Analyzing the Bears schedule part 1: The start of a repeat?
The Bears surprised most of the football world by winning the NFC North last year. Can they make it two in a row? It all may depend how they begin the season.
The Bears made a big splash right before the season started last year by trading for Khalil Mack. It was a move to show that they were all in on the defense and they thought they could make a run. Many thought it might take a year to gel fully, but Chicago was ahead of schedule in running to a 12-4 record and a surprise NFC North title.
With winning your division, though, comes a tougher schedule. You must now play all three other division winners in the NFC and depending on which division you have to play from the AFC it could be a huge difference in if a team makes the playoffs or not. It is no different for the Bears this year as they must face the four teams that had the best record in the league last year (Chiefs, Chargers, Rams, and Saints).
It will not be easy for the Bears to repeat as NFC North champions but not impossible. The key to being successful this year it to carry over their good play from last year and get off to a good start. Luckily for the Bears, they have a favorable start to their schedule and they must take advantage of it.
The Bears start their year on the opening Thursday night hosting the Packers. Aaron Rodgers and company are ready to for some revenge after the Bears beat them late in the year to clinch the NFC North. Chicago should have swept them last year as they blew a big first-half lead in losing the season opener. While playing the Packers to start the year again this year is not ideal, playing at home in front of a national crowd should have Soldier Field rocking. If the Bears can pick up a win here it should open the door for a very good start to the year.
After their clash with the Packers, the Bears play on the road for their next two games (the only time all year they play back to back games on the road) against the Broncos and Redskins. Both teams will be breaking in new quarterbacks to their systems. The Broncos are hoping Joe Flacco can turn their team around after a less than stellar year with Case Keenum last year. The Redskins will be either starting Keenum who came over from Denver or rookie out of Ohio State Dwayne Haskins.
Both look to be ideal matchups for the Bears defense as they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and with their lockdown secondary, it could be tough for both the Broncos and Redskins to score. They are both very winnable games and a great way to start out their road part of the schedule.
They return home in week 4 to take on division rival Minnesota. The Bears swept the Vikings last year. They controlled both games and even though the Vikings made the game in Chicago close the Bears took care of business fairly easily. They should be able to do more of the same this year as long as they are still healthy.
Week five has the Bears traveling to London to take on the Raiders. Mack should have extra motivation in this game as he plays against his former team. Jon Gruden basically threw him away and Mack remembers. On top of that, the Raiders were a mess last year and while they are building for the future, it doesn’t look like this will be the year for them to turn the corner.
Following the London trip, they have a bye week before they get into the second part of the schedule that we will break down later.
The Bears must come out ready to defend their title but the schedule did them a favor and gave them the opportunity to get off to a great start. It is very possible they could head into their bye week 5-0 or even 4-1. If they can get to at least four wins before their off week they should set themselves up nicely to make another run at NFC North. Go undefeated and they would already have a game on both their division rivals Vikings and Packers.
They can’t win the division in their first five games, but they could definitely lose it. The Bears have a tough schedule but if they can get off to a hot start they could be a force in the NFC yet again.