The Chicago Bears enter last season with tremendous pressure on the organization, in particular on head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. After back-to-back 8-8 seasons, Chicago needs to show some degree of progress this season, even though finishing with a .500 win percentage was good enough to make the playoffs in 2020.
However, the Bears’ success or failure this season will be determined by more than just the win-loss record. The Bears traded up to draft Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick. After trading a haul of picks (including first-round selections in 2021 and 2022) to move up from 20 to 11 to take Fields, Pace and Nagy need to have nailed that pick. Just four years ago, the Bears traded up to take Mitch Trubisky second overall. Since that didn’t work out, the GM and head coach will be on the short leash.
Chicago Bears 2021 Schedule
Chicago has the third-most difficult 2021 schedule, as its opponents this season carried a 149-122-1 record in 2020 (.550 win percentage), trailing only the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. The Bears have the toughest schedule of any NFC team, but they are closely followed by division rivals in the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, who have the fourth- and fifth-strongest schedules, respectively.
Beginning and ending the season on the road, the Bears will have a tricky go of things. They also will not play home games in back-to-back weeks during the entire season.
Bears 2021 Schedule
|Week 1||Sept. 12||at Los Angeles Rams|
|Week 2||Sept. 19||Cincinnati Bengals|
|Week 3||Sept. 26||at Cleveland Browns|
|Week 4||Oct. 3||Detroit Lions|
|Week 5||Oct. 10||at Las Vegas Raiders|
|Week 6||Oct. 17||Green Bay Packers|
|Week 7||Oct. 24||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Week 8||Oct. 31||San Francisco 9ers|
|Week 9||Nov. 8||at Pittsburgh Steelers|
|Week 11||Nov. 21||Baltimore Ravens|
|Week 12||Nov. 25||at Detroit Lions|
|Week 13||Dec. 5||Arizona Cardinals|
|Week 14||Dec. 12||at Green Bay Packers|
|Week 15||Dec. 20||Minnesota Vikings|
|Week 16||Dec. 26||at Seattle Seahawks|
|Week 17||Jan. 2||New York Giants|
|Week 18||Jan. 9||at Minnesota Vikings|
Beyond those games, Chicago will take on the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7. Games against the Steelers and Ravens bookend the Week 10 bye.
Chicago Bears News & Picks
Chicago Bears 2020 Summary
The 2020 Chicago Bears were a team of two quarterbacks. Alternating between Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles, the Bears’ offense struggled to develop consistency and rhythm. Trubisky’s mobility opened things up for the running game but his lack of accuracy and arm strength slowed things down for receivers. Conversely, Foles was a better passer but he wasn’t a run threat, limiting play action effectiveness and run schemes.
Somehow, the Bears started the season 5-1, including a Week 5 home win over the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. However, the wheels fell off and Chicago dropped its next six games, falling to 5-7. Stumbling to the finish line, the Bears finished the season 8-8, good enough for the second Wild Card in the NFC playoffs (2020 was the first season in which each conference added a seventh playoff team).
Chicago’s first round opponent was the No. 2 seeded New Orleans Saints. A touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham as time expired kept the score from looking worse, but the Saints shut the Bears down, winning 21-9.
To address their quarterback inefficiencies, Chicago traded up to draft Ohio State quarterback Fields with the 11th overall pick. The Bears also signed free agent Andy Dalton, who is expected to start the first few weeks while Fields adjusts to the NFL level.
Chicago Bears Key Players
Outside of the quarterback position, several key Bears players will be under the microscope this season.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson has been frustrated with the direction of the franchise and is threatening to leave the team in free agency. The Bears used the franchise tag to secure Robinson’s services for 2021, which led to Robinson signing a one-year tender. Robinson finished the 2020 season with 102 receptions for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns. He led the Bears in receptions and yards, and finished second behind Graham in touchdowns.
Running back David Montgomery has missed just one game in his first two seasons. He showed growth from his rookie season to sophomore campaign, finishing fifth in the league in rushing yards last season. However, Montgomery is still not considered among the top running backs in the league. Chicago will lean on Montgomery to help take pressure off the passing game.
On the defensive side of the ball, Khalil Mack needs to be more effective than he was in 2020. Mack has widely been considered one of the top defensive players in the league over the past several seasons. However, he posted a career low in solo tackles (29), had his second season with fewer than 10 sacks and had the fewest quarterback hits (13) since his rookie season (12).
Chicago Bears New Additions
- Justin Fields, QB (drafted 11th overall)
- Andy Dalton, QB (signed a one-year, $10 million deal)
- Desmond Trufant, CB (signed a one-year deal at just over $1 million)
Chicago Bears Key Subtractions
- Mitch Trubisky, QB (left in free agency)
- Kyle Fuller, CB (released by team)
- Barkevious Mingo, OLB (released by team)
- Tashaun Gipson, S (released by team)
- Cordarrelle Patterson, WR/KR (released by team)
The Bears have a legitimate shot to win the NFC North in 2021, although they must overcome Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The defense is still formidable, and if the offense can pull their weight, finishing the season with 10 wins is certainly possible.
As of publication, the Bears (+425) have the third-best odds to win the NFC North, slightly behind Minnesota (+250). Green Bay is the favorite at -175.
Chicago Bears Offense
Chicago’s offense in 2020 varied depending on who was under center. While Dalton lacks mobility, he has a stronger and more accurate arm than Foles, which should help spread the field and open up the offense as a whole.
Keep an eye on second-year tight end Cole Kmet in the receiving game. Kmet saw an expanded role in the passing game late in the regular season and posted career highs in receptions (seven) and targets (eight) in the regular-season finale against Green Bay. His continued development should lead to more targets in 2021, especially if he develops a rapport with Dalton and/or Fields.
Chicago Bears Defense
Chicago’s defense was above average in 2020, ranking 12th against the pass and 15th against the run. While they allowed the second-fewest rushing touchdowns (11), the Bears allowed 28 through the air, tied for 14th most. However, they struggled with takeaways, recording the seventh-fewest in the league (18).
Robert Quinn, the second-highest paid member of the Bears’ defense, had a massively disappointing 2020 season, ranking 14th on the team in solo tackles (14) and eighth in sacks (two) while not recording a tackle for loss.
In a head-scratching move, the Bears cut cornerback Kyle Fuller, who was arguably the strongest member of their secondary last season. The Bears as a whole needs a bounce-back 2021 campaign.
Chicago Bears FAQs
When will Justin Fields take over as a starter?
This is a tough one to predict. The Bears have committed to Andy Dalton as their Week 1 starter, but it’s anyone’s guess after that. Looking at the schedule, Week 4 at home against the Detroit Lions would be a great opportunity, but Chicago can’t rush him in before he is ready.
Is this the Bears’ last season at Soldier Field?
The Bears are reportedly considering moving their home stadium to Arlington Heights, roughly 30 minutes outside of Chicago. The proposed new property would allow the Bears to upgrade to a new stadium after playing at Soldier Field for the past 50 years. Soldier Field has the smallest fan capacity of any stadium, so moving could provide additional revenue for the team.
Other than Fields, what rookies should Bears fans watch for?
Needing to add weapons to the offense, the Bears drafted wide receiver Dazz Newsome from the University of North Carolina in the sixth round. Newsome led North Carolina in receptions (72), yards (1,018), and touchdowns (10) in 2019, but saw his stock slip after failing to match that production in his senior season. Newsome is a bit undersized at 5 feet 10 l\and 190 pounds, but with his speed and abilities as a kick/punt returner, he should still be an impact player early on.
Newsome broke his collarbone in June, but he is expected to be ready for training camp and the preseason.