Meet the participants
Eduardo Monk Jr. – FPC Bears Managing Editor, FPC NBA Central Division Managing Editor
Usayd Koshul – FPC Bears writer
DeShawn Jackson – FPC Bears writer
Special Guest: Tyler Kading – FPC MLB Managing Editor
Who has been the Offensive MVP?
Eduardo Monk Jr.: Tarik Cohen
As the leader in all-purpose yards for the Bears, Cohen’s explosiveness has added another unparalleled facet to an innovative Bears offense. He already has three receiving touchdowns and his play has massively dynamified the passing game, highlighted with a seven reception, 121-yard effort against the Buccaneers. With four plays going for more than twenty yards up to this point, his big-play capability seen in slivers last season has only been magnified under Matt Nagy’s far more versatile offense. As a trendy breakout pick during the preseason, Cohen has proven his offensive star potential early.
Usayd Koshul: Mitchell Trubisky
It is hard to pick here, but I am going with Mitchell Trubisky for offensive MVP. The second-year signal caller’s field day against the Buccaneers was a turning point for him and for the Bears franchise. Trubisky showed that he finally understands Matt Nagy’s offense while the Bears finally get their own version of #12 in Green Bay.
DeShawn Jackson: Charles Leno Jr.
Nothing really stands out so far on the Bears offense, especially if you take out the Tampa Bay game. While it may be a boring pick, Charles Leno Jr. is a name Bears fans haven’t heard very much in 2018. For an offensive lineman, that’s a good thing. Leno has allowed just four hurries on the seasons, with no sacks or quarterback hits allowed. Most recently, Leno was graded by Pro Football Focus as not only the top offensive lineman but the top offensive player in the league through the first four weeks of the season.
Tyler Kading: Tarik Cohen
Offensively I think it has to be Tarik Cohen as the offensive MVP. Cohen knew coming into this year that he was going to be a swiss army knife, splitting out wide, taking inside handoffs, heck, even maybe lining up at quarterback in some shotgun snaps. Not only has Cohen taken all these roles in stride, but he’s thrived to a point where he is now considered the RB1 of this team. Cohen has been so good that Jordan Howard, the second leading rusher in football the past two years, has more-or-less been demoted to backup. That says a ton.
Who has been the defensive MVP?
Eduardo Monk Jr.: Khalil Mack
With up and by far the most dominant defensive season since JJ Watt’s historic 2014 campaign, Mack’s impact on the entirety of the Bears cannot be exaggerated. The early league MVP favorite number’s rank as one of the most incredible four-game stretches in NFL history, putting up five sacks, seventeen tackles, four forced fumbles, a touchdown, and an interception. Otherwise, a strong defensive unit, the Bears sit as the top team in sacks and fifth in yards due to his unbridled impact.
Usayd Koshul: Khalil Mack
Defensive MVP clearly has been Mack for the Bears. Chicago’s biggest addition of 2018 has a forced fumble in each game this season and has five sacks in four games. He’s been a force for a defense that was already ranked tenth overall in 2017.
DeShawn Jackson: Khalil Mack
This is a no-brainer. Mack leads the team in sacks, has forced a fumble in every game so far, and has a pick-six. He’s also undeniably made every single player on the defense better, as he’s taken the attention of every team’s blocking scheme, which has allowed the defensive line to face one-on-one blocks, linebackers to cover instead of blitz, and defensive backs to all perform at a high level.
Tyler Kading: Khalil Mack
I’m just going to save everyone some time, and not even talk about defensive MVP. We all know Khalil Mack is playing at a defensive player of the year level, so he’s obviously been the best defensive player on the team.
What has been the biggest surprise of the early season?
Eduardo Monk Jr. – While a six touchdown explosion may have changed some minds, Mitchell Trubisky’s overall lack of development and a step forward from his rookie year has been a very disappointing surprise. With all the chips in place for a breakout season, Trubisky still seems uncomfortably nervous in the pocket and has yet to showcase consistent pocket passing abilities. The Bears attacked the offseason with the sole intent of showering their franchise quarterback in toys and weapons to allow for his wings to spread. Sadly, outside of the obvious Buccaneers outburst, this all hasn’t quite come to fruition yet.
Usayd Koshul – Roquan Smith’s impact after missing all of training camp and then dealing with hamstring issues to begin the season. The Bears first-round pick has notched 18 total tackles through four games this season. Most thought Smith would need ample time to improve, but he’s stepped in and been a major contributor for a defense that is getting better each week.
DeShawn Jackson – It quietly seemed as if Trevathan was just about done. He came into 2018, having missed 11 games in the previous two seasons and had another injury early in training camp and the preseason. Some expected he would either be not healthy enough to play or would play without being as effective as he was when the Bears signed him prior to the 2016 season. But Trevathan has been great on all three downs, leading the team in tackles, while adding two sacks, two passes defended, a forced fumble, and an interception on his way to an NFC Player of the Week award after Week two.
Tyler Kading – I honestly think the biggest surprise this year has been Khalil Mack. I’ll be completely honest, when the Bears traded for Mack, I didn’t think he was anywhere close to the greatest defensive player in football. I laughed off the people saying he’d be the best Bears defender this millennium. I think I was wrong. Mack has, so far this year, looked like the best defensive player in football. He’s looked like the best defensive player this organization has had in my lifetime. I don’t think there’s any way to understate the impact he’s had to this entire organization, he’s been the lifeblood of this entire team.
