Here’s a game-by-game look at how I feel the Bears will fare in 2008. Keep in mind, a lot can change from week to week based on different unpredictable factors.
Please note, in each game, I’ll give opposing views why either team would win that game.
Week 1: @ Indianapolis
The Bears will win if … they play nearly flawless defense and they’re able to run the ball to keep Peyton Manning and the Colts’ offense on the sideline. They have to put immense pressure on Manning to get that done (think NY Giants vs. Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLII).
The Colts will win if … Manning exploits the holes in the Bears’ defense. And if the defense keeps overpursuing and missing tackles, the Colts’ running game will have a field day as well.
Prediction: Indianapolis 24, Chicago 14. The Bears would appear to be in over their heads in the season-opener, on the road, in a new stadium, against a dominant offense.
Week 2: @ Carolina
The Bears will win if … they take advantage of Steve Smith’s suspension and limit the Panthers passing attack. They proceed to keep the running game in check and limit the time of possession for the Panthers’ offense.
The Panthers will win if … they run the ball down the Bears’ throat. It’ll be tougher for Kyle Orton and the passing attack to be effective when they’re trying to play catchup on the road.
Prediction: Carolina 17, Chicago 13. The Bears will have an easier matchup sans Steve Smith, but I think a second consecutive road game against a tough conference opponent might be a little much for this young offense still trying to find its way.
Week 3: vs. Tampa Bay
The Bears will win if … they play mean and nasty. If the Bears are more physical than the Buccaneers, such as establishing the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, they’ll be able to pull off the win.
The Buccaneers will win if … the Bears don’t put pressure on the quarterback and allow the running backs to run wild. If you give this offense time, it can pick you apart.
Prediction: Chicago 23, Tampa Bay 20. The Bears pick up their first victory of the season in their home opener by effectively running the football.
Week 4: vs. Philadelphia
The Bears will win if … they get after Donovan McNabb. McNabb won’t have many receiving threats with Kevin Curtis out for a while and Reggie Brown battling lingering injuries. They can’t let McNabb or Brian Westbrook beat them.
The Eagles will win if … the Bears can’t tackle Westbrook. He’s a scatback whom NFL analysts have often referred to as “Waldo” from the popular book series, “Where’s Waldo?”, because defenses have to find out where he lines up every play. Also, if the defense gets after Orton, the Eagles will find it a much easier day.
Prediction: Chicago 17, Philadelphia 13. I think the Bears’ defense fuels off its previous victory and gets after McNabb. Westbrook will have a good game, but not enough to beat the Bears.
Week 5: @ Detroit
The Bears will win if … they don’t let Jon Kitna beat them. The Lions have a duo of Kevin Smith and Rudi Johnson that don’t exactly strike fear in opposing teams. But they can throw the ball all over the field and have a pair of standout receivers in Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson.
The Lions will win if … they can pass the ball against the Bears’ defense. They won’t beat many teams with the run this year so they need to establish the run to beat the Bears.
Prediction: Chicago 13, Detroit 10. I expect this game to be a typical Bears-Lions low-scoring slugfest. I think the Bears will contain the Lions’ passing attack and take advantage of good field position.
Week 6: @ Atlanta
The Bears will win if … they run the football. This is the perfect game for the Bears to get Matt Forte and Kevin Jones running wild. Atlanta was 26th against the run last year and they haven’t improved much.
The Falcons will win if … they take advantage of Bears turnovers or miscues. The Falcons don’t have a whole lot of talent and can only hope to win this game if they can establish the run and control the clock.
Prediction: Chicago 27, Atlanta 13. The Bears should win their fourth game in a row here and be feeling pretty good about themselves.
Week 7: vs. Minnesota
The Bears will win if … they focus their attention on stopping Adrian Peterson. Peterson ran wild in two games against the Bears last season and if the Bears can contain him (think LaDainian Tomlinson in Week 1 last year), they’ll have a good shot at beating the Vikings.
The Vikings will win if … Peterson runs all over the defense. The Bears’ defense looked ugly last year at home against the Vikings and if he has even half the game he had then, the Bears are in trouble.
Prediction: Minnesota 20, Chicago 17. The Vikings end the Bears win streak here by putting pressure on Kyle Orton and establishing the run.
Week 8: vs. Detroit
The Bears will win if … same as the first game, they stop the Lions’ passing attack.
The Lions will win if … they control the clock and play the field position game with good special teams.
Prediction: Chicago 20, Detroit 7. The Bears sweep the Lions by taking over all three phases, offense, defense and special teams.
Week 9: vs. Tennessee
The Bears will win if … they contain Vince Young and establish the run against the Titans’ stout defense. The Titans were 5th against the run last year and the best way to neutralize Tennessee’s strengths is to try to establish the line of scrimmage.
The Titans will win if … they take control of the time of possession. The more opportunities Vince Young has, the tougher it’ll be for the Bears to overcome. If the Titans’ shut down the Bears’ running attack, the Bears’ defense will be on the field too long and will get fatigued.
Prediction: Tennessee 17, Chicago 10. In a low-scoring game, the Bears struggle to get the run going against the Titans’ solid run defense and Tennessee takes advantage of a few Bears miscues.
Week 10: @ Green Bay
The Bears will win if … they attack Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is the type of quarterback that’ll buckle under the pressure… if he gets pressured. If he’s given time to throw, it’ll be that much tougher. They need to pressure Rodgers and win the field position battle.
The Packers will win if … Rodgers is given time to throw. The Packers have a talented receiving corps which will help Rodgers make a smoother transition from backup to starter. But if he doesn’t have time to throw, the Packers will have trouble.
Prediction: Green Bay 24, Chicago 16. The Packers will hand Lovie Smith his first loss at Lambeau as they use their home field advantage to exploit the Bears defense.
Week 11: @ St. Louis
The Bears will win if … they can get their passing game going. The Rams finished in the lower part of the league last year defending the pass, and even with rookie Chris Long, they still have problems.
The Rams will win if … they can put pressure on Kyle Orton and win the field position battle.
Prediction: Chicago 21, St. Louis 20. I think the Bears will use their tight ends often and I see a big play or two from Devin Hester on either offense or special teams. The defense will bend but not break.
Week 12: @ Minnesota
The Bears will win if … like the previous game, they can contain Adrian Peterson. But even more so, playing on the road, they have to run the football effectively.
The Vikings will win if … Peterson can slice the Bears defense. If the crowd noise becomes a factor and the Vikings can get some three-and-outs from the Bears’ offense, they’ll be that much better off.
Prediction: Minnesota 20, Chicago 10. The Vikings complete the sweep of the Bears by limiting the amount of time the Bears’ offense is on the field, and causing the Bears’ defense to fatigue.
Week 13: vs. Jacksonville
The Bears will win if … they play a nearly flawless football game. This Jaguars team is going to be tough this year and the Bears have to play well on all three sides of the football.
The Jaguars will win if … they can run the football on the Bears defense and stop it on the other side.
Prediction: Jacksonville 14, Chicago 9. The Bears give it all they have at home but a better Jaguars team prevails.
Week 14: vs. New Orleans
The Bears will win if … like the previous two years, they use the weather and attacking defense to their advantage. The Saints could be even better this year than they were two years ago, but if the Bears put pressure on Drew Brees, they’ll have a good shot.
The Saints will win if … they can give Brees time in the pocket to make good throws. If they can sustain both a run game and a passing game, they’ll be in good shape.
Prediction: Chicago 27, New Orleans 20. The Bears use their running game to take time off the clock and put enough pressure on Drew Brees to keep the Saints off-balance.
Week 15: vs. Green Bay
The Bears will win if … like last game, they can pressure Aaron Rodgers into doing something stupid. They also need to run the ball effectively.
The Packers will win if … they have time to throw the ball and win the field position battle.
Prediction: Chicago 23, Green Bay 17. The Bears will split the series by keeping the Packers offense off the field and tiring out the Packers defense with a steady dose of the run game.
Week 16: @ Houston
The Bears will win if … they can control the clock and establish field position with special teams.
The Texans will win if … they’re given time to throw the ball and utilize a weapon like Andre Johnson. If the defense — particularly Mario Williams — can get after Orton, they also have a good shot.
Prediction: Chicago 20, Houston 10. The Bears close out the season with a three game winning streak by dominating all three phases off the game, particularly defense.
Final Record: 9-7