2013 Chicago Bears Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

Ty Schalter@tyschalterNFL National Lead WriterApril 19, 2013

2013 Chicago Bears Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

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    The Chicago Bears thought they had finally given quarterback Jay Cutler everything he needed to take the next step on his journey to elite status and the Bears back to the Super Bowl.

    With the acquisition of former partner-in-crime Brandon Marshall, the Bears solved the receiver problem they had had since Curtis Conway left. Together with running back Matt Forte, everything seemed in place.

    Instead of the high-powered, highly paid offense taking over for the aging-but-skilled defense, though, the defense was the third best unit in the NFL.

    Allowing just 17.3 points per game, the Bears defense rushed the passer and covered the pass well. Per Pro Football Reference, the Bears led the NFL in adjusted net yards per attempt, meaning that nobody forced passing offenses into worse performances than the Bears. In the arm-heavy NFC North, this was vital.

    However, the Bears offense—and the Bears—fell well short of expectations.

    Finishing 10-6 and losing a tiebreaker to the Minnesota Vikings kept them out of the playoffs. Their sixth-best point differential of 6.1 points per game were good for 10.8 Pythagorean wins, so the talent existed to do better.

    This was the last straw for head coach Lovie Smith, and now former San Francisco 49ers offensive architect Marc Trestman has been brought in to right the ship. Can he do the job that Smith's long line of offensive coordinators couldn't?

    Perhaps more importantly, can new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker keep the Bears defense going strong without longtime captain Brian Urlacher?

Week 1: Chicago Bears vs. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 1:00 pm ET, CBS

    The Cincinnati Bengals defense should be able to give the Bears pause, but can they give the Bears a loss?

    The Bengals were one of the best-balanced defenses in the NFL last season, rushing and covering the pass with equal skill. If departed linebacker Manny Lawson can be replaced by new signee Aaron Maybin, they should be able to rattle Jay Cutler.

    The Bengals may not shut down Brandon Marshall, but can anyone else in the blue and orange get open against the men in orange and black?

    On offense, the Bengals have relied on A.J. Green, and that will continue. The game could turn on whether Charles "Peanut" Tillman can shut Green down—or whether the Bengals' pass rush can get to Cutler.

    This season opener should be a low-scoring affair; the Bengals should take it in a squeaker.

    Score Prediction: 17-14, Bengals

Week 2: Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 1:00 pm ET, FOX

    In this fixture last season, the Chicago Bears had absolutely no trouble handling the Minnesota Vikings. By halftime, the score was 25-3, and the game was all over except for the shouting.

    It shouldn't be quite that easy for the Bears this time around, as the new-look linebacking corps will be getting their first taste of Adrian Peterson. Meanwhile, new Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod will be meeting up with his old friend—Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen.

    The Vikings should have the upper hand early despite the Bears' home-field advantage. In the second half, though, the tides should turn.

    These teams will need all 60 minutes to decide this, but Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall will ultimately score the late go-ahead touchdown.

    Score Prediction: 21-17, Bears

Week 3: Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 8:25 pm ET, NFLN

    The AFC North is a division in flux. It's unfortunate for the teams at the end of long stretches of sustained success (like the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers) that they have to face the stacked NFC North this season, but so the NFL schedule goes.

    The Steelers are coming off a disappointing 8-8 season that saw much of their perennial nucleus reach the end of their half-life. Gone are stalwarts like linebacker James Harrison and nose tackle Casey Hampton. In their place are, essentially, question marks.

    The Steelers also couldn't retain young talent like receiver Mike Wallace and cornerback Keenan Lewis, leaving the Steelers' cupboard barer than it's been in years.

    The Bears match up particularly well against the Steelers, with a great pass rush to pressure Ben Roethlisberger and great outside coverage to cut down on outlets.

    The inside coverage could be another question, but a contest between an unpressured Cutler going downfield to Brandon Marshall and a pressured Roethlisberger dumping to his hot route should be no contest.

    Score Prediction: 27-17, Bears

Week 4: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 1:00 pm ET, FOX

    The Chicago Bears probably wouldn't have chosen to open their season with two AFC North road games and two divisional games, but it happened.

    The Detroit Lions host the Chicago Bears in Week 4, and the division race will already be tightening up. Last season, with the Bears' playoff hopes on the line and the Lions playing for nothing but pride, the Bears roared out to a 20-3 lead. They then barely staved off a Lions comeback, closing out a 26-24 win.

    This season, the Lions will need this one more than the Bears do, and vengeance will certainly be on their mind. Calvin Johnson will be looking to finally crack Charles "Peanut" Tillman, and the Bears' linebackers will have to deal with the combination of Reggie Bush and Mikel Leshoure.

    Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford will be mysteriously quiet in this one, as both secondaries tend to play at their best against each other. It's close, but it's a Lions win.

