Arkush: Optimism is great, but can Bears avoid the NFC North cellar?

  • Backup Bears quarterback Trevor Siemian smiles as he warm up with teammates at Halas Hall in Lake Forest on Tuesday. With the Bears' fresh start this year, it remains likely there will be more losses than wins this season, but optimism still remains.

    Backup Bears quarterback Trevor Siemian smiles as he warm up with teammates at Halas Hall in Lake Forest on Tuesday. With the Bears' fresh start this year, it remains likely there will be more losses than wins this season, but optimism still remains. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/25/2022 6:24 PM

With the Bears' fresh start this year, it remains likely there will be more losses than wins this season.

Let's look at how they could fare in their division to create a baseline.

 

I asked coach Matt Eberflus if that's where he's starting, scouting division opponents, and he said, "Yeah, we've started that process. Any unique type of scheme you might see ... a running type quarterback that might be doing something unique where you have to work on it during training camp."

I asked him if that work could result in some tweaking of his scheme and preparation. "You have to look at the roster, the way they (division opponents) currently have it. Look at that skill set and then see how you're going to match up on personnel and also on your scheme."

What are they likely to discover?

Quarterback: 1. Packers 2. Vikings 3. Lions 4. Bears -- All of this could change quickly but we're not guessing whom we think they can be, or saying whom we'd rather have, we're talking about who they are now. Jared Goff has taken a team to a Super Bowl and Justin Fields is still a pup in training.

Running back: 1a. Packers 1b. Vikings 3. Bears 4. Lions -- The Bears are breathing down the Packers' and Vikings' necks and could turn out to be first, but today can you rank them ahead of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon or Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison? This will be a horse race and fun to watch.

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Wide receiver: 1. Vikings 2. Lions 3. Packers 4. Bears -- Detroit and Green Bay would be fourth in most other divisions. No other explanation is needed.

Tight end: 1. Lions 2. Bears 3. Vikings 4. Packers -- This is probably the NFL's worst division at this position. T.J. Hockenson has the highest ceiling, Cole Kmet can be the most complete, Irv Smith has never arrived and Robert Tonyan was a TD monster once but ...

Offensive line: 1. Lions 2. Packers 3. Vikings 4. Bears -- No further explanation needed.

Defensive line: 1. Packers 2. Bears 3. Vikings 4. Lions -- Four average units but Kenny Clark and Robert Quinn are special and we'll have to see how all the other lines shake out as the season goes on.

Linebacker: 1. Packers 2. Vikings 3. Bears 4. Lions -- Yes, Roquan Smith is an all-pro but Nicholas Morrow is just an exciting prospect and Bears don't really have a strong-side linebacker. The Pack is suddenly loaded here, and if Danielle Hunter makes the switch to 3-4 well, look out for the Vikes' group.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Cornerback: 1. Packers 2a. Vikings 2b. Bears 2c. Lions -- Vikings are average, Bears and Lions more promising but it's too early to tell.

Safety: 1. Vikings 2. Packers 3. Bears 4. Lions -- Vikings' Harrison Smith is aging, the Pack is overrated and Eddie Jackson needs a big bounce back to justify third.

Special teams: Incomplete until we see the final rosters?

And the final scorecard is:

1. Packers 16, 2. Vikings 18, 3. Lions 25, 4. Bears 27.

To complete this exercise for the moment let's rank the divisions:

1. AFC West, 2. NFC West, 3. AFC East, 4. AFC North, 5. NFC North, 6. NFC South, 7. NFC East, 8. AFC South.

It's not a pretty picture, but it doesn't mean the Bears' rebuilding plan is a bad one.

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