The Chicago Bears went 8-8 last year, not bad for having a new head coach. The Bears have been suffering with an aging defense and an unimpressive offense for the past couple of years. Phil Emery has a rare opportunity to shape the roster because 28 players have contracts scheduled to expire in March. They include seven first-stringers on a defense. A defense that finished last in the NFL in yards allowed per play by the way.
Jay Cutler is a great quarterback and he can get the job done as long as he stays healthy. Every year it seems that Cutler suffers and injury, during the NCF Championship game he was hit with unknown knee injury. Across the nation, he came under fire for a lack of toughness and drive. The reputation lingered, even after a sprained MCL was diagnosed. His detractors cite his demeanor on and off the field as a lack of leadership and tact. Though do any of them really know Cutler? NFC Championship injury aside, Cutler was also sacked a league-high 52 times that regular season. He’s tough, the definition of tough. Look for Cutler to put his new contract to good use this season.
The Bears were 5th in passing offense but they were 32nd in rush defense. They lost some of their old defensive line along with several members of their secondary. I’m going to expect the Bears to bulk up on defense and grab some new lineman in the draft. Looking at the Bears 2014 schedule they’re going to need the defense more than ever. Their conference is home to some of the most aggressive offenses in the league, with known stars Reggie Bush and Adrian Peterson. You also can’t overlook the emergence of Eddie Lacy.
Week One: vs Bills 1-0
The Buffalo Bills went 2-6 away from home last season, with both wins coming against teams that finished 8-8 or worse. The Bills were missing their new starting Quarterback, which has a slight influence on these numbers. The Bears should score enough points to get an opening win at home. An early lead will take the Bears all the way to the victory.
Week Two: @ 49ers 1-1
Tough defensive front. One of the game's most physical running games. A upcoming star quarterback behind center. The San Francisco 49ers are not a team to take lightly, especially at home. The Bears probably can't overcome everything San Francisco brings to the table. There’s also several other important factors. For example they’re playing on the road, in prime time, for the first game at a new stadium. Just saying.
Week Three: @ Jets 2-1
The New York Jets can run the football, which poses a real threat for Chicago, remember I just got done talking about how bad the Bears defense was. New York went 5-0 at home last season when it ran for 100 yards or more. Rex Ryan seems to have finally found a winning formula. It’s just too hard to imagine the Jets scoring enough points without a passing game to complement the run. Also Cutler, who is 2-0 lifetime against the Jets, averaged over 230 passing yards per game against them.
Week Four: vs Packers 2-2
He now has all the weapons around him to consistently play well against any defense, including Capers'. Thought the real story behind this loss will be the Green Bay Packers offense. With an already spectacular passing game the newly found running game will be the Bears downfall in the home loss against their arch nemesis.
Week Five: @ Panthers 2-3
The Carolina Panthers have no receivers but a stable of capable ball-carriers, which is probably a worst case scenario for the Bears. They’re strong in the running game with a total of 2,026 rushing yards and they’re solid on defense as they were ranked second in scoring defense last season. Lastly, the Panthers only lost one game at home last season.
Week Six: @ Falcons 2-4
The Atlanta Falcons were plagued with injuries last season. I’m also a firm believer that last season was just a mirage, the Falcon were just due to have a bad season. Also the Falcons have always been a different team at home, making this a potentially tricky affair. I believe the falcon will start off slow, but at about mid-way through the season, look for them to be running on all cylinders. Another thing to consider: Chicago went 0-3 in domes last season. Two of those losses the Bears defense gave up more than 40 points.
Week Seven: vs Dolphins 3-4
After a three week losing streak, the Bears get a break when they get to play the Miami Dolphins in Chicago. This’ll be a closely contested game, with the Bears pulling of a victory thanks to two or more field goals. Cutler hasn't faced Miami since 2010, and his one start against them as a member of the Bears they came out with a 16-0 win. Look for Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall to eat up Miami's pair of short corners.
Week Eight: @ Patriots 3-5
Jay Cutler is a turnover machine when he plays the New England Patriots, throwing a total of four in the two times he’s played them. He also scored a passer rating of 50.0 against them. Though I’m not sure who on the Patriots defense now will be picking off any passes. He'll need to fight off his New England demons or the Bears will find themselves in real trouble on the road against Tom Brady. The Patriots also now having a running game, something the Bear lack the ability to block.
Week Nine: BYE
Week Ten: @ Packers 3-6
That’s right I’m predicting the Packers to sweep the Bears. I know the Bears beat the Packers in Lambeau Field last year, but Aaron Rodgers only played one series. Seneca Wallace gave a poor showing in relief. Overall, Chicago hasn't beaten the Packers with a healthy quarterback under center in Green Bay since 2007. Also, Jay Cutler has never done it.
Week Eleven: vs Vikings 4-6
It took a spectacular comeback for the Bears to beat the Vikings at home last season. Jay Cutler turned the ball over four times early, so if he stays calm this time, the Bears will be good. But the matchup of Adrian Peterson and the Chicago run defense does loom large. Look for this game to be close this season, very close.
Week Twelve: vs Buccaneers 5-6
Former Bears head coach, Lovie Smith, is now the leader of this young and emerging Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. Doug Martin was just not himself last season, but he still presents a tough test for the Bears run defense, and Josh McCown will have an itch to beat his former team. The Bucs just don’t have the firepower as a whole to compete with what the Bears bring to the field.
Week Thirteen: @ Lions 5-7
Quarterback play should again determine this road affair. Will Cutler be the quarterback that gave away the game early last season? He only throw threw interceptions and fumbled the ball for a touchdown after all. The Detroit Lions defense will put on a punishing defensive performance and keep the Bears just short of victory.
Week Fourteen: vs Cowboys 6-7
We always expect so much to change season-to-season, but how can anyone look at what the Bears did to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14 last season and then pick the Cowboys to leave Chicago with a win? The Bears offense had its way with the overmatched Cowboys defense, if that’s an overstatement for the Bears scoring 45 points on them, then please let me know.
Week Fifteen: vs Saints 6-8
Last time the New Orleans Saints played in Chicago Drew Brees threw just six incompletions and Pierre Thomas scored twice. Jay Cutler will really need to thread the needles if he plans on pulling out a win. Though, Brees is still probably the better bet.
Week Sixteen: vs Lions 7-8
The Lions swept the Bears last season, in part because Chicago couldn't stop the Lions from running the football. Detroit averaged over 150 rushing yards over two games. The x-factor in this game will be the home field advantage. Once again a close game, that I think will go into overtime, look for the Bears to prevent a heartbreaker at the last minute.
Week Seventeen: @ Vikings 8-8
The Bears allowed 246 rushing yards and gave up the game's final 13 points, falling to 6-6 on the season and forcing a crazy sprint to the finish line. The Bears may not go into the playoffs here but this is a rivalry game, and a win is a must here.