NFL does Bears no favors with opening four-game stretch of 2017 schedule

NFL does Bears no favors with opening four-game stretch of 2017 schedule

John Fox’s tenure as Bears head coach began in 2015 with an opening run against the playoff elites of the NFC: Green Bay, Arizona and Seattle. Now, coming off two losing seasons with a franchise that has never retained a head coach after three straight sub-.500 years, the NFL has dealt Fox and the Bears an even more difficult start to the 2017 season.

The Bears have seven games this season against teams with winning 2016 records, and the NFL has put four of those in the first four weeks of a possible make-or-break season for Fox. New quarterback Mike Glennon is part of combined offensive and defensive lineups with as many as nine new starters over the 2016 opening day. They will be attempting to settle in against the Super Bowl runner-up Atlanta Falcons (11-5), Glennon’s former team of Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7), the AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) and the NFC North-winning Green Bay Packers (10-6). Tampa Bay, which missed last postseason by virtue of losing a tiebreaker with the Detroit Lions, and Green Bay are road games.

The Bears went 0-3 against that 2015 three-game Packers-Cardinals-Seahawks array. A win in any of the first four this season will be a significant upset in what will generally be forecast as a winless September.

For Glennon, Week 2 will be a matchup against his former team. It will not be particularly a grudge match – the Bucs made a strong effort to keep Glennon, but only as a backup to Jameis Winston.

“I had an opportunity to play,” Glennon said after he signed with the Bears. “I started 18 games there. Did some good things, and things I could work on as well. Right now, I’m just excited about my opportunity here with Chicago.” 

October holds no opponents coming off winning 2016’s and the Bears did beat Minnesota (8-8) in Chicago last season in Jay Cutler’s last winning start as a Bears quarterback. And they prevailed over the Baltimore Ravens (8-8) the last time the teams met (2013), albeit in Chicago, while this time it will be in Baltimore where the Bears have lost by double digits the only two times they have played there.

After that, the Nov. 5 weekend off.

The 3-13 mark for 2016 did not take the Bears completely out of prime-time consideration. Their game at Green Bay is on Thursday night Sept. 28, followed by the Minnesota game in Soldier Field on Mon., Oct. 9.

The release of 2017 schedules included setting exact dates and times for the Bears’ preseason (all times CST): Thurs. Aug. 10 vs. Denver, 7 p.m.; Sat. Aug. 19 at Arizona, 9 p.m.; Sun. Aug. 27 at Tennessee, noon; and Thurs. Aug. 31 vs. Cleveland, 7 p.m.

Bears open season against defending NFC champion Falcons, check out full 2017 schedule

Bears open season against defending NFC champion Falcons, check out full 2017 schedule

Week 1: vs. Atlanta Falcons (Sunday, Sept. 10, 12 p.m.)

A very good team got stronger in its defensive core with addition of defensive tackle Dontari Poe to help one of NFL's worst run defenses. Super Bowl losers can struggle the next year and Falcons need to get past devastating loss to the New England Patriots.

Moon's call: L

Week 2: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, Sept. 17, 12 p.m.)

The Bucs are difficult case study in what the Bears haven't been able to do over the past several seasons: get the franchise arrow pointing conclusively up. Tampa Bay was 2-14 in 2014 while the Bears were collapsing under Marc Trestman, got the quarterback thing right by selecting Jameis Winston No. 1 overall and have gone 6-10 and 9-7 the past two seasons, missing the 2016 playoffs only by a tiebreaker. The Week 10 game vs. the Bears last season was a Jay Cutler low point.

Moon's call: L

Week 3: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, Sept. 24, 12 p.m.)

One of two 11-win opponents (Falcons) for the 2017 Bears. The Steelers haven't been sub-500 since 2003 — when Ben Roethlisberger arrived — and reached the playoffs the past three seasons. May be toughest opponent on Bears schedule.

Moon's call: L

Week 4: at Packers (Thursday, Sept. 28, 7:25 p.m.)

Bears have produced surprises — good and bad — in Lambeau, including going up 10-6 early in the second half of their game in Green Bay last year with a defensive touchdown before losing Brian Hoyer and Kyle Long to arm injuries and collapsing defensively.

Moon's call: L

Week 5: vs. Minnesota Vikings (Monday, Oct. 9, 7:30 p.m.)

Jay Cutler's last Bears win was over the Vikings, who've shaken up their roster, signing new offensive tackles' Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers and running back Latavius Murray to improve the offense, and underachieving defensive end Datone Jones from Green Bay for the defensive line.

