32 NFL Teams in 32 Days: Bears In the Hands of Rookie Caleb Williams (2024)

Welcome to 32 teams in 32 days. To get us through the offseason, we’ll be taking a closer look at every team in the NFL, in order of projected 2024 win totals. Up next: the Bears.

There’s hope again in the Windy City, and it’s in the form of a rookie quarterback from USC.

Caleb Williams is a Chicago Bear, and if he lives up to expectations, he’ll be the most impactful player the franchise has enjoyed since the halcyon days of Walter Payton.

Obviously, there’s a long way to go before Williams gets anywhere near that stratosphere. He’s a rookie, but he’s surrounded by talent including receivers Keenan Allen, DJ Moore and Rome Odunze. The defense is also promising, albeit a mere sidelight to the offense’s potential.

For Chicago, the wait for a franchise quarterback has been decades. If Williams finally fulfills that need, the Bears could be very fun in 2024 and beyond.

Biggest gamble this offseason: Not adding another pass rusher

The Bears have a solid roster, but if there’s a massive need, it’s someone to play opposite Montez Sweat.

Sweat is a quality, top-tier pass rusher who is going to garner chips and double teams. The problem? Everyone else can be blocked without help, making Sweat’s impact somewhat muted.

General manager Ryan Poles didn’t make any aggressive moves to upgrade opposite Sweat this offseason, instead banking on the likes of Gervon Dexter Sr. and DeMarcus Walker to step up. Last year, the duo combined to notch six sacks, while both played all 17 regular-season games.

If Sweat can’t get home and the rest of the front four is ineffective, Chicago might have to win in shootouts.

Toughest stretch of the season: Weeks 11 to 16

The Bears have a chance to start hot, but they’ll be tested down the stretch.

Chicago starts this span with a home game against the Green Bay Packers before hosting Justin Jefferson and the Minnesota Vikings to complete a three-game homestand.

From there, it’s the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers on the road in consecutive weeks, followed by a trip to the Twin Cities for a rematch with the Vikings. Finally, a return to Soldier Field to play the Lions.

All told, Chicago has to play in San Francisco while also having five of its six divisional games packed into a tight window.

Breakout player to watch: RB Roschon Johnson

32 NFL Teams in 32 Days: Bears In the Hands of Rookie Caleb Williams (1)

Entering his second season with the Bears, Johnson has become a bit of a forgotten man.

Sitting on the depth chart behind free-agent signing D’Andre Swift and alongside veteran Khalil Herbert, Johnson will be fighting for carries. However, as a rookie, the Texas native posted an impressive 4.3 yards per carry, rushing for 352 yards and two touchdowns.

With the Bears loading up in the passing game, Johnson should see light boxes. And, should he beat out Herbert for the second-string job, he’ll be getting plenty of touches to help keep Swift healthy, as the talented back joins his third team in as many years.

Best-case scenario: Williams lives up to expectations

Sometimes it’s lazy to point to the quarterback and make him the team’s main story line. In this case, it’s the only direction to go.

Chicago is the only NFL franchise without a 4,000-yard passer across its history. The Bears haven’t had a true star quarterback since World War II, when Sid Luckman enjoyed a Hall of Fame career under coach George Halas.

If Williams becomes the star everyone believes he could and should be, the Bears are going to compete for a playoff spot. The offense has weapons galore with Odunze, Moore and Allen on the outside, Swift in the backfield and Cole Kmet being utilized as a capable tight end.

The Bears still have needs, but Williams covers up plenty of weaknesses.

Worst-case scenario: Williams isn’t ready and Matt Eberflus is out

The biggest controversy in Chicago wasn’t whether the Bears should draft Williams or stay the course with Justin Fields. It was whether Eberflus should remain as the coach despite a four-game improvement from 2022.

Ultimately, Eberflus stayed while offensive coordinator Luke Getsy left, and was replaced by Shane Waldron. But if Williams isn’t ready to live up to his draft slot and the Bears slump to another postseason-less campaign, Eberflus’s seat will be piping hot.

While the defense should be improved with the young secondary getting more experience and the front seven having a full year of Sweat, the offense must drive the team. If it doesn’t, there’s a chance Chicago will blow everything up going into 2025.

Head coach-quarterback tandem ranking

32 NFL Teams in 32 Days: Bears In the Hands of Rookie Caleb Williams (2)

No. 19: Eberflus (23) and Williams (17)

This is an interesting pairing. Eberflus is one of the NFL’s best defensive minds, running a Cover 2 scheme that vastly improved last season. Meanwhile, the offense looks radically different with the additions of Waldron, Odunze, Allen and Williams. Chicago’s roster will give Williams a chance to shine immediately.

Risky Fantasy pick: Odunze

Odunze has the tools to become an alpha receiver at the next level, but he’s going to struggle to make a consistent impact as a rookie in Chicago. That’s because the Bears are absolutely loaded at wideout with Moore and Allen ahead of him, so consistent targets could be hard to find. At best, Odunze could push for WR3 or flex starter value during his rookie campaign. —Michael Fabiano

Best bet: Williams Offensive Rookie of the Year (+200) at DraftKings

The Bears have created a dream situation for the rookie signal-caller. Williams will have two elite veteran wideouts in Moore and Allen, not to mention a solid pass-catching tight end in Kmet and a pass-catching running back in Swift. The award has gone to a quarterback in four of the past five seasons. —Jennifer Piacenti

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32 NFL Teams in 32 Days: Bears In the Hands of Rookie Caleb Williams (2024)

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