On schedule: Afterthoughts in town and out

On schedule: Afterthoughts in town and out
April 19, 2013, 4:15 pm
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More on why the Bears will be 10-6 or better…
 
Projecting 10 wins in the NFL isn’t something you do lightly. And working through the schedule and what the Bears and their opponents have done this offseason initially produced 8-8 and 9-7 estimates. Part of the reason is simple history: In the last 55 years, only Dave Wannstedt (after Mike Ditka) and Dick Jauron (after Wannstedt) won more games than the coach they replaced, and for Marc Trestman to get his team even to 10 wins will earn him some Coach of the Year votes.

[RELATED: Bears unveil 2013 schedule]
 
But here’s the deal:
 
The Bears took no major steps backward, beyond the loss of Brian Urlacher. That’s a significant hit to the defense regardless of how Urlacher’s level of play is judged. And the Bears clearly thought it was far from a disaster or they wouldn’t have put a contract with $1 million guaranteed on the table.
 
More important, they took three very major ones forward: Martellus Bennett at tight end, Jermon Bushrod at left tackle, Matt Slauson at one guard, plus the upgrade that comes with moving J’Marcus Webb to right tackle from left. If Kellen Davis had just managed to be bad last season, the Bears were in the playoffs.

[MORE: Running down the Bears' 2013 opponents]
 
Even more important, Jay Cutler is playing for his NFL future, Chicago or elsewhere. He has to be better than he’s ever been in Chicago to earn an elite payday and he has to do it Marc Trestman’s way or else.
 
And most important in the 10-6 call: I have been correct with that estimate in two of the last three seasons and it would have been three-for-three without Cutler’s injury when the Bears sat at 7-3 in 2011. Jerry Angelo may be faulted for any number of draft choices, but what he left and what Phil Emery has added has given the Bears a talent “floor” good enough to stay at the 10-win level.
 
The good, the bad and the worst
 
Had to chuckle at longtime NFL’er and Yahoo Sports bigfoot Jason Cole’s choices at “best” and “worst” games of this season. Jason, one of the hardest working and most enjoyable personalities in our business, selects the Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers as his No. 10 “best” game for the season because it’s wideout Mike Wallace going against Ben Roethlisberger and his old team.
 
Jason, no game involving the Miami Dolphins, who have had one winning season in the last seven, none since 2008, can be the “best” anything.
 
Yet among his 10 “worsts” are the Bears at Pittsburgh (a 10-6 team vs. the Steelers) and Houston at San Francisco (the AFC South champion that won a playoff game vs. the Super Bowl runner-up).

[RELATED -- 2013 Bears finish: 10-6]
 
Huh? But a fun read by one of the top guys covering the NFL.
 
Packin’ it in
 
Don Banks over at SI.com doesn’t list a Bears game among the 17 he most looks forward to in 2013. What Don does, and Jason does as well, is cite Green Bay games that don’t involve the Bears directly but could factor into their season.
 
Don lists the Week 1 game of Green Bay at San Francisco as his No. 2 to-watch, and it’s clearly a defining game for the Packers defense, which couldn’t handle the read-option last season. Of course, Don also lists four 49ers games among his top eight, so maybe this doesn’t have anything to do with the Packers at all.
 
Jason brings Green Bay at the New York Giants at No. 7 on his Top 10 and the game involves nothing less than two of the teams the Bears need to stay ahead of in either the divisional or wild-card races. This is the first of three games in 11 days for the Packers, too.