Not too many sports fans or bettors consider the Chicago Bears a Super Bowl contender as the 2021 NFL playoffs begin. The Bears made the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the NFC, and Chicago is a heavy underdog against the New Orleans Saints on Wild Card Weekend.
But the Bears have played much better in December and the offense came alive to provide optimism heading into the NFL playoffs.
The Bears are a longshot for certain and current Super Bowl odds of +8500 at FanDuel Sportsbook suggest Chicago is an unlikely Super Bowl contender. But the Bears hung tough with the Saints back in Week 8 in a 26-23 overtime loss. A win as 9.5-point underdogs over the Saints will prove the Bears are stronger Super Bowl contenders than perception and odds suggest.
Here are three reasons Bears fans can be excited about their chances at winning it all this year.
1. Mitchell Trubisky's Improved Play
Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky was replaced by Nick Foles early in the season. But the offense struggled under Foles and he was the quarterback during the first four games of the long losing streak when the Bears offense eclipsed 17 points just once. Matt Nagy turned the play calling over to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and the offense came alive out of the Bears bye week. Trubisky took over again at Green Bay on Nov. 29, and the Bears scored 25, 30, 36, 33 and 41 points in their next five games. Over the final four games of that stretch, the Bears offense averaged 396 yards per game and 6.1 yards per play. For reference over the full 2020 season, the Minnesota Vikings offense led the NFC with 393 yards per game and the Green Bay Packers led the NFC with 6.2 yards per play. The Bears offense and Trubisky are performing and producing better than market and media perception.
2. Surprising Wild Card Round Wins
Surprising results in the Wild Card round are more common that you might think. The Bears finished the regular season with an 8-8 record despite a six game losing streak that started the last weekend in October. NFL teams with a .500 record or worse have won 6-of-12 opening round Wild Card playoff games. In fact, since 2004, the .500 teams have a record of 6-1 in the wild-card round. However, this is the first time those teams will play a No. 2 seed, as the playoff format has changed and those previous teams didn't have to face a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the opening round.
3. Bears Defense Can Deliver Stops
While the Bears offense has improved, Chicago's defense has fallen off some in the latter part of the season. The Bears did face the Packers offense twice, along with the Vikings, Texans and Lions capable but often injured offense. The Bears defense still finished the season ranking top 13 in the league in total yards against, yards per play and scoring defense. With Khalil Mack creating havoc on opposing quarterbacks along with a top-10 defensive line and thriving secondary at times, the Bears have proven they can make plays and stops. An upset of the Saints would mean a third meeting this season against division rival and top seed Green Bay Packers in the divisional round.
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