The Saints have clinched home-field advantage in the NFC. The Rams are likely to secure the second first-round bye. However, neither team will be playing for the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Chicago Bears are an absolute wagon of a team built to win in the playoffs.
When you think of Da Bears, you think gritty, hard-nosed defense and that’s exactly what the 2018 Bears have been throwing at teams. The Bears have the NFL’s third-best scoring defense, allowing only 18.2 ppg (best in the NFC). All levels of this defense should strike fear into the hearts of opposing offenses.
Chicago’s front seven is led by the one-man wrecking crew, Khalil Mack. Mack has been an absolute force for the Bears, with 12.5 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss, 6 forced fumbles, and an interception return touchdown. Mack is undoubtedly a finalist for defensive player of the year for his excellent play in all facets of the game. But Mack is far from alone in the front seven. Akiem Hicks is as disruptive a defensive tackle as there is with 11 tackles for a loss and 6 sacks. NT Eddie Goldman has been dominant as a gap controller. Danny Trevathan is one of the smartest inside linebackers. Recent first-round picks Leonard Floyd and Roquan Smith have been inconsistent but made huge splash plays. Altogether, this unit has 46 sacks, 3 defensive touchdowns, and the second fewest rushing yards allowed per game (81.1 yds/g). There is not a better front seven in the NFL.
The secondary has held up too. The Bears have given up the eighth-fewest yards per game through the air (227.6 yds/g). The group is led by Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson. Jackson is the highest graded safety according to Pro Football Focus. He is having such an absurdly great year that he actually has more touchdowns this year (3) than Bills running back LeSean McCoy. Free Safety Adrian Amos has been lights-out opposite of Jackson. Starting cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara have both blanketed opposing receivers. Altogether, the Bears have intercepted 27 passes this year, which is 7 more than second-place Miami. They returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns.
The two groups combine to form a defense that routinely makes huge plays. The Bears caused 36 turnovers this year and scored 6 defensive touchdowns, both are head and shoulders higher than the rest of the NFL.
While it is entirely possible the Bears could win games solely on their defense, they haven’t had to this year. The Bears have the ninth highest scoring defense in the NFL at 26.5 ppg (The Bears are the only team in the NFC to have a top-10 offense and defense). The Bears have seen huge strides by second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky has already thrown 17 more touchdowns this year than he did last year while also raising his passer rating from 77.5 to 96.0. His improvement has jumpstarted the Chicago offense. TE Trey Burton may not be in Philly anymore, but he is still pretty special. Burton has been one of Trubisky’s favorite red zone weapons, catching 6 TDs. RB Jordan Howard has struggled this season but has played better as of late and his bruising style pairs well with human spark plug Tarik Cohen.
Top to bottom, the Bears are one of the NFL’s most complete teams. Neither Philadelphia nor Minnesota should be looking forward to an early January trip to Soldier Field. Assuming Chicago wins the wild card game, they earn a trip to LA to take on the Rams, the same team the Bears held to only 6 points just three weeks ago. This defense is the exact blueprint to beat the Rams and even the Saints; pressure the QB and feast on turnovers. It’s time for us to admit the Bears may be the team to beat.