Running back Jordan Howard joined NFL Network's Good Morning Football on Monday and was asked point-blank to give a prediction about the 2018 season. Howard took the opportunity to shoot his shot.
"The Bears are definitely going to have a winning season. We're going to get to the playoffs. So I guarantee we get to the playoffs," Howard said.
OMG! A football player predicted in February great things will happen months from now! Tear down the house!
As we've noted innumerable times in this space: If an NFL player -- or any pro athlete -- doesn't believe he/she can win every time out, he/she wouldn't have made it this far in the sport.
Howard's confidence in a turnaround after a five-win season lies in the bevy of close games the Bears lost in 2017.
"Football is football. We can compete with anybody," Howard said. "We showed that in a lot of games last year. The Vikings, the first game they beat us by three points. The Lions beat us by three points. The Packers, we struggled with the first game; the second game we almost beat them. We can compete with anybody in the NFL. You've always got to be confident. If you're playing the game, you might as well be confident. If you're not confident there's no reason to play."
The Bears lost six games in 2017 by one score. Howard is correct that Chicago played each of its division rivals close in one matchup with each foe. However, they also lost to the Vikings, Packers, and Lions by 10-plus points in each of the other tilts. To go along with their bevy of close losses, the Bears also got blown out by 20-plus points on three different occasions.
New coach Matt Nagy was brought in to smooth over those glaring edges and get the Bears over the hump.
Chicago hasn't had a winning season since 2013, finished dead last in the NFC North four straight years, and hasn't been to the playoffs since 2010 -- when Jordan was a sophomore in high school.
To finally turn the corner, the Bears must upgrade both sides of the ball in free agency and the draft. Howard has an idea where GM Ryan Pace can spend some cash: receiver.
Already owning one of the shakiest receiving corps in the NFL, the Bears are set to become uber-thin at wideout. Kendall Wright, Dontrelle Inman and Josh Bellamy are all slated to be free agents. Markus Wheaton should be cut. Kevin White is never healthy. And Cameron Meredith missed all last season with an ACL tear.
"We have to go after some receivers ... we definitely have to get some receivers in and help Mitch (Trubisky)," Howard said. "I feel like that's the part that's going to complete us because we got the run game down, but now we just got to get the passing game going. I feel like that will take us over the top."
The Bears are likely to be linked to every big-name free agent receiver, if for no other reason than they have a gaping hole at the position. That need will help agents drive up the price on their players.
After Pace struck out badly last year in adding Wheaton, letting Alshon Jeffery walk and seeing White play just one game (his fifth in three seasons), it's fair to question whether the GM will be able to stockpile the right players to allow Mitchell Trubisky and the offense to take the next step in his development.