With the offseason and preseason done, CSNChicago.com revisits its prediction for how the Bears will fare for the 2013 season.
The result: same prediction. The Bears will be 10-6 or better, the same prediction made here each of the past three seasons (and looked like a lock for three straight but for Jay Cutler’s broken hand at 7-3 in 2011).
Some of this hinges on how well the Bears open. They have gone to the playoffs 14 times since the advent of the current format. Twelve of those seasons began with the Bears winning their first game. The only other two (2001, 2005) required major quarterback changes on the fly, from Shane Matthews to Jim Miller in ’01 and from Rex Grossman to Kyle Orton in ’05, both times due to injuries.
Bears 21 Cincinnati 20
Two very good defensive teams, a controlled Cincinnati offense in capable hands vs. a Bears offense on its shakedown cruise. If this were being played in Cincinnati, the call would be different but the Bears should be good enough to overcome some coaching jitters and players settling-in.
Additions vs. subtractions
The predominant reason for “10-6 or better” is that the Bears took multiple steps forward and very, very few backwards from what got them to 10-6 last season.
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They lost Israel Idonije, Nick Roach and Brian Urlacher but the only falloff initially looks to be in the middle if only for experience purposes.
Not that the parallel is spot-on, but the Baltimore Ravens showed last Thursday night in Denver some of what can happen to a defense that loses what some considered an over-the-hill middle linebacker, and safety.
But the Bears added four new offensive line starters and a tight end who had more catches (55) last season than either Kellen Davis or Matt Spaeth have for their careers. Alshon Jeffery is going into his second season.
And they added ostensibly a coaching staff with rings and a record for working with elite quarterbacks.
The Bears had two “schedules” last year: a relative puff-ball first half and a considerably tougher second half.
But overall, is the 2013 schedule any more difficult than 2012’s? The Bears had eight games against playoff teams last year: Green Bay and Minnesota twice each, Houston, Indianapolis, San Francisco and Seattle.
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They have seven games against teams making the 2012 playoffs: the four in the division, plus Baltimore, Cincinnati and Washington. The AFC North has been one of the NFL’s toughest but the Steelers and Browns are not among anyone's elite and the Ravens were far short of their Super Bowl form in the opener at Denver.
The year, chunky style
Looking at the schedule in chunks (and this time correcting a math error by which the win total didn’t match the overall prediction):
NFC North: 4-2
Did the Lions do anything this offseason to engender big-picture concern? The talent makes them worrisome but the Bears win both Detroit games.
Pundits are looking for a Vikings falloff. Hard to see that, with Adrian Peterson talking about 2,500 yards, and Christian Ponder has been a serviceable game manager generally. The Bears have at least split with the Vikings in 11 of the last 12 seasons; the prediction that this goes to 13 seasons still stands.
Aaron Rodgers owned Lovie Smith the way Smith once owned Brett Favre. But the coaching change was made to bring Jay Cutler into some semblance of Rodgers. The Bears are overdue for a split with the Packers.
NFC East 3-1
Washington went 4-0 in preseason and that was with Robert Griffin III in flux. Some expect the Redskins, like the Vikings, to slip from their 10-6 of 2012. But that’s a road game for the Bears and if RGIII is healthy, this projects as a loss.
But the rest of the NFC East is very beatable. The Bears get the erratic Giants in Soldier Field; they’ve beaten the Cowboys the past two meeting in Dallas and this one is in Chicago; and the Eagles have too many issues to beat a good Bears team.
AFC North 2-2
The Bears get both the Ravens and Bengals in Soldier Field. That should be enough for a split at least.
The Steelers don’t have James Harrison (he’s in Cincinnati now). The Bears, however, haven’t won in Pittsburgh since 1989 and the Steelers haven’t had a losing season since 2003. But the Steelers were 0-4 through preseason and only Green Bay scored fewer points (37) than the Steelers (56) in the practice games.
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The Cleveland Browns went 3-1 in preseason but what they are under new coach Rob Chudzinski is a work in progress.
The others 1-1
The Bears should split their games with New Orleans (home) and St. Louis (away). They are capable of winning both, and of losing both but I don’t see that happening.