The Chicago Bears are the NFC underdog team that could win it all

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Ricky Dimon

NFL

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The Monsters of Midway are back, baby! And they are back thanks mostly to Khalil Mack—and to Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, who so graciously traded the services of the star linebacker to the Bears prior to the 2018 campaign. Mack is not going to win NFL MVP, but the fact that a defensive player is even in the discussion (along with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald) is extremely impressive. The former University at Buffalo standout is +8000 to win MVP, the eighth choice being the likes of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (a -160 favorite), Saints quarterback Drew Brees (a +100 second choice), and also Donald (+6600). Let’s dive into some of the reasons why the Bears are the NFC underdog team that could win it all.

Instant impact

Mack has done just about everything for his new team, racking up 37 solo tackles, 12.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and one interception–which he naturally returned for a touchdown. Chicago as a whole is ranked fourth in the NFL in total defense and third in scoring defense, one of five teams to hold opponents to an average of fewer than 20 points per game (18.2, trailing only Baltimore and Tennessee).

“How do you think it worked out,” Mack joked when asked following last week’s win over San Francisco how he felt the trade from Oakland worked out for him. “I feel like it’s pretty obvious to me. But yeah, in the end, ultimately you have the end goal to get to the big game. So that’s all that came on my mind.”

New Coach

A lot of Chicago’s success can also be attributed, of course, to new head coach Matt Nagy. Following three losing seasons under John Fox, the Bears have wasted no time turning things around under Nagy. They are 11-4 through 15 games, already accruing the same number of wins as the number of losses with which they were saddled in 2017. Nagy was named AP Coach of the Year earlier this month.

“He’s overseen a total turnaround of the Bears in just his first year as an NFL head coach, taking a team that hadn’t finished above .500 since 2012 and turning them into the best of the NFC North,” Howard Fendrich of the AP noted. “He’s an offensive guru who learned from former boss Andy Reid, and Chicago’s play calling has been creative and fun–and overcome limitations at the QB spot to be good enough to let a superb defense lead the way.”

Outlook

Can coach and linebacker lead the Bears to an improbable spot in Atlanta and ultimately a Super Bowl triumph? It’s not likely according to the odds (Chicago is +600 to win the NFC and to win the Super Bowl; the Saints and Rams are ahead at +120 and +190 in the conference, respectively), but it’s certainly not out of the question.

As the likely No. 3 seed in the NFC, the Bears–assuming they take care of business in their postseason opener–will have to go on the road for both the divisional round and the conference championship. What’s the recipe to win on the road in the playoffs? Being able to play defense and run the football. While it obviously plays defense even better than it runs the football, Chicago’s rushing attack is no slouch. The team ranks in the better half of the NFL (14th) in that department at 117.9 yards per game. Jordan Howard has racked up 826 rushing yards, Tarik Cohen is averaging 4.5 yards per attempt, and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky can get things done on the ground in addition to through the air with 405 yards on 65 keepers.

The road to Atlanta my go through both Los Angeles and New Orleans. But the Rams have struggled since a torrid first half of the season and Chicago could be a tough matchup for the Saints because of its defensive prowess. Don’t sleep on these monsters!

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