The other day I started to refresh my memory and look ahead to the Bears’ 2010 opponents to start my season preview when the schedule comes out later today. Let me tell you something – their schedule this year is going to be TOUGH! Not knowing the order of the games or when the bye week falls doesn’t change the difficulty.
Even though their strength of schedule ranks in the middle of the pack, the Bears face a challenging array of opponents. To break it down, I rank the games from 16 (easiest) to 1 (hardest).
16. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are in rebuilding mode under Pete Carroll and Jay Cutler’s OC man-crush Jeremy Bates. Neither helps the “She-hawks” past the Bears.
15. Detroit Lions
Normally the easiest game on the Bears’ schedule is reserved for the home date with the Lions, but I really think they’re going to improve this season. The Lions have improved along the defensive line and some high draft picks along with another year of experience for promising QB Matthew Stafford.
14. @ Buffalo Bills
Road games are never easy, but the Bills will not be good this year, plain and simple. Lots of rumors swirling that this game could be played in Toronto, which wouldn’t even really make it a “home game” for the Bills. Bears in Canada; gimme a break!
Remember what I just said about the Lions improving? I changed my mind. Even at Ford Field, the Lions don’t have enough to tame the Bears.
I think the Eagles made a big mistake getting rid of Donovan McNabb and it will show in their record this year. They still have playmakers on both sides of the ball, but without McNabb, they just won’t be the same.
Speaking of McNabb, the Redskins bring him in from NFC East rival Philadelphia, but with a posse of running backs that each carry an AARP card, the Bears should be able to slow them down.
The Panthers struggled last season and finally decided to part company with Jake Delhomme. The key to this game will be slowing down the stellar running attack the Panthers bring.
9. Green Bay
The classic rivalry will be renewed twice more this season and it’s never easy. I rank this game where I do thanks to being a home game the Bears’ familiarity with the opponent. Games against the Packers are always tough but when you see the rest of their games, you’ll see why this ranks where it does.
8. New England
Tom Brady and the Pats roll into Soldier Field for a matchup with the Beloved. I think this is going to be a down year for New England. Their defense has been on a downswing and with offensive spark Wes Welker coming off a major knee injury, look for the Bears to keep pace.
You know the old man is going to come back; you just do. His season last year was just too good to stay away. That said, the Bears handled them at home on Monday Night Football, so no reason to think the Bears can’t handle them at home again.
The Dolphins are another team that has been steadily improving this offseason. Brandon Marshall much? Add Marshall and his considerable talent to the Wildcat offense and you’ve got something. It’s no stretch saying that this team will go as far as Chad Henne takes them.
5. N.Y. Jets
Depending on when this game falls on the calendar, the Bears could dodge a bullet and avoid a suspended Santonio Holmes, but it’s unlikely they’ll miss Rex Ryan and his attacking 46-defense. This is sure to be a tough one of the Bears.
4. @N.Y. Giants
The Bears play both New York teams this coming season and neither game looks to be all that easy, but a trip to visit the Giants will be even tougher. The Giants’ pass rush could make for a long day for Jay Cutler and the offense.
3. @Green Bay
The Bears head up to Lambeau, which is always a tough place to play. The Packers set the tone for the Bears 2009 campaign with the season opening loss and a horrific Bears debut for Jay Cutler. Even though Lovie has done historically well against the Pack, this looks to be another tough one.
The Bears head down to get their first look at Jerry-world, Jerry Jones’ billion dollar playhouse. Lots of rumors swirling that this game could be played on Thanksgiving, which only adds to the level of difficulty.
The Metrodome is not an easy place to play, plain and simple. With the crowd noise and a swarming Viking defense, not to mention the likely return of #4, makes this the toughest game on the slate in my opinion.
Looking at this slate of games, I think the Bears will struggle to get to 0.500. The good news – if there is any – is that for the most part, the rest of the NFC North will play about the same schedule.