ball security under pressure. In 2023, he was the best passer in the country from a clean pocket, but he posted a 38.9 passing grade with 16 turnover-worthy plays under pressure.”

It’s worth noting that Williams played behind a porous offensive line at USC, and still managed to put together incredible performances consistently. It’s unclear how PFF came up with their 38.9 grade under pressure for him last year.

If the Bears have one strength in PFF’s eyes, it’s their stacked pass coverage group that tied for the league lead with 22 interceptions last season.

“Led by breakout star cornerback Jaylon Johnson, Chicago played very good defense down the stretch last season. Of particular importance was their improvement in coverage late in the year. Over the final seven weeks of the regular season, the Bears ranked fifth in coverage grade and first in interceptions.”

We won’t really know what the Bears are about until they start playing the games for real this year. The regular season begins with a home date against the Titans on Sept. 8.

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