With each passing month the 2014 schedule becomes clearer for every NFL team. How does it shape up for the Chicago Bears?
Week 1 vs. the Buffalo Bills
Winning the opener is always a great way to start the year. The Bears will host a Buffalo Bills team brimming with optimism and underrated young talent including a very good running game with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson that will test Chicago’s rebuilt run defense.
Week 2 at the San Francisco 49ers
Beating a top notch opponent like the San Francisco 49ers will take patience, effort and a little luck. The Chicago Bears historically struggled at Candlestick Park, as their disastrous 2012 visit (32-7) can attest. How well they play there will tell a very significant tale about their prospects for 2014.
Week 3 at the New York Jets
Marc Trestman said he loves it when his team gets tested early and it’s not a good idea to look past the New York Jets. Rex Ryan had that team, particularly the defense playing well last season. The offense has upgraded since then. Much will depend on their fluid quarterback situation with Geno Smith and Michael Vick.
Week 4 vs. the Green Bay Packers
Jay Cutler has a major league chip on his shoulder when it comes to the Green Bay Packers. He has not beaten them since 2010 and the Bears have lost seven of their last eight to their old rivals. Avenging their heartbreaking loss back in January could erase some of those demons and also give Chicago control of the division.
Week 5 at the Carolina Panthers
For whatever reason Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers always seem to give the Bears trouble and now they’ve had a taste of playoff football. Their stout defense is going to present plenty of challenge for Cutler and the offense while Jared Allen and the defense must find a way to wrangle Newton.
Week 6 at the Atlanta Falcons
Was their pitiful record last season a trend or a blip on the radar. The Atlanta Falcons are anxious to find out. They still have plenty of weapons around quarterback Matt Ryan and have seemingly upgraded their defense. In an always hostile Georgia Dome, the Chicago Bears need to play smart football to win here.
Week 7 vs. the Miami Dolphins
One of the hardest divisions to get a read on is the AFC East. Last year the Miami Dolphins looked brilliant in some games and completely lost in others. They are not to be taken lightly if anything else as quarterback Ryan Tannehill seems to sit on an upward trajectory in his development.
Week 8 at the New England Patriots
Winning a game in Foxborough takes an almost herculean effort every year. That is the reputation the New England Patriots have built. The Chicago Bears must slow down Tom Brady, outsmart Bill Belichick and play more efficiently against a team known for forcing mistakes by opponents. Very few can lay claim to succeeding in that mission.
Week 10 at the Green Bay Packers
Lambeau Field doesn’t hold the same mystique for the Bears as it might for other teams. They did win there last season but as long as Aaron Rodgers can stand, the Green Bay Packers will be a nightmare to deal with. Jay Cutler needs to have a good game to win this one.
Week 11 vs. the Minnesota Vikings
Not winning at Soldier Field was one of the reasons Jared Allen left the Minnesota Vikings for Chicago. They just seem to struggle there and with a new coaching staff and roster turnover expected, it’s hard to see that changing at this point. Unless the Bears are gutted by injuries or wet the bed, the outcome here should be favorable.
Week 12 vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lovie Smith will flatly say his return to Chicago as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is just another game, but like any head coach he has an ego. He’ll really want to win a game against a team that fired him despite going 10-6 in 2012.
Week 13 at the Detroit Lions
Revenge will be the buzz word for the Chicago Bears when they go against the Detroit Lions late the year. Detroit swept the season series in 2013, two game that proved critical to the Bears’ playoff hopes. A major focal point will be how Kyle Long and the offensive line handle that stout Lions front.
Week 14 vs. the Dallas Cowboys
Last time the Bears hosted the Dallas Cowboys in December at Soldier Field, they humiliated America’s Team 45-21 with Josh McCown at quarterback. The temperature might be a tad warmer in this tilt, but the outcome doesn’t look very different especially with the Cowboys already losing Sean Lee.
Week 15 vs. the New Orleans Saints
Hosting a Super Bowl contender is exactly the kind of test Chicago will have to pass late in the season if they want to reach the playoffs. The New Orleans Saints did beat the Bears last year, but that was early in the season. This time the weather should have more of an edge to it, something dome teams try to avoid.
Week 16 vs. the Detroit Lions
The same goes for the division rival Lions. They too escape Father Winter last year in Chicago and took advantage. Lady luck won’t hold this time as the Bears continue to gain some good fortune in their scheduling.
Week 17 at the Minnesota Vikings
Fittingly, while winning at Soldier Field is an ongoing mystery for the Minnesota Vikings, the Bears in turn have some sort of allergy in regards to winning up in Minnesota. However, with their new stadium not yet completed this game will be played outdoors in late December at the University of Minnesota. More cold weather and a frozen field? By this point the Bears will have long since acclimated to such conditions.
Based on a snap judgment, it’s quite clear the Chicago Bears 2014 season will be determined by how they navigate their way to the bye week. Their first eight games feature four playoff teams from 2013 and two others (Jets and Dolphins) that finished 8-8. Toss in the fact that five of those contests are on the road and that can be neatly wrapped up as the clear hurdle head coach Marc Trestman and his troops need to get over. If they do, the second half of the schedule fields just two 2013 playoff teams and also includes a home stretch in which three out of four games are at home against dome teams in December. As stated above, health will play a key role in the entire affair.