2022 Season Review and 2023 Predictions

Been wanting to write this post for a while, finally getting around to it. Let's review what I thought would happen with the Bears in 2022 and how I think 2023 will play out.

Past Season Predictions

I predicted the Bears would go 8-9 or 9-8 and that 2-3 of their wins would be due to Justin Fields putting the team on his back and willing them to a win. Boy was I wrong on that. They started the season 3-4 and I thought there was no way they weren't going to win at least a few more. And while Fields didn't quite single-handedly win games for them, it sure looked like it was trending in the right direction there for a bit.

Enough of the past, on to the future.

Free Agency

Everyone I hear talks about just how much money the Bears have to spend this off season and they're predicting some sort of wild spending spree. It's not gonna happen. Poles even said he is going to continue to be judicious and build a team meant for sustained success. Therefore, much to the dismay of many fans, I think we'll see the Bears sign a couple of bigger name free agents, but not do anything wild. I think the Bears are going to re-sign more of their own players than people expect, again much to the dismay of the fan base. I think Poles is going to spend much more closer to what he needs to get him below the cap minimum and will save much of that money for 2024 and beyond. If Fields is who we all seem to think he is, a lot of that will be spent on him in the not too distant future and Poles has to plan for that.

Draft Day

Like pretty much every other Bears fan, I don't see them trading Fields and I do see them trading down at least once (sell that #1 pick to the highest bidder) and likely multiple times. I think Poles is a draft-and-develop sort of GM—fits with his plans to build for continued success—and values having more draft picks over higher ones. This should make a lot of Bears fans happy - until he doesn't draft either Andersen or Carter at which time they'll go bat-shit crazy.

2023 Season

And now time for my way-too-early 2023 season prediction. I expect the Bears to be improved, but anyone thinking they're a playoff team or super bowl contender is fooling themselves. If they make the playoffs it will be one of those back-door entries where some fluke thing happens and they end up the last playoff team but are completely over-matched in their first game. The same sort of thing that happened in 2020 where they finished 8-8 and got in only because the NFL added an extra playoff team that year. I think we'll see an improved team. We'll be excited by what Justin Fields brings to the field and we'll see that if they continue to add more talent on both sides of the ball, the team is on an upward trajectory and that good things are ahead for them.

I think the future is bright for the Bears.


Final Four Games

The Bears finally had their bye week and have four games remaining on their schedule. The things I’m most interested in seeing are the changes they make to their offense, if any.

After the loss to the Commanders in week 6, they had a “mini-bye”. During that time they made some changes to they way the offense operates and started a streak of scoring 30+ points per game. Now that they had their real bye week I’m wondering what additional changes they might come up with and how different they’ll look offensively.
What I’d like to see, and am hoping I’ll see, is an offense that takes more risks and puts the game into Fields hands a bit more than his legs. I know, their receivers can’t catch and their line can’t pass block long enough for plays to develop down field. But I hope to be surprised. I hope to see some wrinkles that allow Fields to throw more. More timing throws, more tight windows. That sort of thing.

I’m hoping to see the Bears look even better on offense than they did coming out of their mini-bye leaving fans and the league saying, “Holy crap! If they can do that with so little talent, what are they gonna do next season?” That would make me a very happy Bears fan.

I’m guessing (hoping) we see just that and that the Bears end up winning 3 of their final 4 games. This will, of course, cause them to drop out of the top three in the draft and end up picking somewhere in the 6-9 range leaving fans furious. But that’s OK. I’ll take that along with the feeling they really are a franchise on their way up and should be contending for a Super Bowl in the next few years.


Predictions & Thoughts for NFL 2022

We're on the eve of the 2022 NFL season (well, OK, it actually started on Thursday, but we all know Sunday is the REAL start of the NFL season) and there are 2 teams I'm interested in following—besides the Bears of course—and I have a couple of other thoughts to share.

The Las Vegas Raiders

Is one of the teams I'll be watching this season due to their hiring of Josh McDaniels as their new head coach. He famously became the coach of the Broncos in 2009 and quickly flamed out. His tenure there was not good and he himself admits he was too new, too controlling, too young, and wasn't very good. He goes back to New England and in 2018 accepts the head coaching job of the Indianapolis Colts but bails on them leaving them, coaches and coordinators in a lurch. Some thought he burned all his bridges and would never get another head coaching offer again, but along come the Raiders in 2022 and off he goes. I'm interested to see what he does there. How he coaches, how much he's learned and grown over the years since Denver. He's not lacking in talent there but that division is full of good teams. I think it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The Miami Dolphins

Are the other team I'm watching this season because they seem to have done what just about all of Bears fandom and media wanted the Bears to do: they've gone all in on Tua. They went out and spent a lot on high-priced veterans to surround Tua with the talent he needs to succeed. This is what most people wanted the Bears to do with Justin Fields. However, there are still questions as to whether Tua really is a franchise quarterback just like there are questions as to whether Fields can be a franchise QB. So this is an interesting experiment. Let's say by the end of the 2022 season it's clear Tua isn't—where does that leave the Dolphins? They'll be in a position where they need to go get a new QB high in the 2023 draft who will take at least a year or two to be really ready to lead the team, assuming the pick works out. Meanwhile all those expensive veterans they went out and got will be eating up cap space, getting older and their deals will be running out by the time the new guy is ready to lead the team. I don't know that's a good plan. The Bears, on the other hand, are taking a different approach. They didn't surround Fields with proven talent because Fields hasn't proven he's "the guy". Their plan is to find that out this year. If he is, then next season they will have plenty of cap space and draft picks to surround him with the talent he needs to succeed. If it turns out he's not, they go draft a new QB and it's rebuild all over again, but with a more or less clean slate. This will be fun to watch.

Two other thoughts

Aside from those two teams, there are two coaches that I find intriguing right now: Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers and Sean McVay of the Rams.

Having lived in Wisconsin most of my adult life, I've been exposed to plenty of Packers media coverage. Watching the LaFleur tenure has been interesting. He came in as the new head coach and had to deal with the the notoriously prickly and sensitive Aaron Rodgers. By drafting Jordan Love, it seems clear the Packers were ready to move on from Rodgers if things didn't work out between him and LaFleur. But LaFleur was able to win over Rodgers, install a whole new offensive scheme, one Rodgers admittedly doesn't like as much, and keep him playing at a high level. When he was hired, I didn't think LaFleur would last. I thought the Packers were joining the pack in hiring any young guy who may have been somewhat influenced by McVay in the hopes he'd bring some of that Rams magic to the Packers. Now, I think he has shown himself to be a really good head coach who may just be in Green Bay for a long time.

As for Sean McVay, I'm beginning to think he may end up being known as one of the best head coaches in NFL history. He and the Rams GM, Les Snead, are doing things differently and succeeding at it. McVay isn't afraid to swap out players, define unconventional roles for them, find ways to get the most out of them, and work around their deficiencies. All the hallmarks of a good coach. Many coaches say they do that, or at least try to do that, I think few succeed. McVay is one that really does that. He's not afraid to try new things, and to change things up based on how the players and the league changes around him. As for the Rams organization, they've completely upended the way they go about acquiring players. They toss around draft picks like they're nothing, pay free agents tons of money to come there, and aren't afraid to let talented players go to other teams. I think in several years we'll look back and see that the Rams organization has changed the way many teams operate.

That's it for me for today. The NFL season is about to start for me and I'm excited to watch the Bears play the 49ers.

Go Bears!