Moon's call: W

Week 6: at Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, Oct. 15, 12 p.m.)

A top-10 defense and a stable quarterback situation (Joe Flacco) make Ravens a consistent threat, and beating the Bears to sign safety Tony Jefferson upgrades their secondary. Credit Ravens for creative thinking, going by cruise ship to game in London rather than by airplane.

Moon's call: L

Week 7: vs. Carolina Panthers (Sunday, Oct. 22, 12 p.m.)

Another sufferer of the Super Bowl curse now looking to regain dominance, bringing back Julius Peppers and Mike Adams to defense. Head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman can't afford another underachieving year with Cam Newton in place.

Moon's call: W

Week 8: at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, Oct. 29, 12 p.m.)

The Saints traded Brandin Cooks to the Patriots but Drew Brees, Bears GM Ryan Pace's template for a franchise quarterback, predicts Saints' rise despite being sub-.500 in four of the last five seasons. Coby Fleener is matchup problem for Bears, who haven't handled good pass-catching tight ends well.

Moon's call: W

Week 9: Bye

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Week 10: vs. Green Bay Packers (Sunday, Nov. 12, 12 p.m.)

The Packers underwent massive offseason changes, and new tight end Martellus Bennett adds a threat but the Bears simply need to end second-half collapses regardless of specific Packers on the field. As long as Aaron Rodgers dresses, the Bears remain underdogs.

Moon's call: L

Week 11: vs. Detroit Lions (Sunday, Nov. 19, 12 p.m.)

Matthew Stafford directed eight comeback wins in 2016 but the Lions lost their final three games and were blown out at Seattle in the wild-card round of the playoffs. Bears have lost seven of last eight to Lions. Turnover on the offensive line makes the Lions offense an unknown until the parts mesh.

Moon's call: W

Week 12: at Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday, Nov. 26, 12 p.m.)

Eagles made their big quarterback move in least year's NFL Draft (Carson Wentz) and handled Bears easily in Soldier Field. Now Bears have to deal with motivated Alshon Jeffery, presuming injury issues don't return for the talented wide receiver.

Moon's call: W

Week 13: vs. San Francisco 49ers (Sunday, Dec. 3, 12 p.m.)

"The Brian Hoyer Bowl" is probably a touch strong for this meeting of 2016 bottom-feeders, both making wholesale changes and owning top-3 picks going into the draft. The 49ers were the Bears' only victim over final eight games last season. Kyle Shanahan becomes fourth head coach in past four years in down-spiral since Jim Harbaugh.

Moon's call: W

Week 14: at Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, Dec. 10, 12 p.m.) 

Bengals flop in playoffs but they get there under Marvin Lewis (6 of last 8 years). And 11 picks in the 2017 draft should add talent to a good core of defensive tackle Geno Atkins, quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green.

Moon's call: L

Week 15: at Lions (Saturday, Dec. 16, 3:30 p.m.)

Bears have lost four straight in Ford Field, the last two by field goals, including Week 14 last season when Josh Bellamy dropped a pass for a fourth-down conversion, all this after the Bears rallied from 10 down to lead 17-13 but could not stop a 76-yard go-ahead Lions drive.

Moon’s call: L

Week 16: vs. Cleveland Browns (Sunday, Dec. 24, 12 p.m.)

The Browns have lost 13 straight away from their lakefront as quarterback issues fester — cutting ties with Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown, The Browns have had 26 different starting quarterbacks since 1999. And now they have Brock Osweiler after his failed trip to Houston, plus an expected addition via the draft.

Moon's call: W

Week 17: at Vikings (Sunday, Dec. 31, 12 p.m.)

Bears haven't won in Minnesota since 2011 and their last two losses there were by 21 and 28 points, as Vikings have been on the rise and Bears on the decline both during recent seasons and as competitive franchises. Bears desperately need prove-it road win to start regaining relevance in NFC North.

Moon's call: W

Moon’s season prediction: 8-8

CSN Chicago's 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Version 2.0

CSN Chicago's 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Version 2.0

With most of the heavy lifting already done in free agency, we look ahead to the 2017 NFL Draft as 31 teams try to build a roster that will compete with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

It's early in the process with the draft still a month away, so expect some change in each mock draft we unveil.

