My last wide ranging review post will be concerning my two favorite American Football teams, those being the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans. I’ve grown up a Bears fan and have maintained that all along, but since moving to Houston I’ve adopted them as my other team. And since they’re in opposite conferences, the chances they’d meet in a meaningful game is pretty slim. I’m going to keep this post to a review, and focus on individual posts for Free Agency and the Draft.
Overall, my expectations for this year were pretty low and both teams tried very hard to not live up to those expectations. I expected the Bears to lose lots of 35-32 games and the Texans to lose a lot of 7-3 games, but both units showed some signs of life that were encouraging and yet painful reminders of what is missing.
This season for the Bears was the definition of a bumpy ride but for me enough progress was made for optimism in the near term. I still see this team as at best the 3rd team in the division next year, but the gap is closing. This team seemed like it was really knocked off the rails by a couple key injuries that they just didn’t have the depth to overcome. Losing 1st round pick Kevin White so early was massive as there just wasn’t anyone to take pressure off of Jeffrey, and then he too goes down for much of the year and its just wheels off at that point. Almost as damaging was the complete disappearance of Bennett, which took away another key weapon for Cutler. Forte also seemed to be always dealing with something (not unusual with a back seeing his workload) so Cutler really didn’t have enough options to be effective. However, he also wasn’t “Bad Jay” turning the ball over every chance he got, so there’s hope there. It will be interesting to see how the offense does this coming year now that “miracle worker” Adam Gase is gone, but at least there’s some continuity as the QB coach is taking over the Offensive Coordinator role.
As for positives for the Bears, the offensive line is starting to shape up and look respectable. There are a couple pieces on defense that look like good building blocks. And if healthy, there’s some serious talent on the offensive side of the ball with Zach Miller and Lankford turning into real weapons. Couple that with a good defensive draft (or free agency) while adding another lineman or so and I could totally see this as an 8-8 team next year.
The Texans on the other hand, were almost two separate teams – the one prior to the second half of the Dolphins game, and the one after that. The Texans are almost the mirror image of the Bears – man, combine the Bears offense with the Texans defense and that’s one scary team! If that defense can play an entire year like it did the last 8 games, they will get recognition for being one of the best in the league. The thought of Watt, Mercilus, and a healthy Clowney all rushing the passer should give Andrew Luck nightmares all off-season. Toss in a secondary that’s only going to get better and this could very well be the #1 defense next season.
The offense on the other hand is in a whole world of hurt. The don’t just need a Quarterback, they need another receiver to help out Hopkins, the line is a player or two short, most likely a new feature running back as they move on from Foster, and a Tight End who can catch the ball are just a few of the pieces they need to figure out. Because of the division they play in, the Texans will always have a shot but the Titans and Jaguars are catching up quick and without a strong offseason for the Texans they could fall behind. While a 10-11 win season wouldn’t be out of the question, I think 8-9 is a more realistic number given the uncertainty at the QB position.
Certainly things will start to fall into place for both of these teams as we get closer to the start of Free Agency (early March) and then with the Draft later in April to fill out the roster. There are lots of reasons to be excited and then just as many things to be scared of. But that’s probably the same thing you could say for just about every team outside of Cleveland.