Will Caleb Williams and the Bears actually challenge for the NFC North title?

With OTAs over and training camps still weeks away, plenty of questions are circling the NFL. Charles McDonald is tackling them this summer.

A new era has started in Chicago. After biding their time and collecting assets, the Bears found themselves with the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, which they used on a potential superstar quarterback — USC’s Caleb Williams.

Williams has high expectations considering his pedigree as a prospect and finds himself in an unusually advantageous situation for a rookie quarterback. The defense should be among one of the better units in the league, the offensive line is passable and the Bears have a trio of wide receivers for this season that most teams would love to have. All of this positive energy and a renewed core for the Bears has their fans, and NFL observers at large, wondering if this might actually be the year the Bears get back to the top of the NFC North.

Since the start of the 2011 season, the Bears have won the NFC North just one time (2018). Getting back into consistent relevance has been a struggle, but if there was ever a time to break out of the cycle of mediocrity, why not now? They’re set up to have a legitimately good team unless Caleb Williams just isn’t ready for this moment. He should have time to improve and become accustomed to the NFL level before harsh judgements come, but everyone can see the opportunity in front of him. D.J. Moore, Keenan Allen and Rome Odunze is a far cry from some of the offenses the Bears have put out over the past decade or so. There’s a chance here for a really special rookie season depending on how things come together.

What makes the Bears' return to NFL relevancy interesting is that the NFC North has suddenly become a gauntlet of a division. The Bears have reasons to be hopeful moving forward, the Packers appear to have their third straight franchise quarterback and the Lions are retooling coming off of an NFC championship appearance. Even the Vikings, who took a step back moving from Kirk Cousins to J.J. McCarthy, still have enough top-end talent to steal games within the division.

The Bears will be able to test where they are as a franchise routinely this season in the NFC North. On paper, they look like they have the potential to even win it. Getting past Green Bay and Detroit will be tough, but the best-case scenario for this Bears squad is incredibly promising. Of course, it’s unlikely things swing all the way right for the Bears because this is the NFL, but the optimism around the Bears is actually warranted this time. Justin Fields may very well end up becoming a competent NFL starter, but it’s not exactly a mystery why the Bears decided to go with Williams over Fields.

Detroit and its offense will be a big hurdle for the Bears to overcome, but they at least have a strong defense that’s returning starters and scheme and should be able to replicate that performance in 2024. As the Bears and their fans get closer to the start of the regular season, they should be asking themselves one thing: Why not us?

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