No. 4 — The timing of the bye week, and what it means
Depending on who you ask, answers surrounding the Chicago Bears’ bye week falling in Week 11 will almost certainly fluctuate. Chicago will be one of the last teams to take their rest — historically it would’ve been, but this year, the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers take theirs in Week 13.
Just as it’s been for virtually every team ever, injuries and health will tell the story of the season. If you look at the Chicago Bears a season ago, one has to imagine fortunes are much better than an 8-8 season if many of their marquee players don’t get snakebitten.
Consider this chart. The majority of the Bears’ injuries didn’t come until around the early-to-midway point of the season, especially the ones that really mattered. Akeem Hicks went on injured reserve during Week 7. The wear-and-tear of Kyle Long’s hip finally met its match in Week 4, and sidelined him for the final five games of the season. You could make a similar argument for players like Adam Shaheen and Bilal Nichols, too.
We touched on this during the story on how the Bears could be affected by the CBA, but it’s worth discussing again. Over the last four years, the Bears have put 60 players on injured reserve, which paces the division by a healthy margin.
There’s certainly a connection between that and the win-loss total. Part of me enjoys the idea of having a bye week, and then preparing for four NFC North clashes to close the season between Weeks 12 and 17, but then there’s the question of if teams with later bye weeks actually have advantages.
In 2012, Bill Barnwell of Grantland put out a piece attacking that very question and found that teams with later bye weeks aren’t as successful as the ones who have theirs in Weeks 3 or 4. You almost certainly want your bye week right down the middle.
It’s also probably not the best time to mention that the Bears have lost their last six games after a bye week, dating back to 2013.
All that considered, my hunch is that it bodes well for Chicago. Having some additional time to prepare for the Packers right out of a bye is huge, considering just how important those games are. That spring optimism is a real thing.
And for that reason, my prediction would be that the Bears go 11-5 this year, which, after you take out the taxes, injuries, carry the one, and account for the hiccups only the Bears can have, probably means 9-7 or 10-6, and potentially a playoff berth. In other words, a fun year.