Is there anything worse than the Green Bay Packers winning the NFC North? For Bears fans, the answer is an obvious no. But that was the reality that faced Chicago’s football diehards in 2019, just one year removed from Matt Nagy taking the league by storm with a 12-4 record and a division title in his first year as coach.
Chicago fell to 8-8 in Year 2 under Nagy, and while a .500 finish isn’t terrible, it certainly came way short of the expectations that hovered over the Bears heading into 2019.
The 2020 season feels completely different. Pundits have consistently tiered the Bears among the NFL’s worst teams despite Ryan Pace’s upgrades at pass-rusher, right guard, and, potentially, quarterback. Chicago, at best, is expected to be a third-place team in the NFC North and is a popular pick in early mock drafts to be in the quarterback market in the 2021 NFL draft.
Seems harsh. Yet, here we are.
Maybe it’s a good thing for the Bears to enter the 2020 season without the weight of the division on their proverbial shoulders. That pressure is now owned by the Packers, who took their first step in the wrong direction in April’s NFL draft when they selected Jordan Love in the first round. It’s not that Love isn’t a quality prospect; rather, Green Bay failed to arm Aaron Rodgers with what he needed most: upgrades at wide receiver.
Maybe the pressure is getting to them already.
The Packers’ strange roster decisions are only one reason why Green Bay doesn’t feel like a safe bet to repeat as division winners in 2020. The analytics support this claim too. According to the data provided by Sharp Football Analysis, the Packers are headed for a reality check this fall.
Green Bay’s unexpected turnaround in 2019 felt a lot like what the Bears accomplished in 2018. We know how badly the Bears regressed; the Packers could be next. Check out these stats:
In the last 30 years, 52 teams improved by 6+ wins from one year to the next.
Only 18 of those 52 teams improved to record at least 12 wins, like the Packers (from 6-10 to 13-3 last year).Of those 18 teams:
Zero won the same number or more games the following year
All lost at least two more games the following year
13 lost at least four more games the following year
On average, these 18 teams lost 5.9 more games the following year.
If these trends hold, the Packers could easily go from a 13-win team to a seven-win team in just one year. An unhappy Rodgers throwing to a cast of offensive pieces that feel like a bridge to Matt LaFleur’s desired playbook will certainly contribute to that.
The Packers were also the beneficiaries of some luck in 2019. Unlike 2018, when they lost seven of their 10 one-score games, they won 90% of their one-score contests last year (9 out of 10). That won’t hold up in 2020.
Look, any team quarterbacked by Rodgers has a chance to win 13 games in any season. That’s a simple yet hard-to-swallow truth. But if you trust the numbers, if you believe in analytics? The NFC North is there for the Bears to take this year.
Analytics suggest Packers headed for major regression in 2020 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago