In under a month, the Chicago Bears will play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night football. The Packers requested that they play the Bears because it will be their 100th season in the NFL. The historic rivalry will cap off the first Sunday of the 2018 NFL season.
The Bears have a rookie head coach in Matt Nagy and have made many additions to what was before a very young and mediocre roster. This upcoming season will be interesting, to say the least. It will be quarterback Mitch Trubisky‘s second season in the NFL. For the first time, in what feels like forever, the Bears may have a franchise QB.
This will be the first post of a four-part series where I will break down each of the Bears opponents and predict if they will win or lose the game. As the season goes on, this will be something fun to reflect on. Let’s get into it.
Week 1: AT Green Bay Packers
Time: 7:25pm (CT)
Nothing like opening the season against Aaron Rodgers. Thanks, schedule makers. In all seriousness, I don’t mind playing the Packers week one. Sure, many of you may think I’m crazy for saying that, but week one is the best time to play them. Upsets and just overall weird stuff tends to happen during the opening week of the NFL season.
No one thought the Chiefs would go into New England and smoke the Patriots last year, but that’s exactly what happened. The hope is that the Packers won’t be as crisp with their play considering it’s the first game that actually matters. With that being said, taking down No. 12 is never easy.
Last season, the Packers finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs. This was because of a Rodgers injury combined with an underwhelming roster. Managment has made a few steps in the right direction in improving the team for Rodgers this past offseason.
They added TE Jimmy Graham, who is unstoppable in the red zone. WR Devante Adams got a contract extension, but Jordy Nelson was let go. In 2017, Nelson caught 53 passes for 482 yards and 6 touchdowns. Those numbers would have been higher with a healthy Rodgers. Still, there is some cause for concern there given the drop off from 2016 where Nelson had 97 receptions for 1,257 yards and 14 TDs.
The Packers have two rookie WRs in J’Mon Moore and Jake Kumerow who impressed during training camp. With the health issues of Randall Cobb and up and down play from Geronimo Allison, the Packers’ WRs are not what they used to be. That doesn’t matter a whole lot though because of Rodgers, who if healthy, is the best QB in the game.
It’s going to be a challenge for Danny Trevathan and rookie Roquan Smith to cover the Packers’ big and physical tight ends. For whatever reason, the Bears have also had their fair share of issues with versatile back Ty Montgomery.
The upgraded Bears offense should see a somewhat new look Packers’ defense week one. Mike Pettine, not Dom Capers, is the defensive coordinator. He will bring some different looks to a defense that has been downright awful at times over the last three seasons. According to Pro Football Reference, the Packers were the 26th ranked defense in 2017. The Bears were in the top 10 for comparison.
Additions have been made to the Packers’ defense though. Muhammad Wilkerson, Jaire Alexander, and Josh Jackson should all contribute at some point.
Without being too biased here I want to say the Bears’ roster is much better than the Packers. However, we know all too well that doesn’t matter with Rodgers leading the way. As I said above, if there was a time the Bears had a good chance to beat an Aaron Rodgers led Packers team it would be on opening night. Until it actually happens though it’s hard for me to pick against the Pack at home.
Score: Packers 27 Bears 23
Week 2: VS. Seattle Seahawks
Time: 7:25pm (CT)
Back-to-back nationally televised games for the Bears? I kind of forgot what that felt like under the John Fox regime. This will be a big game for the home team, who will be trying to avoid another 0-1 start. Normally, seeing the Seahawks on the schedule would be a bad thing, but things have changed.
The Bears offense should have no problem moving the ball on the Seahawks defense. The Legion of Boom is gone with Richard Sherman on the 49ers and Kam Chancellor retiring. There is a very good chance Earl Thomas will be another team by that point as well. The pass rush is non-existent with Michael Bennett going to the Eagles, so naturally, I love the Bears offensive upside in week two.
On offense, the Seahawks didn’t get much better either. They signed Brandon Marshall, which is a guarantee they won’t make the playoffs. Russell Wilson is fantastic, but without weapons, he could come back down to earth a bit in 2018.
Everything seems to be going in the Bears favor for this game. Wilson will make things interesting as he always does, but the Bears should win this football game. Their roster is much better and they’re at home.
Score: Bears 24 Seahawks 17
Week 3: AT Arizona Cardinals
Time: 3:25pm (CT)
Heading into their game on the west coast, the Bears will be 1-1 after falling to the Packers and taking care of the Seahawks at home. They will take on the Cardinals, who are on the decline after Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer called it careers.
Outside of WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB David Johnson, the Cardinals just aren’t the same team we saw under Arians. Sam Bradford will most likely be the starting QB when these two teams faceoff. Unless he’s injured, which is always a possibility.
Then the Bears may see rookie Josh Rosen. Either way, the key for the Bears on this Sunday will be containing Johnson, who can do it all as an RB. He only played in one game last season because of an injury. However, in 2016 he ran for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns. He averaged 4.2 yards a carry.
Johnson’s best trait may be his ability as a pass catcher. During the 2016 season, he caught 80 passes on 120 targets.
It’s simple – contain Johnson, contain the Cards’ offense. The defense is another story.
Early indication out of Card’s camp is that CB Patrick Peterson will no longer be shadowing opposing team’s No. 1 receivers. Tyrann Mathieu aka the ‘Honey Badger’ is in Houston. Similar to the Seahawks, the Card’s secondary is not what it used to be. In 2017, the Cards’ defense was around league average at 14 in pass defense. Expect that number to be in the 20s in 2018.
Outside of Chandler Jones on the defensive line, there isn’t much there either. Speaking of lines, it looks like the Cards’ could have one of the worst offensive lines in the entire NFL. That’s not ideal for a QB that can stay healthy and a rookie.
Road games are never easy in the NFL. The Cards will take a few steps back in 2018 and I fully expect the Bears to take advantage of it. Stop David Johnson, win the game. I believe Vic Fangio will do just that.
Score: Bears 24 Cardinals 14
Week 4: VS. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Time: Noon (CT)
After back-to-back wins, the Bears will head home to take on the Bucs. It will be QB Jameis Winston‘s first game back after serving a three-game suspension. That, along with being at home bodes well for the Bears on this Sunday.
This is could be a make or break year for Winston and he will miss the first three games of the season. Not ideal. With that being said, the Bucs still have a lot of talent on their roster, especially on offense.
The running game isn’t something the Bears will have to worry about against the Bucs. In 2017, they ranked 27th in team rushing offense. With Winston coming back though and a talented group of pass catchers, stopping the Bucs through the air will be the key in this one for Fangio and his defense.
Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and OJ Howard can flat out play. Again, this will be Winston’s first game of the season, the hope is he has some issues getting comfortable and is inconsistent.
As for the Bucs’ defense, it’s actually improved, especially on the d-line. Vita Vea, Jason Pierre-Paul, Gerald McCoy and Vinny Curry is a strong front. Having a strong D-line also takes some pressure off of a mediocre secondary where Chris Conte still has a job.
Are the Bears really going to start 2018 off 3-1? It’s very possible. Imagine, if they find a way to beat the Packers as well. Anyway, the Bucs are going to be tough just because they have so much talent on their roster. The Bears O-line will need to be on it’s “A” game for the home team to earn a victory.
Score: Bears 21 Bucs 17
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