Patrick Finley: Bears’ first-half analysis, second-half predictions

Halfway through the Bears’ 16-game slate, Sun-Times Bears expert Patrick Finley breaks down the first half of the season and makes predictions for the rest of the way.

Mitch Trubisky has been …

Improving. In his first three games, he threw two touchdowns and three interceptions and posted a 77.8 passer rating. In the last five, he’s thrown 14 touchdowns and four picks and has a 108.3 rating. Even if he struggles in games during the second half  — and he will, given the inconsistency of youth — the Bears have proven they can win with him. In those first three games, after all, they were one Kyle Fuller drop away from going 3-0.

Matt Nagy has been. …

The best first-year coach in the NFL. He’s the only one with a winning record, and has more wins than the Raiders’ Jon Gruden, the Giants’ Pat Shumur and the Cardinals’ Steve Wilks combined. Not bad for someone who’d never spent a full season as a play-caller.

First-half MVP …

Outside linebacker Khalil Mack has played four-and-a-half healthy games, but his presence has changed the Bears’ expectations for their season and for their franchise at large. That’s the definition of an MVP.

Biggest surprise ..

The Bears have 21 takeaways through eight games. The next one they get will match their full-season total from last year. The one after that will mark their 23rd — or as many takeaways as the Bears had in all of 2015 and 2016 combined. Their knack for interceptions and fumble recoveries has been remarkable.

Biggest disappointment …

The Bears gave Cody Parkey $9 million guaranteed this offseason to make meaningful kicks. He missed a 46-yarder in a game the Bears were lucky to win by two in Arizona, and he missed a 53-yarder that would have beaten the Dolphins in overtime. He needs to be better.

The largest question remaining …

Can they learn to hold onto leads? They blew a 20-point lead against the Packers, only one point off the franchise record for a come-from-ahead loss. They led the Dolphins by 11 and the Patriots by 10, and lost both games. For a head coach whose last game in Kansas City featured a notorious blown playoff lead, it’s no small question.

One bold prediction …

After having zero defenders named to the Pro Bowl in the John Fox era, the Bears will have no fewer than four elected to the all-star game this year: Mack, Akiem Hicks, Fuller and either inside linebacker Danny Trevathan or, if he continues his touchdown barrage, safety Eddie Jackson.

Projected final record …

10-6. Games against the Giants and 49ers should be walkovers, even on the road. Win all three of their divisional home games, and the Bears finish with 10 wins, minimum.

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