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All year long, I’ve provided my top bold predictions for nearly every Chicago Bears game from Week 1 to Week 17 of the 2021 season. I’m nothing if not accountable and since the Bears opened their season against the Los Angeles Rams in September, I’ve made 68 bold predictions.
Of those 68 predictions, 24 of them ended up coming to fruition while the other 44 just look plain foolish in hindsight. Of course, I just started predicting Robert Quinn sacks over the last month and a half, but they still count. And if the Bears lose this weekend, my prediction winning percentage will be the same as the team’s.
In addition to the weekly predictions, I also made five bold claims heading into the season. Since we’ve reached two-minute warning on the regular season as a whole and this game against the Minnesota Vikings is meaningless, let’s look back on those preseason predictions and see just how I wrong I was about the season.
Andy Dalton gets off to a hot start
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Aside from one dismal start to the season back in 2017, Dalton has started the season off on the right foot when entering week one as the starter. He’s posted a quarterback rating over 100.0 four out of five years since 2015 and averaged a completion percentage of 69%. Furthermore, Dalton has looked pretty sharp in camp on a consistent basis. We didn’t necessarily see it in the preseason, in part due to a vanilla game plan from head coach Matt Nagy, but I’m going to predict he shows us all he’s not done just yet to start the season. The wheels will likely fall off, just not at the beginning.
Andy Dalton wasn’t necessarily bad to start the season…but he wasn’t good by any stretch either. Dalton had a pedestrian season opener against the Rams and first half against the Cincinnati Bengals. He threw for 262 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in a game and a half before getting hurt in Week 2, giving way to Justin Fields sooner than many thought.
Even when Dalton returned to the lineup when Fields couldn’t go, he still was average at best. I thought he might catch lightning in a bottle for at least a couple games, but Dalton didn’t do anything to excite the fanbase.
David Montgomery breaks 1,500 rushing yards this season
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Did you know the top-eight single-season rushing leaders for the Bears are all named Walter Payton? For a franchise that’s had stellar running backs such as Matt Forte, Thomas Jones, and Neil Anderson, you would think one of those players could have found themselves in the top five, let alone the top eight. I think David Montgomery is the one to get there by rushing for over 1,500 rushing yards this season.
You can make an argument that Montgomery had an outside shot prior to getting hurt early in the season. Through four weeks, Montgomery was on pace for over 1,300 rushing yards before he missed a chunk of time due to a knee injury. The run game was working well and the Bears made a strong commitment to it. Now, Montgomery is going to under 1,000 yards, though he has had some nice bounceback games.
The more painful part of this prediction was that I took inspiration from former ESPN reporter Jeff Dickerson, who passed away last week due to complications from colon cancer. Dickerson had Montgomery with a solid season and I wanted to go further with it. J.D. was one of the best beat reporters in the country and his absence has created a void on the Bears beat.
Dickerson leaves behind his 11-year old son, Parker, who has now lost both his parents to cancer in the last couple of years. Dickerson’s wife Caitlin passed away in 2019. Please consider donating to Parker’s Fund if you haven’t already.
Larry Borom becomes the entrenched starting left tackle
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It’s been a long summer for the Chicago Bears offensive line. Injuries have torn apart a unit that was seen as arguably the most improved position group on the team. Rookie Teven Jenkins is out for the majority of the season after undergoing back surgery, leading the team to sign 39-year old Jason Peters off a fishing boat to man the left tackle position. Peters is going to get the start, but like the quarterback position, a rookie could come in and become the entrenched starter.
We almost got the scenario in Week 1 when Peters exited the game early, giving way to Borom. The rookie actually held his own before he suffered his own injury. Then, all bets were off. Peters held down the position for most of the season and Borom, upon returning, moved over to the right side of the line.
Borom has showed promise throughout his rookie season and even though he went back to the bench briefly, seems like he can be a quality NFL starter. It just might be at the opposite position on the line as the Bears want Teven Jenkins to be the left tackle.
Trevis Gipson has 8+ sacks
AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
Preseason performances should be taken with a grain of salt. We’ve seen plenty of players light it up in August, only to let down in September. Trevis Gipson doesn’t fall under that category, making him a prime breakout candidate in 2021.
Hey, this still might happen! Nobody saw Robert Quinn’s historic season coming after the 2020 season and I, like many others, believed he was doomed to be a rotational player with Gipson taking his spot. While that obviously didn’t happen, Gipson’s preseason success carried over into the regular season and he has a chance to get 8.0 sacks.
He has 6.5 sacks heading into Week 18 and took over the edge rusher position after Khalil Mack was lost for the year. He looks like the real deal, however, and is following in his mentor’s footsteps. Gipson has three forced fumbles to go along with his sack totals and should continue to be a key piece of the defense in 2022.
Eddie Jackson makes it back to the Pro Bowl
AP Photo/Matt Ludtke
Not many players have been more disappointing for the Bears over the last two seasons than safety Eddie Jackson. One game, he’s picking off every pass he gets his hands on, the next he’s struggling to tackle anyone that comes near him. He even said himself that he had a down year and is looking to rebound. Now under new defensive coordinator Sean Desai, my money is on Jackson returning to his Pro Bowl level.
This was a bigger miss than Jackson’s tackle against Davante Adams earlier in the season. Jackson couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start after he failed to tag down Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson on one of the first plays defensive plays in Week 1. Things only went downhill as Jackson’s tackling was under scrutiny following the Adams play against Green Bay and he began coming at ex-Bears who criticized his play.
Believe it or not, Jackson’s play did steadily improve over the last half of the season, but it was still a far cry from any Pro Bowl safety. Unless something changes on Sunday, the once-great ballhawking safety will now have gone a full two seasons without an interception. That seemed impossible to fathom at one point, but here we are. This one has to take the cake as my worst prediction of the year.