The Chicago Bears posted the NFL’s worst record in 2022 and thereby secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. But after trading that pick to acquire more assets and using free agency to bolster their roster, the Bears are seemingly on an upward trajectory. As we continue our NFL predictions series, let’s examine the best and worst-case scenarios for Chicago in 2023.
Predicting the Best-Case Scenario for the Chicago Bears’ 2023 NFL Season
There’s typically at least one NFL team that goes from worst to first in any given season, and there’s little reason to think the Bears couldn’t accomplish that feat this year — at least, in a best-case scenario.
The Vikings won 13 games and the NFC North title last season, but their overreliance on victories in one-score games could come back to bite them in 2022. Minnesota’s underlying metrics placed them as something closer to an 8-9 win team. If they regress in that direction next season, the division could be wide open.
The Lions are generally viewed as the favorites to win the NFC North. While their offense projects to be among the NFL’s best again next season, Detroit is relying on new additions like Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, Jack Campbell, and Brian Branch to upgrade a defense that couldn’t stop anyone last year.
Meanwhile, the Packers seem likely to take a step back in 2022 after trading Aaron Rodgers to the Jets. No one really knows what Jordan Love is capable of, and Green Bay hedged its bets against their first-year starter by giving him an extension worth less than his 2024 fifth-year option. The Packers clearly have questions about Love, which should guide how the rest of the league thinks about him.
There’s no dominant team in the NFC North, giving the Bears a realistic shot at the division crown if everything breaks right. And general manager Ryan Poles put in enough work over the offseason to ensure that Chicago’s roster is up to the task of competing.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bears acquired DJ Moore from the Panthers as part of the package for the No. 1 overall pick, giving Justin Fields the WR1 he desperately needed. Chicago’s offensive line, a problem in 2022, has been buoyed by the additions of first-round tackle Darnell Wright and veteran guard Nate Davis while running backs D’Onta Foreman and Roschon Johnson have been added to the rushing attack.
MORE: FREE Mock Draft Simulator With Trades
The Bears have an even greater capacity for improvement on the defensive side of the ball, where they ranked dead last in DVOA in 2022. The unit’s second level will see new faces like rookie defensive tackles Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens and veteran linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and TJ Edwards. And second-round cornerback Tyrique Stevenson looks like an immediate starter in Chicago’s defensive backfield.
Still, as much as the Bears have supplemented their roster, their ceiling (and floor) will be largely dependent on the development of one player — Justin Fields.
Fields was dynamic on the ground last year, leading all quarterbacks with 1,143 rushing yards and coming within 70 yards of breaking Lamar Jackson’s QB rushing record. But the former Ohio State star still has plenty of work to do as a passer.
Among 33 qualifying quarterbacks, Fields finished last with just 4.63 adjusted net yards per attempt last season. That was the eighth-lowest ANY/A mark of the past five years, ahead of only such luminaries like Josh Rosen, Zach Wilson, and rookie-season Josh Allen and Trevor Lawrence.
Sometimes, quarterbacks with disastrous seasons can get better (Allen and Lawrence). Other times, they can’t (Rosen and Wilson). The Bears have added enough complementary talent around Fields to determine if he’s their long-term answer under center, making 2023 a make-or-break campaign for the former first-round pick.
If Fields can become even an average passer while retaining his electric nature as a rusher, Chicago could viably sneak into the playoffs either as a division winner or a Wild Card team. After winning just three games in 2022, a six-game improvement feels like their ceiling for next season, so they’d likely need a few other teams in the NFC North to stumble to earn the division title.
Predicting the Worst-Case Scenario for the Chicago Bears’ 2023 NFL Season
The Bears’ worst-case scenario involves a slight enhancement over their 2022 output but not enough refinement to put them in playoff contention. It will probably be difficult for Chicago to win only three games again next season, given the talent they’ve added over the past several months.
However, if they win six games, but Fields and some of the Bears’ new additions don’t perform, Poles might have to go back to the drawing board.
Chicago’s offensive line will have new two new contributors in Wright and Davis, while Cody Whitehair and Teven Jenkins project to play different positions than they did a season ago.
If Wright isn’t ready to deal with NFL defenders immediately, or the club’s other additions don’t mesh, the Bears’ front might not be much better than it was in 2022.
Or maybe Chicago’s defense fails to fire. They’ve added bodies everywhere and should be better than they were last season (especially against the run), but there’s no guarantee that the Bears won’t post another bottom-barrel defense, especially if injuries strike.
MORE: Chicago Bears 2023 Schedule
Chicago still doesn’t have a dominant edge rusher, which could preclude the Bears’ front from getting enough pressure to make Matt Eberflus’ unit thrive.
But, again, it all comes back to Fields. He’s the skeleton key of Chicago’s offense and their 2023 campaign. If Fields can’t put it all together in his third NFL season, the Bears will have to start looking elsewhere under center.
Even then, though, Poles has set Chicago up for success. In addition to their own 2024 first-round selection, the Bears also hold the Panthers’ first-round choice and the Eagles’ fourth-round pick next year, plus the Panthers’ second-rounder in 2025.
If Fields struggles again next season, the Bears will presumably have a relatively early draft pick in 2024. Thanks to their asset collection, they should have the draft capital to make a move up next year’s draft board for a new quarterback like USC’s Caleb Williams or North Carolina’s Drake Maye.