So without further adieu, check out CSN's 2017 NFL Mock Draft version 2.0:

1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett (EDGE), Texas A&M

The Browns don't need to make this rocket science. Garrett is arguably the best defensive lineman to come out of college since Julius Peppers. There shouldn't be any drama at No. 1 this year.

2. San Francisco 49ers: Solomon Thomas (DL), Stanford

Thomas' stock has risen more than any other prospect since the NFL Combine and it appears to be a real possibility he will hear his name called at No. 2. Thomas fulfills a major need on the edge for the 49ers and would become a foundation piece on their front-seven alongside last year's first-rounder DeForest Buckner.

3. Chicago Bears: Jamal Adams (S), LSU

Bears GM Ryan Pace has put the team in a position to draft the best available player at No. 3. While quarterback could still be in play here, I expect the Bears to look on the defensive side of the ball after giving Mike Glennon $18.5 million in guaranteed money. If it weren't for Jonathan Allen's shoulder issues — I can't see Pace taking a flyer on another player with medical red flags after seeing what's happened with former first-rounder Kevin White — he would probably be the pick here. Adams can play either strong or free safety, and would provide immediate stability by becoming the field general the Bears have been lacking in the secondary since the days of Mike Brown. 

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette (RB), LSU

After handing out blank checks to defensive studs Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye this offseason, it's time for the Jaguars to add some talent to their backfield. Fournette's unparalleled size/speed combo make him a once-in-a-generation talent at the running back position. 

5. Tennessee Titans: Marshon Lattimore (CB), Ohio State

I was tempted to give Marcus Mariota another weapon in the passing game, but pairing Lattimore with free-agent addition Logan Ryan would give the Titans one of the best cornerback duos in the AFC. 

6. New York Jets: O.J. Howard (TE), Alabama

Outside of defensive line, the Jets have needs pretty much everywhere on the field. Howard is a Top 5 talent and would be a nice security blanket for whoever plays quarterback for the Jets in 2017.

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Malik Hooker (S), Ohio State

Last year's first-round Buckeye (Joey Bosa) worked out quite well for the Chargers so why not go that same route? Hooker would join Jason Verrett and Casey Heyward in an already-dangerous Los Angeles secondary.

[RELATED: Complete 2017 NFL Draft coverage]

8. Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Allen (DL), Alabama

The Panthers don't have a glaring need on the defensive line, but if a talent like Allen is still on the board at the bottom of the Top 10, the Panthers would rush to the podium to call his name.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: Reuben Foster (LB), Alabama

The Bengals could use a replacement for recently-released inside linebacker Rey Maualuga and Foster has the chops to step in and start Week 1.

10. Buffalo Bills: Mike Williams (WR), Clemson

With Tyrod Taylor back in the fold, the Bills need to find playmakers to put around him. Pairing Williams with Sammy Watkins would give Buffalo a formidable pair if both players could put their injury history behind them.

11. New Orleans Saints: Derek Barnett (EDGE), Tennessee

Barnett has been one of college football's premier edge rushers over the years with 33 sacks during his time at Tennessee. A tandem of Cam Jordan and Barnett would be troublesome for opposing offensive lineman.

12. Cleveland Browns: Mitchell Trubisky (QB), North Carolina

After securing Garrett, the Browns are in an excellent position to find their long-term answer at quarterback with their second first-round selection. Trubsiky only started one year at North Carolina, but he has the skillset that NFL GMs salivate over. 

13. Arizona Cardinals: Deshaun Watson (QB), Clemson

At some point the Cardinals need to find a successor to Carson Palmer who appears close to the end of his NFL career. Watson's leadership skills would mesh well with a head coach like Bruce Arians and a veteran-laden locker room in Arizona. 

14. Philadelphia Eagles: Gareon Conley (CB), Ohio State

The Eagles have a pressing need at cornerback and in a division with Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Dez Bryant, the birds need to find a corner who could slow down opposing No. 1 wideouts.

15. Indianapolis Colts: Taco Charlton (EDGE), Michigan

The Colts added John Simon and Jabaal Sheard this offseason, but neither player is going to put much of a scare into opposing offensive coordinators. Charlton's pass-rushing skills and athleticism would provide a major boost to the Colts' front seven.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Corey Davis (WR), Western Michigan

The Ravens have talent at the wide receiver position, but they're lacking a true top-flight No. 1 wideout. Davis' physical style of play has drawn comparisons to Brandon Marshall, and he should be able to contribute right away after starting all four years at Western Michigan.

