In a recent article, some of the Bleacher Report Staff had a round-table discussion on the best and worst case scenarios for the Chicago Bears in 2012. In that discussion, several people commented on how 12-4 would be the best case scenario. In this article, we'll look at the Bears' schedule and break down how they can achieve that 12-win prediction.
Everybody stays Healthy. Long term injuries killed the Bears last season. For them to win 12 games, they are going to have to avoid the injury bug. Some guys may miss a game or two, but if any of the key players like Jay Cutler, Matt Forte or Julius Peppers were to go down for four or five games, it's going to be hard to make it to 12 wins this season. That goes for their opponents as well. Bears fans might hope that Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford both tear an ACL in week one, but that's a cheap way to predict a 12-win season too.
Predictions are Realistic. While it's still too early to really see what every team will do this year, assuming that Cutler will throw for 5,500 yards and 60 TDs this season is unrealistic, even by Chicago Bears fan standards. Some assumptions are necessary to complete this exercise, but we'll keep the expectations to a reasonable range.
Week 1: Home vs. Indianapolis - Win. The NFL didn't do Andrew Luck any favors by sending him to Chicago for his first game. The Chicago fans and the Bears will welcome him in typical 'Black and Blue' Division fashion.
Week 2: At Green Bay - Loss. Even if all goes well, this is going to be a tough game for the Bears. They travel to Green Bay just four days after the Indianapolis game, and the Packers always play Chicago tough at home. If this game were later in the season, it might be a different story but in week 2, Chicago will have a tough time coming out on top.
Week 3: Home vs. St. Louis - Win. After a tough division loss to Green Bay, Chicago can take out their frustration against a weak St. Louis team. The home crowd is fired up and the Bears chase Sam Bradford all the way into the parking lot.
Week 4: At Dallas - Win. In a big prime time match-up on Monday night, Chicago goes into Dallas and grinds out a win. The Cowboys have a lot of firepower, but have a tendency to choke in big games. By week 4, the offensive line should be pretty solid and the offense really comes through for a solid win.
Week 5: at Jacksonville - Win. A road game after a Monday night road game is hard for any NFL team because of the short week and long travel. However, this is Jacksonville we're talking about. The Bears take it to the Jaguars as well, heading into the bye week at 4-1.
Week 6: Bye.
Week 7: Home vs. Detroit - Win. With 15 days to prepare, the Bears open up on Detroit on Monday Night. It's a long road from here to the end of the season, and Chicago starts out with a big division win.
Week 8: Home vs. Carolina - Win. Carolina played tough last season, but Chicago let Cam Newton and Steve Smith run wild. The defense keeps them in check this time and the Bears extend their win streak to five.
Week 9: At Tennessee - Loss. The Titans are a lot tougher than most people think. They won some big games last season, and finished 9-7 despite not making the playoffs. A tough loss for Chicago, but 6-2 is a great first half of the season.
Week 10: Home vs. Houston - Win. Houston is also tough, but their defense had some key losses this off season. After the tough loss to Tennessee, the Bears come home and regroup against Houston. This game has some high scoring potential, but the Bears pull it out at home.
Week 11: at San Francisco - Loss. Another big Monday night game for Chicago on the road. The Niners came close to making the Super Bowl last season, and made some key additions to their offense. The Bears are in a rough part of their schedule with an early bye and three tough opponents back-to-back. It's close, but the Niners pull it out at home.
Week 12: Home vs. Minnesota - Win. Just what Chicago needs after three tough games: a home game against a weaker division opponent. Minnesota made some strides, but they are still the fourth best team in the division. Chicago gets another win and gets back on track for the home stretch.
Week 13: Home vs. Seattle - Win. The Seahawks took advantage of a banged up Chicago team and pounded them at home last season, knocking Johnny Knox out for the rest of the year and probably all of 2012. The Bears pay them back with interest with Knox on the sidelines grinning ear to ear.
Week 14: at Minnesota - Win. It's tough to win in Minnesota, but Chicago is still a much better team. Jared Allen plays tough, but the Bears handle them anyway. With three games to go, Chicago is sitting pretty at 10-3.
Week 15: Home vs. Green Bay - Win. The NFL might flex this game into prime time given the playoff implications. Chicago has been looking forward to this since week two and they fire up on the Packers at home. It's close, but the Bears notch a big win against a tough division opponent.
Week 16: at Arizona - Loss. You don't like to think about your team letting down after a big win, but it's a long season and the Cardinals will be fighting for a playoff spot as well. The Bears lose a close one at a tough point in the season.
Week 17: at Detroit - Win. The Lions will be scraping for a wild-card spot at this point, and the Bears will be playing for a home playoff game and maybe a first-round bye. It's a tough match-up but this is Chicago's year. The Lions spend New Year's Eve wondering how they missed the playoffs this season and the Bears celebrate a 12-win season.