Free Press sports writer Carlos Monarrez breaks down the Detroit Lions’ opponents in the NFC North for 2020, with predicted records:
The Bears have a great, playoff-caliber defense that finished eighth overall in yards allowed and ninth in both passing yards and rushing yards allowed per game. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack remains one of the NFL’s elite quarterback rushers, even though his 8.5 sacks last year marked the first time since 2014 that he didn’t register double-digit sacks.
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The Bears are unsettled at quarterback, though fourth-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will reportedly get the nod in Week 1 against the Lions. There’s been so much consternation about Trubisky’s development – or lack thereof – that the Bears had to bring in Nick Foles and they were cagey for most of training camp about who the starter would be at Ford Field.
The search to replace quarterback Sid Luckman enters its 70th year in the Windy City. This time around, that process is especially painful for the good people at Halas Hall because the Bears traded a boatload of picks to the 49ers to draft Trubisky, which has netted them one great season in 2018 that’s looking more like a mirage. This is also coach Matt Nagy’s third season. He led his team to the playoffs in 2018 but then took a step back with last year’s 8-8 record. His seat isn’t hot, but if the Bears don’t improve this year it’ll be toasty in 2021.
The defense, led by Mack, remains the most potent part of the Bears’ game by far. Accordingly, the Bears will only go as far as their defense takes them. Chicago did add edge rushers Robert Quinn and Barkevious Mingo in free agency, which could help offset the push they won’t be getting up the middle. But if the Bears are going to compete and take a step forward, Mack will have to be the prime producer.
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You can make an argument on both sides of the ball for what the Bears are lacking. Do they need to fortify a defense that may be showing some cracks? They’re unsettled at cornerback opposite Pro Bowler Kyle Fuller and could be light at defensive tackle after they let Nick Williams and his six sacks walk to Detroit via free agency, then had Eddie Goldman opt out of the season. But what they probably need most is a better passing attack. Allen Robinson II (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s) was the only credible threat last year. That led them to sign 35-year-old Ted Ginn Jr. and tight end Jimmy Graham, who turns 34 in November. They also drafted Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet in the second round, making him the first tight end picked this year.
As long as the Packers have quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it’s going to be hard to count them out. Rodgers turns 37 in November, yet he’s coming off another Pro Bowl season and he’s still among the NFL’s best quarterbacks. It’s no wonder he helped take the Packers to their first NFC championship game in three years.
The defense – a long-forgotten stepchild under Mike McCarthy – finally got a little love. Although it’s still far from attaining favorite-child status, the defense played well and ranked ninth in points allowed. That was the first time since 2010 the Packers’ defense cracked the top 10 in that category. But as any still-bruised Packers fan can tell you, they were absolutely run over in the NFC title game, when they allowed 285 rushing yards to the 49ers. And they didn’t make any significant changes this offseason to help them stop the run.
As a franchise, the Packers are largely unsentimental about keeping their popular star players. Brett Favre? Gone. Clay Matthews? See ya later. Now you can add Rodgers to that list after the Packers drafted Utah quarterback Jordan Love 26th overall – very much signaling to everyone Rodgers’ days are numbered in Green Bay. Rodgers has been accepting of this reality and has said all the right things so far. But Rodgers doesn’t let things slide off his back too easily. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine tension arising between Rodgers and management if they hit a losing skid this season…