First, some background:
For each of the past four seasons, the “View from the Moon” has been that the Bears would be 10-6 or better. The teams weren't the same compositions, the quarterback/offensive coordinator mix was an ongoing issue, but the core was sufficient to warrant a generally strong forecast. That assessment factored in schedule, particularly the outlook for the NFC North teams, since those represent six of the 16 games, and whether the team upgraded or slipped in the offseasons.
With the upgrades made this offseason, and with an entire draft still to come (general manager Phil Emery has landed Pro Bowl players in each of his first two Bears drafts), CSNChicago.com’s “View from the Moon” is again that the Bears will be 10-6 or better – leaning toward the “or better":
[RELATED: The Bears' 2014 regular season schedule]
Despite the loss of Jay Cutler for all or part of seven games (inactive for five, injured vs. Washington and Detroit), the Bears were the No. 2 scoring team in the NFL. That included six defensive touchdowns, although only two over the final 10 games when the defensive disintegrated weekly. This also was with an offense settling in with four new starters on the offensive line, two of them rookies, and everyone working into the offense of Marc Trestman/Aaron Kromer/Matt Cavanaugh.
The offense may not average 28.2 points per game in2014 but they don’t necessarily have to. Of the 11 teams scoring more than 25 points per game, only the Bears, Packers and Cowboys failed to win 10 games, and Green Bay won the NFC North without Aaron Rodgers for nearly half the year.
Upgrades/falloffs, a key part of the analysis, point to more rather than less on defense. Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, plus Jeremiah Ratliff from the start, represent a major upgrade where it matters most: the line.
On top of that, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and D.J. Williams are back, even at a year older. A surprise will be if either Jonathan Bostic or Shea McClellin, or both, don’t deliver some impact in different, better-suited positions.
With a quality safety or pass rusher from the draft, the Bears’ defense project back in the top 10, where they were in 2010 and 2012.
For the first time in quite some time, the assessment here is that the Bears will deliver something of a surprise: an undefeated home season. They were 5-3 last season but those losses included the Detroit game, when an injured Cutler was mistakenly left in too long, and the season-ender vs. Green Bay which took an epic defensive meltdown to let slip away.
The Bears lost to New Orleans at home last year and have the Saints in Soldier Field again.
Those past four forecasts were in fact quite accurate, and the same bases for analysis are in play. Injuries are part of nearly every NFL team’s season, but extraordinary injuries render analyses moot, and the injuries in two of the last four years were season-altering.
The 2010 season saw an 11-5 finish and 2012 was 10-6. The 2011 team was at 7-3 when Jay Cutler went down and Mike Martz elected to stay with Caleb Hanie for four straight losses before turning to Josh McCown.
The 2013 team was 4-2 when Cutler injuries started, exceeded only by the rate of attrition on defense. The latter had the Bears losing to the likes of Minnesota and St. Louis with at least four defensive starters out, including Pro Bowlers Tillman and Henry Melton.
The Bears had five 100-yard receiving games out of Alshon Jeffery, two of them with more than 200 yards, and lost all five. The Bears lost five games in which they piled up 400-plus yards of offense.
The reason for the 8-8 finish was not Chris Conte’s missed assignment against Green Bay. It was not Julius Peppers suddenly turning un-special. It was not Brian Urlacher retiring. It was the injuries that riddled a defense that was top-five the year before.
That issue has been, and is being, addressed. The 2014 Bears will not be losing five games in which they amass 400-plus yards of offense.
BEARS' 2014 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE
|1.||Sun., Sept. 7||vs. Buffalo Bills||Noon (FOX)|
|2.||Sun., Sept. 14||at San Francisco 49ers||7:30 (NBC)|
|3.||Mon., Sept. 22||at New York Jets||7:30 (ESPN)|
|4.||Sun., Sept. 28||vs. Green Bay Packers||Noon (FOX)|
|5.||Sun., Oct. 5||at Carolina Panthers||Noon (FOX)|
|6.||Sun., Oct. 12||at Atlanta Falcons||Noon (FOX)|
|7.||Sun., Oct. 19||vs. Miami Dolphins||Noon (CBS)|
|8.||Sun., Oct. 26||at New England Patriots||Noon (FOX)|
|10.||Sun., Nov. 9||at Green Bay Packers||7:30 (NBC)|
|11.||Sun., Nov. 16||vs. Minnesota Vikings||Noon (FOX)|
|12.||Sun., Nov. 23||vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Noon (FOX)|
|13.||Thurs., Nov. 27||at Detroit Lions||11:30 (CBS)|
|14.||Thurs., Dec. 4||vs. Dallas Cowboys||7:25 (NFLN)|
|15.||Mon., Dec. 15||vs. New Orleans Saints||7:30 (ESPN)|
|16.||Sun., Dec. 21||vs. Detroit Lions||Noon (FOX)|
|17.||Sun., Dec. 28||at Minnesota Vikings||Noon (FOX)|