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, it was mentioned that the Bears might only win five or six game this season if things go bad. As unlikely as that seems, this article will break down the Bears' schedule as a worst-case scenario where the Bears will finish 8-8.
Everybody stays healthy. Detroit and Green Bay fans would love to see Jay Cutler or Julius Peppers lost for the season during a preseason game. It would be easy to predict an eight-win season if all the key Chicago players were hurt. However, that would be a cheap way to come up with an eight-win outcome, and we're not going to do it as part of this article. While some key injuries would certainly contribute to a lousy season for Chicago, we'll assume that key players will only miss a game or two for this article.
Predictions are realistic. While it's still too early to really see what every team will do this year, assuming that Cutler will throw 36 interceptions this year or that every opposing QB will have a five-touchdown day against Chicago is unrealistic, even for Packers fans. For this article, we'll assume that everyone performs to a reasonable level for this season.
Note: This assumes a worst-case scenario. Check out this article to see how the Bears could finish 12-4 in 2012.
Week 1: Home vs. Indianapolis - Win. Even if the offensive line is in total chaos, it's hard to see Chicago not starting out the season 1-0. Andrew Luck may be the first overall pick, but coming to Chicago for Week 1 is going to be rough for the rookie to handle right out of the gate.
Week 2: At Green Bay - Loss. The Bears play Green Bay just four days after their home opener against Indy. The Packers are still the team that won the division last season, and they have a ton of talent on offense. If the offensive line for Chicago is still having issues and the defense is struggling to rush the passer, Green Bay has the talent to really make Chicago look bad in their first prime-time appearance of the season.
Week 3: Home vs. St. Louis - Win. St. Louis is a team that still has a long way to go. Even if everything comes together for them, they are going to have a tough time coming into Chicago and winning. The Bears would need a total collapse to lose to the Rams in week 3.
Week 4: At Dallas - Loss. In a big prime-time matchup on Monday night, Chicago goes into Dallas and takes a tough loss. The Dallas defense made several key improvements this season, and Cutler could have a hard time finding the open man. Dallas has a lot of weapons on offense, and they will be tough to beat at home. If the Bears turn the ball over too much or Dallas really puts on a show, the Bears could come out of this game with a 2-2 record.
Week 5: At Jacksonville - Win. This call was tough. Jacksonville has a lot of problems, and the Bears are much better than the Jaguars on paper. However, a road game after a short week is tough on any team. As strange at it may seem, if the line is still struggling to protect Cutler and the Bears take it on the chin against Dallas, the 'hangover' could carry forward to the game against the Jaguars. This game could really go either way, but Chicago probably goes into the bye week at 3-2 in a worst-case scenario.
Week 6: Bye.
Week 7: Home vs. Detroit - Win. With 15 days to prepare, the Bears should be ready for the Lions on Monday night. Especially at home. However, we've all seen cases where, after a long break, a team comes out flat and it takes them a bit to shake off the rust. The Lions will be hungry for a big division win in prime time, but I think this one still goes to the Bears in a worst-case scenario.
Week 8: Home vs. Carolina - Loss. Carolina nearly beat the Bears last season, and Steve Smith has owned the Bears for several years now. Cam Newton could even be better in his sophomore year, and the two of them could be too much for Chicago to handle.
Week 9: At Tennessee - Loss. People forget that the Titans were a 9-7 team last year and had several big wins both at home and on the road. Chris Johnson admits that he had a lot of distractions last season and claims that he will be back in form for 2012 (h/t The Tennessean - April 2012). A struggling Chicago team could have a tough time keeping the Titans in check, especially on the road.
Week 10: Home vs. Houston - Loss. Houston was a playoff team and, despite losing their top two quarterbacks last year, they still managed to advance to the second round. At full strength, they are going to be tough to beat. Chicago is in the middle of a slide, and Houston comes to town to keep them sliding further.
Week 11: At San Francisco - Loss. The rain keeps coming. The Bears could be 4-5, on the road, on Monday night, facing a team that nearly made it to the Super Bowl last season. Say hello to loss number six.
Week 12: Home vs. Minnesota - Win. Even if their season is in serious trouble, the Bears should be able to handle the Vikings at home. 5-6 isn't great, but their playoff chances will still be alive.
Week 13: Home vs. Seattle - Win. The Bears were banged up pretty bad last year against Seattle, and Johnny Knox was lost for the rest of last year and this year as well. The Bears will want revenge, and with an emotional home crowd they should be able to pull out a tough win.
Week 14: At Minnesota - Win. Even if we assume a worst-case scenario, the Bears still won't be the worst team in the division. The Bears might struggle in Minnesota, but they should still be able to grind out a win. At 7-6, Chicago is back above .500 and still in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Week 15: Home vs. Green Bay - Loss. In a worst-case scenario, the Bears are struggling but still in the hunt for a playoff spot. However, Aaron Rodgers is playing for a first-round bye, and he'll need a win against Chicago to keep that plan alive. If the Bears are banged up at all, this game is going to be really tough.
Week 16: At Arizona - Loss. With the final two games on the road and almost no chance of making the playoffs, Chicago doesn't have much to play for in this game. The Cardinals use the Bears to spring board into the playoffs, and the Bears hit loss number eight for the season.
Week 17: At Detroit - Win. The Lions will be playing for a wild-card berth. The Bears will be trying to build some momentum as they go into the offseason. The Bears will play hard in their final appearance of the season and could squeak out a win. The loss might cause Detroit to miss the playoffs, and that alone would be enough incentive to give the Bears the win.
If the Bears go 8-8 and miss the playoffs, there will definitely be some fall out during the off season. The biggest impact will probably be the firing of coach Lovie Smith. A new coach could mean a new offensive and defensive philosophy, and several key Chicago players could be playing for a new team in 2013. Let's hope that it doesn't come to this.