Adam L. Jahns: Bears’ first-half analysis, second-half predictions

Halfway through the Bears’ 16-game slate, Sun-Times’ Bears expert Adam L. Jahns breaks down the first half of the season and make predictions for the rest of the way.

Mitch Trubisky has been …

Experiencing the ups and the downs that everyone – fans, media, analysts, pundits and so on – should have expected him to have in his second season and his first with coach Matt Nagy. Has he been perfect? Nope. But he’s making progress. Trubisky is an important part of the Bears’ turnaround this season. Just look at his numbers: 64.2 completion percentage, 1,949 passing yards, 16 touchdown passes, seven interceptions, 302 rushing yards and two touchdown runs. He currently ranks seventh in ESPN’s total QBR rankings.

Matt Nagy has been …

Everything we expected when he was hired and more. As expected, he’s modernized the offense. As expected, he’s helped Trubisky improve. And as expected, Nagy’s vibrant personality changed the culture of Halas Hall. But it still feels as if Nagy has exceeded all early expectations of him. It starts with currently being in first place of the NFC North. It can be argued that the Bears are one year ahead of schedule.

First-half MVP …

There are many candidates: Trubisky, running back Tarik Cohen, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and, of course, outside linebacker Khalil Mack. Cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson also have been impressive despite some bumpy moments. Overall, it’s a boon to have several players to consider. It’s a result of the talent upgrades that general manager Ryan Pace made over several years.

Biggest surprise …

Receiver Taylor Gabriel, who has 37 catches for 476 yards and two touchdowns. He’s more than a speed threat. Gabriel is on pace to have the best season of his five-year career. The Patriots’ decision to bracket him with coverage was the ultimate sign of respect.

Biggest disappointment …

Right now, it’s the plays that the Bears’ defense failed to make in losses to the Packers in Week 1 and Dolphins in Week 6. The argument can be made that the Bears are one dropped interception and a few missed tackles away from being a one-loss team.

The largest question remaining …

How will the Bears handle their five remaining division games? Nagy’s Bears must prove that they can beat the Packers, Lions and Vikings. John Fox’s Bears didn’t. They went 0-6 against them in 2017, 2-4 in 2016 and 1-5 in 2015.

One bold prediction …

The Bears will beat the Rams at Soldier Field on Dec. 9. You asked for bold? That’s it. The division is already there for the taking. A blustery, wintry game could help the Bears against the high-scoring Rams. It would be a statement win.

Projected final record …

10-6. The Bears are the only team in the top-five in points scored and points allowed. Their plus-82 scoring differential is the third-best mark in the NFL. Again, it’s OK to be cautiously optimistic about them.

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