If you drive to Soldier Field they make you pay a toll
For cripes sake they only won one lousy Super Bowl
Still we wouldn’t mind seeing Ditka run over by a truck
‘Cause the Bears…Still…Suck
Those are lyrics to a polka song that makes its way around the radio where I live in Wisconsin, composed by fans of the archrival Green Bay Packers. And for this coming NFL season, the rest of the nation seems to be in agreement—no one sees a lot of hope for the Chicago Bears in 2017.
The quarterback situation is a mess, the cupboard is mostly bare at the skill positions, they’ve gone 9-23 the last two years under head coach John Fox and haven’t made the playoffs since 2010.
The pessimism regarding the Bears is underscored by the fact Las Vegas considers them a 30-1 longshot just to win the NFC North—by comparison, Minnesota is a bit higher than 3-1 and Detroit just under 7-1. So it’s not just respect for favored Green Bay driving that number, it’s that oddsmakers consider the Bears light-years away from even mediocre teams like the Vikings and Lions.
In other words, in the eyes of Vegas, the Bears still suck.
But I’m not so sure. There are 16 other starting positions on a football field besides the quarterback and skill position players and Chicago looks pretty good there. Defensively, there’s no obvious weaknesses and inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman is one of the best in the league, ready to inherit a role previously occupied in Bears lore by names like Butkus, Singletary and Urlacher.
The offensive line is also steady, something that was never the case during the Lost Years of the Jay Cutler Era. Chicago’s front five is better than its counterparts in Detroit or Minnesota. And speaking of Cutler—do you blame him or Fox for the poor record of the last two years? If you believe Cutler had become a toxic personality for the team, then Fox can be let off the hook and we can assume that his generally good coaching record can reassert itself with Jay now in Miami.
Thus, the question is really—can you win with question marks at quarterback? Look, you’re not going to be a threat to reach the Super Bowl unless you have a stable QB situation and Chicago isn’t going to threaten Green Bay at the top of the NFC North. But the combination of defense, offensive line play and good coaching can certainly put you in the jumble of teams that will range from 7-9 to 9-7 and compete for a playoff spot to the last couple weeks of the season. If the Bears do that, they could finish second in the North.
Fans around me in Wisconsin here can still sing the polka song with confidence, because the Packers are loaded. But fans in Minnesota or Detroit might want to be more circumspect. Because these Bears won’t suck.