The Chicago Bears are in first place in the NFC North for the first time in years and with that comes scorching hot takes.
A take that has been thrown around is that this is the best defense in Chicago in over a decade and is comparable to the legendary 2006 Bears. The same Bears that were a healthy Mike Brown and Tommie Harris away from likely winning the Super Bowl.
It’s too early to say that any team is a legitimate Super Bowl contender just three weeks into the season, but the 2006 comparison is something that should be addressed.
In 2006, the Bears went 13-3, had numerous Pro Bowlers all over the field and were a balanced, yet frustrating offense that was led by their defense.
It’s hard to predict how the Bears will perform over the course of a full season, but there’s no harm in comparing how they have performed the first three weeks of 2006 to 2018, so let’s dive in.
Defensively, the 2018 Bears are off to a better start than in 2006 in nearly every category.
*Note, Int = interception, FF = forced fumbles, Def. TD = defensive touchdown, PYA = passing yards against, RYA = rushing yards against, PPG = points per game
Once again, this is just over three weeks, but outside of points per game and passing yards, this defense is outperforming the 2006 squad.
Offensively is an entirely different story.
What immediately stands out is the discrepancy between passing yards as well as passing touchdowns.
Rex Grossman had some great moments in 2006, and he showed that during the first three weeks of the season and was crowned NFC Offensive Player of the Month in September.
The narrative of “Mitch Trubisky has to get better” has rightfully been a constant over the first three weeks of the season, and you can see why by looking at the numbers.
Otherwise, these teams are surprisingly similar.
Through three games, the turnover ratio actually favors the 2018 team due to their monster performance against Arizona.
Additionally, they have a more effective run game despite what feels like an underwhelming beginning to the season for Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.
The points are a little skewed because of the two defensive touchdowns the 2018 Bears already have, but the 2006 team also had the luxury of Devin Hester, so consider that as well.
Once again, the first three weeks of the season only tell so much.
The Bears likely won’t go 11-2 the rest of the way and match the 2006 Bears in that regard, but being able to compare stats like this with a successful team is fun.
In order for the Bears to be in the same conversation at seasons end, the needed improvements are clear.
Trubisky is going to have to be better than he is.
Asking Trubisky to perform like Grossman shouldn’t be difficult if he’s a fraction of who Ryan Pace thinks he is, and that’s all that is really needed for this team to find sustainable success. The defense is already elite and this well-established running game should continue to get better.
Nothing is guaranteed and the season is very long, but this could be the beginning of something special if the growth the passing game requires takes place.