What must be accomplished for this level of success to continue?
Eduardo Monk Jr. – Mitchell Trubisky must be able to replicate his explosion against the Buccaneers on a weekly basis. Though expectations of six touchdowns may be unrealistic overkill, his play defines the Bears’ levels of success. With a defense so monumentally dominant on the other end, he must not squander the low-pressure situation and be able to keep the offense scoring in order to prevent relying too heavily on the defense. Wins solely off the defenses’ shoulders may work against a team like the hapless Cardinals, but with heavyweights like the Rams and the Patriots quickly approaching, Trubisky must achieve, at least, Pro Bowl level production to allow the Bears a chance to keep up alongside the giants of the league.
Usayd Koshul – We all know what the Bears defense can do, but for the Bears to make some serious noise in the NFC, the offense needs to get up to full speed. It all starts will Mitchell Trubisky who’s fresh off a six-touchdown performance. If the Bears face of the franchise can remain consistent, then the Bears have a chance to extend their chances of playing football in January for the first time since 2011.
DeShawn Jackson – For the first time in several years, the Bears actually have opponents on the schedule that, on paper, they should beat. The Bears beat clearly inferior teams in their three victories. By the looks of the schedule, the Bears have five more games against inferior opponents. If the team takes care of business in those games, with no letdowns, they have five of the remaining seven (against teams that look like potential contenders) at Soldier Field. They also need to hold their own in their division and finish at least .500 in a very tough NFC North. Continuing to develop offensively and staying relatively healthy on both sides of the ball at key positions is also a necessity.
Tyler Kading – Nothing needs to be “accomplished” in my opinion. This level of play is what this team is. Barring an injury to one of their key players, this is what the Bears are going to be all season. So, to keep this level of success going, it’s on the rest of the Bears opponents to silently lie over and die like the Buccaneers did, or for the Bears to keep playing JV teams like the Cardinals. Quite honestly, outside of a couple future matchups, that isn’t going to happen. The Bears haven’t beaten a playoff team, or anything resembling one, yet, and they are going to have to if they want to make the playoffs. The Rams, Patriots, Vikings, Lions, and Packers lie ahead of them; those are the teams they need to be able to play with, and we haven’t had the opportunity to see if they can.
How will the rest of the season play out?
Eduardo Monk Jr. – While a shocking 3-1 start may incite more hope we have seen in the Bears since the Lovie Smith era, the Bears still remain relatively unproven. As of right now, they have yet to grab a win against a team above .500 and only one of those games came anywhere near a convincing victory. The point differential may be on par with the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs but factor in the 46 point explosion with how young the season is, it might be a red early season herring.
It feels hard to imagine them losing to frankly anybody with a defense with such unparalleled dominance but with tests of the plucky Dolphins and the juggernaut Patriots right off the bye week, the Bears will get a chance to prove a divisional lead will be for real. But considering the sudden absence of a clear top dog in the NFC North, the Bears should expect to run the table in the division.
Usayd Koshul – This Sunday, the Bears will begin a four-game stretch against the AFC East. I expect Chicago to beat the often inconsistent Ryan Tannehill, before hosting the Patriots at home which will be a tough game. From there on out, games against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills will tell us a lot about this team. Is this a team that came out of the gates hot, winning the first three of four games in 2018, only to cool off after the bye week? Or is this a team that is ready to begin the second half of the season and stays aggressive?
Come Week Eleven, against the Minnesota Vikings at home, we should have a clear picture of who the Bears are. December particularly should be a big month for the Bears as they’ll play the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Vikings. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team finish 12-4 and be the number two seed in the NFC.
DeShawn Jackson – After a hot start to the season, playoffs have now crept into the expectations for this team. If the team stays healthy and beats the teams it should, they should go into the midway point of the season, at worst, with 6 wins and in the lead in their division. In the last eight games, the Bears play 5 division games, including three in a 12-day stretch culminating in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. The expectation is the Bears come out of that stretch 7-4 at worst if they want to be real contenders.
Ups and downs for the offense are to be expected with a new coaching staff and a young quarterback. The Bears have the best defense in the division by a decent amount, but by the end of the season, the offense should be at the point of complimenting the defense instead of relying on it more times than not. If that is the case, I expect the Bears to finish 10-6 or better and host a playoff game as the NFC North Champions.
Tyler Kading – We aren’t going to see 40 point victories every week, but as I said, you aren’t going to see much wavering from this team. Khalil Mack probably won’t be Lawrence Taylor all year, but Leonard Floyd will probably not be Cornelius Washington (remember him?) either. This team could very easily be 6-2 (or 7-1 with a few breaks) headed into Week 10, because the AFC East is almost laughably bad. However, the second half of the year, which consists of six games against really good teams, could be really tough. Luckily for them, the rest of the division has struggled so far, and also have to beat each other up over that span as well. A division title definitely isn’t out of the picture, but it will be at 10-6 or 11-5. This team isn’t winning 13 or 14 games.