Schrock: Five bold predictions for Bears, including Fields' leap originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Bears ran through their preseason slate in short order, knocking off the Kansas City Chiefs' B team, the Seattle Seahawks, and Cleveland Browns en route to a 3-0 record.
Now, the games count.
The Bears open the regular season by welcoming Trey Lance and the San Francisco 49ers to Soldier Field on Sunday.
Head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles spent the offseason stripping the roster down as they embark on what could be a lengthy rebuild. Expectations aren't high for the 2022 Bears, but the schedule is soft, and the youthful talent on the roster, led by quarterback Justin Fields, should be reason for excitement.
With Week 1 arriving, it's time for the age-old tradition of making predictions that look foolish by the time the leaves change colors. But let's do it anyways.
Here are five can't-miss predictions for the Bears' 2022 season:
Bears get out of the gates fast
Opening the season with the 49ers and Green Bay Packers is a tough task for Eberflus. The Bears do get the 49ers at the best possible time, with Lance still getting his feet wet in Kyle Shanahan's offense and the interior offensive line still trying to gel.
Still, the 49ers have too much talent for the Bears to overcome. A Week 2 trip to Green Bay sees the Bears drop to 0-2, but not without signs of hope.
Then, the soft schedule hits.
The Bears win four of their next six, beating the Houston Texans, New York Giants, Washington Commanders, and New England Patriots. A Week 8 loss to the Dallas Cowboys sees them fall to 4-4, but it's a positive start to the Eberflus era.
Winter comes and crushes the Bears' playoff dreams
A 4-4 start to the season is enough to keep the Bears in the playoff hunt, especially in the down NFC.
But the losses start coming as the Bears go 1-3 in November, and the December schedule sees the Packers, Eagles, Bills, and Vikings end any chance of a postseason appearance. Only a New Year's Day win against the Lions helps the Bears salvage winter and finish the season at 6-11.
Robert Quinn's encore
After a historic 18.5-sack season and with the Bears starting a rebuild, conventional wisdom suggested star defensive end Robert Quinn would be shipped out.
But that wasn't the case.
General manager Ryan Poles elected to keep Quinn, believing his value to a young Bears team is much greater than a potential trade return.
"I'm a huge fan of Robert Quinn," Poles said. "He's been productive. The one thing, and it's not saying that Khalil wasn't, but for Robert, he brings one of those examples of what Matt wants to see out of his defense in being relentless, high motor. That's that guy. Another leader in the room that can show the young guys the way. And he's been doing a really great job at that."
With Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams preferring not to blitz a lot, the Bears need Quinn to get after the quarterback as much as possible this season.
While he won't match the mark he set last season, Quinn proves he's still one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL and follows up his 18.5-sack campaign with 14 more this fall.
Bears rookies Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker have discussed their goals for their first NFL seasons. All-rookie teams, Defensive Rookie of the Year, and so on.
Gordon's movement and coverage abilities are special. But the Bears will throw the Washington product into the fire immediately, likely asking him to man the nickel in Eberflus' defense. Rookie cornerbacks often face an adjustment period going from college to the NFL. Given the chunk of time he missed in training camp, it's fair to expect Gordon's rookie season could have some early bumps.
That's just life in the NFL.
Brisker should have an easier time adjusting to the NFL. The Bears plan to ask the Penn State product to mainly handle the box safety duties while veteran Eddie Jackson roams the back end.
In his one preseason game, Brisker showed why the Bears are so high on him. He's a hard-hitting, high-IQ safety who is always around the ball. For a coaching staff that is fanatical about takeaways, Brisker can rack up the turnovers at a high clip if the ball bounces his way.
The last safety to win AP Defensive Rookie of the Year was Mark Carrier, for the Bears, in 1990.
Brisker snaps the streak and takes home hardware by notching 10 takeaways and finishing with 124 combined tackles in an impressive rookie campaign.
Justin Fields, Pro Bowler
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has built his scheme around what Fields is as a quarterback entering Year 2 – an elite athlete who likes to attack downfield with his big arm.
The Bears' preseason finale in Cleveland showed us how Getsy's wide-zone scheme and Fields' skillset might be the perfect marriage.
While you don't want to overvalue the preseason, I think Fields is primed for a breakout season despite the lack of weapons and shaky offensive line.
Getsy's scheme is the main reason.
The Shanahan system has permeated throughout the NFL because it makes life easier on quarterbacks, scheming easy throws over the middle of the field with the potential for significant run-after-the-catch gains.
With a scheme that works to his strengths and the confidence of being the unquestioned starter, Fields can explode onto the scene and grab a Pro Bowl spot in the NFC.
After Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Matthew Stafford, the NFC is more or less a quarterback desert filled with unproven young talents like Trey Lance and Jalen Hurts and good-but-not-elite veterans like Kirk Cousins and Dak Prescott.
Whether or not Fields makes it on the first ballot or gets shuffled in after an opt-out, the Bears' second-year quarterback will be at the Pro Bowl after what I believe will be a big season.
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