    Score Prediction: 17-14, Lions

Week 5: Chicago Bears vs. New Orleans Saints

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 1:00 pm ET, FOX

    Now, we'll find out just how much of the New Orleans Saints recent success was due to the offensive work of head coach Sean Payton and how much of it came from disgraced defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

    Without Payton, quarterback Drew Brees remained as prolific as ever, but his interceptions ramped way up even as his yardage and touchdowns stayed sky high.

    If Payton can restore Brees to his usual self—and if the Saints can acquire a playmaker in the draft—they could pose a real threat to the new-look Bears defense.

    On the other side of the ball, the Saints simply don't have the talent to cope with the Bears' skill-position players. Cornerback Keenan Lewis is a solid pickup, but he can't shut down Brandon Marshall.

    The Saints made precious few other free-agent moves, so new coordinator Rob Ryan is going to have to be even more aggressive than Williams was in going after the passer. That approach will likely just get the secondary burned even more badly.

    Score Prediction: 35-27, Bears

Week 6: Chicago Bears vs. New York Giants

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 8:25 pm ET, NFLN

    The New York Giants haven't signed restricted free agent Victor Cruz to a long-term deal yet—but Cruz will eventually suit up for the Giants this season. When he does, he'll present a matchup problem for the Chicago Bears.

    With the upheaval in the Bears' back seven—especially in the linebacking corps—the Bears will be forced to run a lot of nickel and dime coverages to make sure Cruz is covered inside and out. If the Bears are as aggressive with tight man coverage and single-high safeties as they were in 2012, Eli Manning should be able to pick them apart.

    The Giants flew under the radar last season. Although they suffered free-agency losses (including new Bears tight end Martellus Bennett), they made smart, budget replacements.

    Look for Big Blue to upset their hosts on Thursday night.

    Score Prediction: 24-20, Giants

Week 7: Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 1:00 pm ET, FOX

    Can Robert Griffin III get healthy for this game? If he can, he and running back Alfred Morris could put a ton of pressure on the Bears front seven with zone-read runs and play-action passes.

    If not, the Bears secondary should have little trouble clamping down on the Redskins receivers and making backup quarterback Kirk Cousins work for completions. The Bears pass rush will take on a Redskins offensive line that returns intact (and added tackle Jeremy Trueblood), but that's still a battle the Bears should win.

    Offensively, Brandon Marshall should be able to get open against DeAngelo Hall and the Redskins secondary with little trouble, and Matt Forte should have a big day against a Redskins front seven that was graded third-worst in run-stopping by Pro Football Focus.

    The Redskins get a bonus touchdown if RGIII is ready to go.

    Score Prediction: 28-17, Bears

Week 9: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 8:40 pm ET, ESPN

    Monday Night Football, in Lambeau, in December. This is what the NFC North is all about, and the two division-crown favorites will have a marquee showdown on the game's biggest stage.

    However, the Packers have had the Bears' number in recent seasons, and it's unlikely that changes this season. The Bears offense, which should be intact and (slightly more potent) under new head coach Marc Trestman, could only muster 23 points in two games against the Packers last season.

    The Bears defense, which has lost some pieces and will be changing systems for the first time in nearly a decade, likely won't be as good. It's hard to find a way the Bears get the edge back in this one.

    Score Prediction: 27-13, Packers

Week 10: Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 1:00 pm ET, FOX

    Last season, this matchup was a bar fight, a no-holds-barred 13-7 round of fisticuffs. The Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears had a score to settle, and settled it was.

    The Lions could not move the ball against the Bears. Cornerback Charles "Peanut" Tillman completely shut Calvin Johnson down, and the Lions could not hold onto the ball to save their lives. Reggie Bush might provide the ball security that Mikel Leshoure didn't, but can Bush get the tough yards?

    Coming off a bye week and a division loss, the Bears will need this game, and the home-field advantage should give it to them. The Lions keep waiting for the season when they get revenge for the Calvin Johnson Rule catch, but it's doesn't look like this will be the year.

    Score Prediction: 21-17, Bears

Week 11: Chicago Bears vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 1:00 pm ET, CBS

    It's never encouraging when the reigning Super Bowl champions come to town, but the Baltimore Ravens won't look too intimidating to the Chicago Bears. Though the Ravens fortified their defensive line, the back seven has been severely depleted.

    Baltimore's pass coverage was not very good last season, and the team lost not only veteran leader Ed Reed but top young cornerback Cary Williams to free agency. This exacerbates the loss of linebackers Ray Lewis, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe and should give Cutler license to pass at will.

    Matt Forte should also meet little resistance in the second level; if the Bears use draws and screens to get him past the Ravens defensive line, he should be able to pick up yards in chunks.

    Even if the Ravens add defense in the draft or settle down their left tackle situation, Joe Flacco won't be able to make up for the huge talent gap on defense.

