Any team can lose a Week 1 game and still have 15 games to right the ship and make the playoffs, the same obviously holds true for Chicago, but while there has been plenty of talk about the Bears’ manageable schedule this year, many have overlooked the schedule from Week 2-Week 9 where the Bears face a mountain of a task.
After what many consider a very winnable game in Week 1, the Bears start a stretch where six of their next eight games are on the road. In Week 2, they travel to California to face the San Francisco 49ers, followed up with a Monday night matchup in Gotham against the New York Jets.
They return home in Week 4, but their rivals, the Green Bay Packers, will be in Chicago waiting for them off a short prep week. The Bears head back on the road to face the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers back-to-back weeks. They have a manageable game at home against the Miami Dolphins in Week 7, but that is followed up by two more road games against the New England Patriots and a ride up to Green Bay for their second matchup against the Packers.
The final seven games of the Bears schedule is very manageable, but if they enter it at 2-7, it’s going to mean very little.
The Bears were not a good road team under Marc Trestman last year. They went 3-5 in road games last year; those three wins came against the Pittsburgh Steelers that turned the ball over five times that day, the Green Bay Packers who lost Aaron Rodgers on the opening drive, and the offensively-challenged Cleveland Browns.
It is very difficult to objectively look at the Bears’ schedule and expect them to go better than 3-5 in that eight-game stretch. The road games against San Francisco, New England and Green Bay are very daunting. It’s hard to imagine anything better than a split against Carolina and Atlanta. The Panthers are a good defensive team coming off a playoff appearance and the Falcons will be better after an underachieving season last year and the return of Julio Jones. The Jets game is winnable, but on the road, the home game against the Packers won’t be easy if Rodgers is taking snaps, and of course the home game against the Dolphins is a very winnable game.
The schedule definitely gets easier with five of the last seven at home, but the Bears need to be near .500 when they reach that stretch if they are going to make a run at the postseason. Losing opening week to Buffalo will make that nearly impossible.
The Bears are a strong 6.5 point favorite on Sunday, and there is no reason to think that they won’t walk off Solider Field Sunday afternoon with a victory, but if they falter, it’s not inconceivable that they will hit an early tailspin and not get out of it. Simply put, Sunday is a must-win game for Chicago.