The Bears’ schedule is out, and from an initial glance it looks brutal. In just the first three games Chicago has to play a reigning regular season champion, a one-year removed Super Bowl champion and the reigning Super Bowl champions!
The Bears finished the 2010 season with an 11-5 record and a NFC North title. There were highs (Devin Hester breaking the all-time return record) and there were lows (getting manhandled by the Patriots, 36-7, in a must win home game), but what Chicago fan honestly thought they'd make it to the NFC Championship game?
The question now is, can they make it back?
I break down the season into quarters (four games at a time) to see how Chicago will fair.
The Bears get tested right away to start the 2011-2012 season. Their first three games are against playoff teams from last year.
Two tough tasks against high quality teams. Chicago needs to win at least one of the first two games because game three is against the Super Bowl champions, their hated rivals, the Green Bay Packers.
Luckily for the Bears, they get to play the Packers at home for the first matchup.
These first three games of the season are the toughest stretch Chicago will see all season.
It is not out of the question that the defending NFC North champions could start the season out 0-3.
I see Chicago going 2-2 in the first quarter of the season.
I think they open up strong at home beating the Falcons.
Going down to New Orleans for the Saints home opener is a tough game to win. The Dome will be electric and it already has the feeling of a Jay Cutler multi-interception game on the road.
The Packers are the champs, and I can’t pick against them just yet. Unless the Bears offensive line improved tenfold in the offseason, Jay Cutler will be sacked multiple times.
The Panthers are a cupcake team and Chicago should manhandle them for an easy win.
The next four games are real interesting.
Game one of the second quarter is at the Lions for a Monday night game. The Lions are playing on Monday night—that should be amusing.
The next week they get another division opponent in primetime as the Vikings come to town. Minnesota still has a huge question mark at quarterback and that defense is getting older and older. Depending on who the Vikings start at quarterback, that game could potentially be a cakewalk.
The next two games are crucial for Chicago. They travel to London to play a promising Buccaneers team then have a bye week.
Right after that they hit the road again to play the Eagles in Philly. I think the bye week is placed at a perfect time for the Bears, as they get extra to time recover from the trip out to England and time to prepare for Michael Vick.
The Bears will be under a lot of pressure to resurrect their season if they start 1-3, so that Monday night game against the Lions is a must-win.
The last time Detroit played on Monday was in 2001 when Detroit lost 35-0. It will be a crazy environment, but the Bears are a better team and get the win up in Detroit.
Minnesota will give them somewhat of a tougher test and the Bears don't have anyone who can block Jared Allen, but it may not matter if the Vikings are putting Tavaris Jackson or Joe Webb out there. Julius Peppers will have a field day in a win for the Bears.
Tampa Bay is an up and coming team that is tough to beat. But, the one weakness for the Bucs is that they don’t have a good pass rush. Chicago doesn’t have a good offensive line. Something has to give and I’ll take Cutler having extra time in the pocket to find open receivers, Bears win.
Playing in Philadelphia is always tough and I can see Chicago coming out flat after the bye week. I think that Vick and the Eagles stop the Bears four game win streak here.
5-3 through the first half of the season.
The Bears open up the second half of their season with a rematch against their division rivals, the Detroit Lions, and then play three games against the AFC West, the worst division in the conference.
This is a crucial slate of games for the Bears as they will need to get at least two wins to stay in the playoff picture.
There's not much to worry about with the Lions, even if Calvin Johnson has a monster game again.
The Bears then travel out to Oakland to face a Raiders team still probably trying to find its identity, and then host the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs in a home game in early December. Can you say snowstorm?
Division games are never a gimme, and as the Bears saw last year, Detroit was a Calvin Johnson premature celebration away from stealing the game in Chicago last season. Bears win again at home.
They then host the Chargers in a late November game, so not too cold yet in Chicago. San Diego has the fire power on offense to tear apart the Bears secondary. Chargers win.
The Raiders improved last season, but I am still not confident in this Raiders team and they can't seem to win outside of their division. They are a good running team, but Chicago is pretty stout at stopping the run. Bears get a win on the road.
Speaking of running, the Chiefs running game was the best in the NFL last season, but they are one dimensional on offense. As seen in the playoff game last year against the Ravens, when Matt Cassel has to pass, bad things happen. Bears win.
3-1 in the third quarter of the season and 8-4 overall in the first 12 games.
Cutler seems to struggle with adversity and he didn't make many friends while in Denver, so this match screams trap game. So does, for that matter, next week's game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle may have overachieved with their surprising playoff run, but this is still a severely flawed team with a mediocre quarterback approaching his 40's.
The last two games of the season couldn't be any tougher for the Bears, and of course, they're both division games.
They play the Packers again in a Sunday night game in Green Bay, that will likely determine who wins the division, and then close out the season on the road in Minnesota, against a team that will be sizing up their chances at getting Andrew Luck in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Does Cutler show up the Broncos or show everyone why Denver traded him in the first place?
The crowd in Denver will be nuts and the Broncos will be amped to stick it to their former QB. Denver wins this one at home.
Then the Seahawks come back to Chicago late in December for a playoff rematch. That game last year wasn’t even close and I expect more of the same this time around. The Bears can drop 40 points on this defense. Chicago wins.
It will be Green Bay and Chicago battling it out for the NFC North title this season, and the game in Green Bay could be for all the marbles.
Playing in Lambeau Field on Christmas, the Pack and the fans will be pumped. I see Green Bay sweeping the series this year against Chicago.
Assuming I was right on the money with the previous 15 predictions, the final game against Minnesota will be for a playoff spot, so the Bears will have extra motivation. Minnesota would like to knock its division foe out of the playoffs, but it won’t happen. Bears roll.
Chicago finishes the season 10-6, and gets a Wild Card berth for the playoffs.