    Score Prediction: 35-14, Bears

Week 12: Chicago Bears at St. Louis Rams

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 1:00 pm ET, FOX

    For years, NFL fans were told that then-Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher was much better than he got credit for, and that if he were to come available, he'd have his pick of jobs and do wonderfully well.

    Fisher's first season with the St. Louis Rams proved that all right. In one season, Fisher turned a listless 2-14 franchise into a high-effort outfit that fell one point short of a .500 record.

    The Bears line will have its hands full with the the pass rush of Robert Quinn and Chris Long, and Jay Cutler may not be able to take advantage of the Rams' free agency-weakened secondary.

    On the other side of the ball, new Rams left tackle Jake Long will need to keep quarterback Sam Bradford upright.

    This game could come down to who wins the coaching chess match between Marc Trestman and Jeff Fisher. The smart money is on Fisher.

    Score Prediction: 20-14, Rams

Week 13: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 1:00 pm ET, FOX

    After the Week 2 nail-biter, some might be under the impression that the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears are nearly equal in talent.

    They aren't.

    By now, the job that Marc Trestman is doing will become apparent, and the Bears offense should be firing on all cylinders. Whether the defense is putting the brakes on opposing offenses is another matter.

    This game has all the hallmarks of a massive Adrian Peterson effort in a losing contest. Jennings won't catch the secondary by surprise, the defense will be better prepared to attack Christian Ponder (if he's still the starting quarterback at this point) and everything is set up for the Bears to roll.

    The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome still counts for something, though, and the Bears will have to fend off a late Peterson-led charge.

    Score Prediction: 27-23, Bears

Week 14: Chicago Bears vs. Dallas Cowboys

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 8:40, ESPN

    The Dallas Cowboys are going to have a rough go of it at Soldier Field.

    With the new-look 4-3 defense sure to be installed by new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and the personnel changes the Cowboys went through in the offseason, the Boys will have a heck of a time stopping the Chicago Bears offense.

    Even worse, they'll have to do it on Monday Night Football, in Chicago, in December.

    The Cowboys hosted the Bears last season and lost, 34-18. Things don't cleanly translate from season to season, but if the Bears were more talented last season, they're more talented this season, too.

    This will be a great opportunity for new Bears head coach Marc Trestman. Not only will he have a chance to test his offense against a veteran defense in flux, but he should have a decided schematic advantage over his counterpart, Jason Garrett.

    Score Prediction: 33-24, Bears

Week 15: Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 1:00 pm ET, FOX

    The Cleveland Browns were 5-11 last season, 24th in the NFL in scoring offense and 19th in scoring defense. They fired pretty much everybody, and there's already serious doubt about whether their first-round quarterback from just a year ago, Brandon Weeden, is the man for the job.

    Nevertheless, Cleveland is going to be a tough out in 2013. New Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski made two great coordinator hires in Norv Turner and Ray Horton, and the Browns fed the defense with free agents.

    The Bears' fortification of their offensive line with left tackle Jermon Bushrod should come in handy against young Browns pass-rusher Jabaal Sheard. Can the right side of the Bears line handle new left outside linebacker Paul Kruger? 

    If anyone can consistently beat Browns cornerback Joe Haden, though, it's Brandon Marshall, and a switch of base defense usually wreaks havoc on the defense's run fits. The battle between Trent Richardson and Matt Forte will likely be a draw.

    The battle between Jay Cutler and Brandon Weeden will likely not be.

    Score Prediction: 28-24, Bears

Week 16: Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 1:00 pm ET, FOX

    The Philadelphia Eagles went 4-12 last season, but like the Bears they've changed out the coaching staff. In fact, the Eagles might be the most dramatically transformed team in the NFL.

    New head coach Chip Kelly is installing his zone read-based offense and a new 3-4 base defense. The Eagles defense has already seen massive personnel turnover, including the entire starting secondary. Whether Chicago's recycled linebackers can cope with Kelly's scheme remains to be seen.

    Switching the base defense, as the Eagles have, and churning most of the starting lineup don't usually result in quick improvement. Cutler, Marshall and the new Bears offense should be able to give the completely overhauled Eagles secondary fits.

    The Chicago Bears match up well against the Eagles as we last knew them, and their strong pass defense should still slow down Philly's passing game.

    Score Prediction: 24-17, Bears

Week 17: Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 1:00 pm ET, FOX

    Of course, it comes down to this. The Packers and Bears will face off in the last week of the season—possibly in a winner-take-all match for the NFC North crown.

    It's going to be a tough task to win in the Windy City on December 29th, but that sword cuts both ways.

    This is going to be a huge task for new head coach Marc Trestman, eight years removed from the spotlight of the NFL. If the Bears really are in position to beat the Packers and win the division, the pressure will be immense.

    That's the kind of pressure the Packers have thrived on and the Bears have struggled with for the past several years. Trestman is the right man for the job, but he'll need his players to carry him through this massive rivalry game and they won't be able to do it.

    Score Prediction: 28-20, Packers