CHICAGO, Ill. - The Chicago Bears now know what they’re up against.
The NFC Championship game has shown us the Bears have plenty of ground to make up in the NFC North, and that is ground general manager Ryan Poles promised to make up.
"We’re going to take the North," Poles said when he was introduced on Jan. 31, 2022, "and never give it back."
So far, the Bears have come close to scaling Minnesota, but still finished in last place according to NFL.com even though the two finished with the same record at 7-10.
That brings the Bears and head coach Matt Eberflus to a pivotal year in 2024.
The expectation isn’t to win a Super Bowl, or even advance to one. It’s to win games. That should be anticipated as a winning record and a playoff berth at the very least.
With the rest of the north having figured out its most important personnel decisions, the Bears can look at what they’re up against in a pivotal season.
New Packers DC Jeff Hafley
Out goes Joe Barry, in comes… Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley?
One of the biggest surprises of the offseason in the NFC North is Hafley’s hire in Green Bay, which plucked a Power 5 college head coach
Hafley, who went 22-26 in four seasons in Chestnut Hill, will bring his defensive scheme to the Packers which peaked in 2021. The Golden Eagles’ defense ranked 31st of 130 in FBS that season in points allowed per game.
Boston College went 7-6 last season and won the Fenway Bowl with a defense that ranked 86th of 133 in points allowed per game.
His secondaries have been talented. In 2021, Hafley's BC pass defense ranked third nationally in passing yards allowed per game with 173.5. In the modern day NFL, that’s a necessity.
Hafley’s presence will bring a major change, though. Barry ran a 3-4 defense in Green Bay. Hafley’s defense is a 4-3 scheme with three down linemen.
This doesn’t bode well for the Bears, who had a successful run game with Justin Fields at quarterback and a much-to-be-desired passing game.
If the Packers’ defense, which has plenty of pieces already like Jaire Alexander, Preston Smith and more, can acclimate to Hafley scheme this offseason they’ll have a chance to threaten for the NFC North crown.
Ben Johnson stays in Detroit
Sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t?
Johnson’s name was floated around the NFL for head coaching jobs, rightfully so, decided he wanted to stay in Detroit in order to win a Super Bowl.
On one hand, the Bears know how to defend Johnson’s offense. They held Detroit to 13 points in a win over the Lions in December.
On the other hand, Johnson’s offense had Detroit within 30 minutes of a Super Bowl.
So, it’s understandable why Detroit let out a massive sigh of relief when they heard he was staying. The Bears’ defense will have its work cutout for it next season.
Sure, the Bears’ defense is improving and was a top-half unit in the league last season, but it’s fair to assume the Lions will get better, too.
NFL executive of the year Brad Holmes will have another chance to flex his drafting abilities and add to the Lions’ offense which is effective with Jared Goff at quarterback.