It can be so easy to get swept up in a schedule when it’s released in spring. Chicago Bears fans experience it every year. Look at the list of opponents and grow nervous at the prospects. Is it even possible for them to reach eight wins again this season? Never mind a winning record. Analysts believe they have the third-toughest schedule in the league this year. Is it really that bad?
On paper it is. Eight games against opponents that were in the playoffs last season. Ten against teams that were 8-8 or better. No matter how one tries to frame it, the slate looks tough. Particularly for a team that still has no true stability at quarterback yet. That being said, every year is different in this league. Great teams from the previous season don’t always end up the same the next.
In order to illustrate this, here are five looming matchups for the Bears that looking brutal at first glance but might not be as bad as you think.
Chicago Bears schedule isn’t as impossible as you think
Week 1 at Rams
Los Angeles has had the Bears’ number the past couple of years with two decisive wins in 2019 and 2020, spearheaded by their excellent defense. The fact they traded for Matthew Stafford at quarterback only makes it tougher, right? To a degree, but that Rams defense might not be what it was last year.
For one, they lost defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to a head coaching job with the Chargers. On top of that, they lost three key starters from last season. Michael Brockers was traded to Detroit while cornerback Troy Hill who had three interceptions and stud safety John Johnson both left for Cleveland. That is a lot of change. Especially with Aaron Donald about to enter his 30s.
Week 5 at Raiders
This game likely has some Chicago Bears fans nervous. They haven’t forgotten what happened two years ago when the Raiders took it to their team for 60 minutes, often overpowering them in that frustrating London game. It isn’t fun to think about something like that happening again. Especially knowing fan favorite Nick Kwiatkoski is on the other side this time.
A lot has changed since that day though. Las Vegas hasn’t exactly improved much, at least on paper. Nowhere is that more evident than the offensive line. All-Pro center Rodney Hudson was traded to Arizona. Powerhouse right guard Gabe Jackson was traded to Seattle. Right tackle Trent Brown was traded to New England. At a stroke, the front that dominated the Bears back then is completely dismantled. This offers a big opportunity for the defense to get some revenge.
Week 8 vs. 49ers
A lot of people are expecting San Francisco to transform back into the team they were in 2019. A year they went 13-3 and cruised to the Super Bowl. As anybody knows though, it’s never that simple. The 49ers have a number of question marks. Especially on the defensive side. Top cornerback and leader Richard Sherman is gone. So is highly-respected defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, the man many viewed as the architect of that great defense the past couple of years.
In his place steps DeMeco Ryans who only started coaching in the NFL back in 2017. Though a former player, he is a major wild card when it comes to whether he can keep that defense at a high level. The Bears have no reason to fear them. Especially since Andy Dalton hung 41 points on them last season with Dallas.
Week 9 at Steelers
Pittsburgh always gets respect. Rightfully so. They haven’t had a losing season since 2006. Just a model of consistency in the NFL. That said, one should not be fooled by their record from last year at 12-4. The Steelers finished 2020 like a completely different team. They lost five of their final six games. The defense gave up at least 23 points in all of those games while Ben Roethlisberger really began to show his age, throwing 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Things haven’t gotten much better for them on paper. Pittsburgh lost key pass rusher Bud Dupree to free agency. Not to mention having to cut underrated cornerback Steven Nelson. Not to mention left tackle Alejandro Villanueva departed in free agency and longtime center Maurkice Pouncey retired. So the offensive line is a concern too.
Week 15 at Packers
Admittedly there is only one reason Green Bay is listed here, but it’s a fair one. The idea that Aaron Rodgers won’t be playing quarterback for them this season. The reigning MVP seemed like an obvious lock to return after narrowly missing out on the Super Bowl back in January. Then right before the draft, everything turned upside down when it was reported Rodgers was contemplating not returning to the Packers. This due to an ongoing beef with GM Brian Gutekunst.
It isn’t certain whether Rodgers will actually follow through on this, but if he does? Then the Chicago Bears are in a premium position to take advantage. Their December visit to Lambeau Field becomes much more winnable what with the prospect of facing either Jordan Love or Blake Bortles. Perhaps it’s too much to dream about yet until something changes, this is a real possibility.