Since George Halas stepped back in as head coach to replace Paddy Driscoll in 1958, only Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron have won more games than the coach they replaced. It will be very difficult for Marc Trestman to top or even match the 10-6 mark of Lovie Smith’s final year.
But CSNChicago.com predicts that he will. Barely. Here’s why:
The offense that had to be carried for too much of last season has been fortified with two starting linemen and a state-of-the-game tight end. The optimism of 2012 was misplaced, based on the offense with Brandon Marshall having the firepower to make up for any falterings on defense. And based on the mistaken assumptions that the offensive line and Kellen Davis were good enough.
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In fact, the defense was good enough to carry the offense by virtue of the takeaways and scores. When those stopped, so did the wins. With the upgrades at tackle, guard, tight end and coordinator, the upset will be if the 2013 offense does not win games outright no matter what kind of day the defense is having.
But looking at the schedule in chunks:
NFC North: 4-2
The Detroit Lions are the perennial pick to break out. The fact is that they have had one season in Jim Schwartz’s four with more than six wins and they are looking up at the rest of the division. The Bears win both Detroit games.
The Packers and Vikings both went to the playoffs and have arrows pointing up. The Bears have at least split with the Vikings in 11 of the last 12 seasons; that will continue.
The Packers are the obvious problem, having win six straight and eight of the last nine over the Bears. But the Bears closed the offensive talent gap in the offseason. That will be worth one of the two Green Bay games.
NFC East: 3-1
The Philadelphia Eagles were a disaster (4-12) in 2012 and have to improve substantially just to be “average.” That’s difficult to envision with Michael Vick’s play even when he free of concussion problems.
The Bears have beaten the Cowboys the last two times they played and those were in Dallas. In Soldier Field, Tony Romo will make enough mistakes to help out. And the New York Giants are still a force on both lines and quarterback but were just 9-7 the past two seasons with late-year flourishes.
The problem is the Washington Redskins and Robert Griffin III. Assuming he is healthy, the Bears will be trying to contain one of the true difference-makers in the game, on the road. This team won its last seven straight with rookie quarterbacks and now they aren’t rookies.
[MORE: Defense turning up tempo]
AFC North: 1-3
The Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl and the Cincinnati Bengals reached the playoffs. The Bears get both of them in Soldier Field, which will be enough to help get past the Ravens in their Super Bowl letdown, but not the Bengals.
The Steelers don’t have James Harrison but the Bears haven’t won in Pittsburgh since 1989 and the Steelers haven’t had a losing season since 2003. Too much on the road.
The Cleveland Browns are still sorting out too many issues, although winning on the road in the NFL is never easy. The Bears should get by a struggling young team.
The others: 1-1
The New Orleans Saints will be a crusade to show they are back from the suspension of their coach and others. But they come to Soldier Field and the Bears have beaten Drew Brees the last three times he’s come to Chicago.
The St. Louis Rams, however, are trouble. Jeff Fisher had that team turned in the right direction last year (just ask the San Francisco 49ers) and had won four of five before dropping their final game at playoff-bound Seattle.