Note: This post was written in January, featuring predictions for the offseason and beyond.
If you are looking for predictions for the Bears’ regular season record, check out: Chicago Bears 2016 Season Predictions.
Before this season began, predictions for how the Bears would fare ranged anywhere from 3-13 from the pessimists out there to 10-6 from the diehards. Most predictions from the Chicago sports media had the Bears finishing around 6-10 or 7-9.
But don’t let those experts fool you. Those who are now crowing about their accurate predictions are secretly sighing with relief, for nobody expected the Bears to be at or near .500 in the middle of the season. Few people made such bold predictions about the Bears beating the Chiefs in Kansas City, triumphing over the San Diego Chargers on the road on Monday Night Football, or trouncing the St. Louis Rams.. Even fewer predicted that the Bears would defeat the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving on Brett Favre Love Fest night.
The Bears were in prime position to force the experts to adjust their predictions when they were sitting pretty at 5-6 with five games to go against some opponents who all looked beatable. Playoff predictions began to mount — or, at the very least, an above-.500 record.
Then the Bears started losing games they shouldn’t have, the critics sat back comfortably in their seats, and the rest is history.
Making predictions is often an exercise in futility, for no one can truly know how things will play out. But it’s a fun thing to do, challenging one to think critically and step out on a ledge.
Here’s a look at my early 2016 predictions:
Prediction 1: Adam Gase will not be back with the Bears in 2016
Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase did wonders with the Bears offense in 2015. Critics will wonder how that can be said about a 6-10 team, but considering the amount of injuries that piled up throughout the year, it’s a real achievement. Gase received interest as a head coaching candidate prior to this past season and that interest has only grown after the job he has done with the Bears. Gase likely will land a head coaching gig this offseason and the Bears will have to replace him.
Prediction 2: The Bears will draft — and/or acquire — a young backup quarterback to develop
It’s early in general manager Ryan Pace‘s tenure, but I will say that he has been a breath of fresh air so far. You get the sense that this guy knows what he is doing and is hellbent on adding more talent to this roster. The Bears seem committed to Jay Cutler as the quarterback for 2016, but you can bet that they’ll try to address the depth at the position and see if they can add a young talent to develop as the quarterback of the future.
Prediction 3: Matt Forte will sign with a different team in free agency
I’ve loved watching and rooting for Matt Forte throughout his career with the Chicago Bears, but I have a strong sense that his time is coming to an end. Forte is a proud man. When the Bears brought in backup running backs over the years — like Chester Taylor, Marion Barber, Michael Bush — Forte was quick to stand up to those guys — even getting in scuffles with them — to show them who was the alpha dog in the running back room. Forte had a contentious contract negotiation with the Bears the last time he was slated to become a free agent. The Bears likely will present Forte a small contract offer out of respect for the veteran, but Forte doesn’t want to play second fiddle to Jeremy Langford. He wants to be the featured back on a championship caliber team, and my hunch is that he’ll land with a team like the Packers, Patriots, or Cowboys.
Prediction 4: Alshon Jeffery will receive the franchise tag
I have a bad feeling about the relationship between Alshon Jeffery and the Bears organization. Jeffery is rumored to be unhappy in Chicago because he doesn’t have many friends and he doesn’t like the cold weather of the north. He also didn’t like when the Bears traded away his former friend, teammate and mentor, Brandon Marshall, prior to the 2015 season. Jeffery is going to want to be paid big bucks, but what exactly is his value? When he’s on the field, he produces like a top wide receiver. But he’s missed too much time with injuries to pay him full asking price. The Bears don’t want to let him walk away for nothing, so applying the franchise tag on Jeffery could be the last resort.
Prediction 5: Martellus Bennett will be back on the Bears in 2016
I’m going out on a limb with this one, but I don’t expect the Bears to jettison Martellus Bennett. Would it make sense philosophically? Of course. One of the first things the Pace regime stated upon taking office was that the organization wanted guys who were focused on football. Bennett is a great player when healthy and focused, but he’s a bit of an enigmatic goofball with tons of off-the-field interests, and he was a bit too concerned about getting paid more money only halfway into his contract last offseason. Can I see the Bears trading him? Of course. But would it make smart football sense? Not really. Backup Zach Miller showed promise, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and can never stay healthy. Plus, Bennett offers a rare combination of size and speed at the tight end position.
Prediction 6: The Bears will draft a defensive lineman in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft
A 6-10 team is one that has many holes. Although the Bears showed promise and improvement this past season, they still need an influx in talent. How do you choose which position to address? Well, whatever has the most value, of course. The Bears need help on all three levels of the defense, but they need a strong defensive line in the 3-4 defense they are running. Rookie Eddie Goldman had a solid first season and will likely continue to get better. Jarvis Jenkins was a solid contributor for much of the season, recording four sacks early in the season. But he signed only a one-year deal. Will Sutton and Mitch Unrein rotated at the other end position, but Sutton is undersized for the position and Unrein is not a long-term answer at the position. The Bears need another space-eater or two.
Prediction 7: The Bears will win 9 games in 2016, just barely missing the playoffs
The Bears opponents for the 2016 season are as follows. They play at home against Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tennessee, and Washington. They play on the road at Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, New York Giants, and Tampa Bay. They have six games against 2015 playoff teams, but that’s never truly indicative of strength of schedule. Anything less than a 3-game improvement from Year 1 of a regime to Year 2 is an utter disappointment. I expect the Bears to win at least three division games, plus score victories against Jacksonville, San Francisco, Tennessee, Washington, NY Giants and Tampa Bay. They have potential to beat others as well, but there are always a couple surprises every year. As for the playoff race, because the Bears are in a tough division, I feel like they will just miss out on the postseason.
Prediction 8: Kevin White will lead the Bears in receptions in 2016
I’m taking a leap of faith with this one, but I feel the untested Kevin White will be a bright spot in the 2016 Bears offense. White — always assuming he stays healthy — will be like a shiny, brand new Christmas toy that Jay Cutler opens up on Christmas morning. White has the speed and capability to separate from defenders, which will give Cutler a great outlet to get rid of the ball to. I can see White bailing out Cutler when there is a heavy pass rush, plus White will be tested on the deep ball as well.