Chicago Bears: The 6 Scariest Games on the 2011 Schedule
Last year was pretty successful for the Monsters of the Midway. An NFC North Championship and an appearance in the NFC Championship Game capped a very good year.
But that was last year.
This year, the Bears face a tough schedule by virtue of their first-place finish in the division and facing the NFC South, who could have sent three teams to the playoffs last year if the chips fell their way.
And don't count the upward moving AFC west in the 'gimme' win column.
The Chargers were the second-ranked offense in the league last year, the Chiefs and the Raiders are both on their way upward, and the Broncos don't have Josh McDaniels making inexplicable personnel moves this year, so they should start catching up.
And of course, the Bears will face the Vikings, Lions and Packers. The Packers are the defending Super Bowl Champs, the Lions are moving up in the world quickly, and the Vikings could be tougher than expected as the Christian Ponder Era begins.
So, what games should the Bears be most wary of? Today we'll take a look at the games that should give the Bears the most trouble this season.
So let's get started.
September 11 vs Atlanta
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
After a shortened offseason from which to try to train and improve the offensive line, the Bears are opening at home against the Falcons.
The Bears have lost two straight to the Matt Ryan led Falcons, both on heartbreaking fourth-quarter scores.
Last season, the Falcons boasted the fifth-ranked offense and the fifth-ranked defense. Honestly, though, it's the offense that is troubling.
Atlanta matches up well with the Bears defense. Now, Falcons have not played against the Bears with Julius Peppers. But that being said, they have a fantastic offensive line, and the Bears defense is predicated on pressure from the front four. If Chicago has to blitz, the defense is vulnerable.
The game is winnable, and predicting games before free agency has even taken place is not a wise thing to do.
But Chicago's season could be in for a rough start with this game.
September 25 vs Green Bay
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Week 3 brings to the Chicago Bears a first division opponent in the form of the defending Super Bowl Champions.
The Bears played the Packers well last year, despite dropping two of their three contests. Rodgers was held to almost 30 points below his season average quarterback rating in those contests.
And it can be expected that the best rivalry in football will hold the football nation's attention even tighter this year, after the two vicious but respectful rivals met in the NFC Championship Game last year.
This will be a high pressure game with all eyes focused on Cutler, and how he will respond to the pressure that will surely be placed on him by the media in the week leading up to the game, considering his exit from the NFCCG and the media swarm that followed.
But Cutler should be fine.
The real concern will be the Packers defense, which didn't get nearly the credit it deserved last year. That defense ranked second in points allowed, and still played second fiddle to their tenth-ranked offense.
While Aaron Rodgers and the offense were fantastic in the playoffs, it was the defense that held the third- and fifth-ranked offenses in check to get them there. It was the defense that scored the game winning touchdown in the Championship Game.
And it was that defense that held the Bears to 17 total points in their last two meetings, when the Packers offense was held to just 24 offensive points in those same two games.
The Bears will have to be on top of their game when the Champs come to town.
October 23 vs Tampa Bay (in London)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Tampa Bay is on the rise with a top 10 defense, and a hot young quarterback and receiver tandem in Josh Freeman and Mike Williams.
But the real problem here isn't the Bucs. The biggest worry is that the game may still be played in London.
Players have expressed issues with these games before, and for good reason.
These overseas games usually take place mid-season, when teams are gearing up for a playoff run. But the trip is long and tiring, and teams are not at their best when playing these games on foreign turf.
The other issue is health.
When players are mentally fatigued, it's not just their game that suffers. Their safety can be affected, as well. Playing tired and not completely aware leaves players open to injury that they can better protect themselves against under normal circumstances.
The probability of injury could increase in these types of foreign road trips, and that makes this game especially scary for both teams.
November 20 vs San Diego
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
This game looks like trouble for very obvious reasons.
Whatever you may think of the Chargers, there is no doubting the power of their offense. Philip Rivers is a bona fide elite quarterback, and the players around him are capable of shredding opposing secondaries with ease.
There is already a rivalry between Rivers and Jay Cutler, and don't think that just because Rivers came to Cutty's defense over the Championship Game exit that the two will be buddies come November.
The Bears defense is capable of slowing the Chargers down, but the real question will be whether the Bears offense will be able to keep up.
Without knowing who the Bears will nab in free agency, it's hard to be optimistic that the addition of one offensive lineman, albeit a beast of an offensive lineman in rookie Gabe Carimi, will solidify the Truly Offensive Line of just one year past.
If the Bears offensive line woes aren't rectified by this point, this game could get ugly.
December 4 vs Kansas City
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
If there is a team in the AFC that is rising faster than the Chiefs, I'm stumped to think of who it could be.
The offense is well-built behind Matt Cassel, Thomas Jones, Dwayne Bowe, and wunderkind Jamaal Charles.
And the defense is frighteningly good at a young core age, behind one of the best secondaries in the game and pass-rushing ace Tamba Hali.
This is a game that many are overlooking, but the Bears could get bitten.
The Chiefs pass-rush, combined with that zone attacking offensive scheme that takes advantage of opponents' inability to commit to pass defense because of the very real threats of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones in the running game, could give the Bears fits at a crucial point in the schedule.
The Bears will be left with three of four remaining games away in very hostile territory to wind out a playoff run. A loss to the Chiefs here could be devastating to the Bears.
December 25 @ Green Bay
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Christmas Day could be the most important day of the season for Chicago, especially if they dropped the Week 3 meeting with the Packers.
Week 16 could very well see the Bears and Packers playing for the division, and Chicago will have to trek to the frozen north to do it.
Despite their reputation as a cold-weather team, the Bears current incarnation is more suited to faster fields and to domes. The conditions on Lambeau Field in late December will hamper what the Bears do.
Nothing could do more for the Bears confidence heading into the playoffs than to beat the defending world champions in their own house before heading to Minnesota to finish the season.
But then, nothing would hurt the Bears and their playoff hopes more than to lose to their 91 year rivals on Christmas Day.
All right, ladies and gentlemen. It's your turn. Your soap-box awaits so sound off and let us know what games worry you the most, be it one of these six or another game on the schedule.
Let your voice be heard (or at least let your written words be read).