17. Washington Redskins: Haason Reddick (LB), Temple

On the surface, Reddick looks like an inside linebacker at just 6-foot-1, but the former Temple star created havoc in the backfield with 17.5 sacks and 47 tackles for a loss during his college career. The Redskins defense could use a linebacker such as Reddick's who could play all over the field.

18. Tennessee Titans: John Ross (WR) Washington

The Titans have failed at bringing in a No. 1 wide receiver thus far in the offseason, and while Ross isn't your prototypical No. 1, he's a big-play talent who is capable of scoring anytime he touches the ball. Ross would thrive in the Titans offense with quarterback Marcus Mariota slinging the rock.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dalvin Cook (RB), Florida State

The Buccaneers have a pressing need at running back and Cook's explosiveness and familiarity with quarterback Jameis Winston (the duo played together at Florida State in 2014), make this a made made in heaven.

20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles (OT), Utah

It's no secret the Broncos need help at offensive tackle, and Bolles is arguably the most talented lineman in the 2017 NFL Draft.

21. Detroit Lions: Takkarist McKinley (EDGE) UCLA

After an injury-plagued season season from Ezekiel Ansah, the Lions are seeking help on the edge. If not for a shoulder surgery following the Combine, McKinley would likely be a Top 15 selection.

22. Miami Dolphins: David Njoku (TE), Miami

The Dolphins traded for Julius Thomas earlier this offseason, but no team should count on a player who hasn't played more than 12 games in a season since 2014. Njoku has the talent to become one of the league's top tight ends very early in his career.

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23. New York Giants: Ryan Ramczyk (OL), Wisconsin

It would be a shock to see the Giants go any route other than offensive line when their first pick rolls around in late April. Ramczyk could play on either the right or left side, and would provide stability in front of quarterback Eli Manning.

24. Oakland Raiders: Malik McDowell (DL), Michigan State

The Raiders need to address their defensive line with either a Day 1 or 2 pick and McDowell, when motivated, has the talent to dominate for 60 minutes. 

25. Houston Texans: Patrick Mahomes (QB), Texas Tech

I'll be shocked if the Texans go into the season with just Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden in their quarterback cupboard. After whiffing on Brock Osweiler last offseason, Houston needs to find an answer at the position. While he's raw, Mahomes possesses the strongest arm in the current draft class. If head coach Bill O'Brien can get back to his quarterback whispering ways, Mahomes would be an ideal fit for the Texans.

26. Seattle Seahawks: Quincy Wilson (CB), Florida

The Legion of Boom has turned into more like the Legion of Swoon as of late. The Seahawks need to find another shutdown corner, and Wilson's length and physicality fit the mold of the type of corner Pete Carroll likes in his secondary. 

27. Kansas City Chiefs: DeShone Kizer (QB), Notre Dame

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid needs to look to the future with starting quarterback Alex Smith turning 33 later this spring. Kizer has the look of a prototypical quarterback and possesses the physical tools to succeed at the next level. The Chiefs would be a perfect landing spot for Kizer who would be best suited to sit for a year behind Smith.

28. Dallas Cowboys: Tre'davious White (CB), LSU

It would behoove the Cowboys to address their leaky secondary with an early pick in this year's draft. White has the athleticism and instincts to turn into a No. 1 corner over time, and should be able to contribute in the slot during his rookie season.

29. Green Bay Packers: Christian McCaffrey (RB), Stanford

Just what Aaron Rodgers needs: another dangerous weapon who can line up in the backfield or in the slot and become a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. McCaffery is dynamite in the open field and brings the type of versatility that Packers GM Ted Thompson craves.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Charles Harris (EDGE), Missouri

The Steelers had the second-lowest sack total (21) in the NFL last season and their best pass rusher will be turning 39 in May. Harris could contribute early in his career as a situational pass rush specialist and would be a nice addition to 2015 first-round pick Bud Dupree.

31. Atlanta Falcons: Forrest Lamp (OG), Western Kentucky

Lamp, a four-year starter at left tackle, is projected as a guard at the next level. Lamp could start in place of Chris Chester, giving the Falcons a lethal offensive line for their already-dangerous ground attack.

32. New Orleans Saints: Marlon Humphrey (CB), Alabama

The Saints have been trying to land restricted free agent corner Malcolm Butler from the Patriots and if they're unable to do so, expect them to target a corner with one of their first round selections. Humphrey was inconsistent at Alabama, but has all the physical tools coaches look for at the cornerback position.