The Chicago Bears believed they were poised to make a successful run to the playoffs earlier this year. Jordan Howard even guaranteed as much. However, most people dismissed the idea outright for a number of reasons. This team hadn’t even produced a .500 record since 2013 and were playing in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL with three rivals who were earmarked for likely playoff runs of their own.

After their heartbreaking collapse in Green Bay in the opener, those doubts were reinforced ten-fold. The Bears were clearly more talented, but it would be another year or two before they really got good. For a hyper-competitive man like head coach Matt Nagy? That was unacceptable. He rallied the team over the next few months and got them to 9-4 with the rematch against the Packers offering the long-coveted chance to win the division.

It wasn’t easy, but they got the job done. The defense smothered Aaron Rodgers. Mitch Trubisky played mistake-free and they ground out a well-earned 24-17 victory, clinching their first playoff berth since 2010. While most people now have their eye on the Super Bowl, it does leave another question worth asking.

Can this team sustain this success beyond 2018?

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ESPN critic admits Chicago Bears will remain competitive beyond this year

Bill Barnwell has been a somewhat lukewarm believer at best in the Bears this season. He’s taken his fair share of jabs at the team, believing they didn’t have the pieces necessary to make a run. Now that they have, he decided to re-evaluate their situation with the overarching question in place. Can they keep it up for more than one year?

Even he admits the odds are in their favor, but most of it will depend on whether they can succeed where a similar team failed.

“The Bears will still likely have a good defense again in 2019, but it probably won’t be as dominant as it has been this season. Their hope, then, has to be to get more out of their offense. The Jaguars weren’t able to pull this off, as Blake Bortles collapsed and Leonard Fournette wasn’t able to stay healthy. Chicago has a wildly creative playcaller in Matt Nagy and an inexperienced, improving quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky; they have a better shot of staying atop the NFC North than the Jags did of keeping themselves atop the AFC South this season, although it’s more likely they fall back to somewhere around 9-7.”

This isn’t a shock. Most pessimists regarding the Bears say the same thing. They have a great defense and a good offensive roster but it all rests on Mitch Trubisky. Unless he can take that next step from talented youngster to legitimate pro passer, this team will be where it was during the height of the Brian Urlacher-Lovie Smith era. Good enough to win 8-10 games but never a perennial contender.

Only time will determine which direction Trubisky will go. He’s certainly capable of being one of the best in the league. He just has to do more of what he did against Green Bay. Play under control.