The 2009 NFL schedule has been released and it’s become such a big deal that they actually have a two-hour program dedicated to analyzing it on the NFL Network. I’m not so sure I’d put that much emphasis on it, but it is an exciting time nevertheless.
A quick breakdown of the schedule shows the Bears have five prime time games this year. Two team executives — Tampa Bay’s Bruce Allen and Kansas City’s Carl Peterson — were brought on air to discuss the schedule and Allen claims he feels the NFL didn’t create the schedule until after the Jay Cutler trade was made because he doesn’t think the Bears would have gotten that many prime time games otherwise.
Well, Bruce, the Bears had five prime time games last year, coming off a 7-9 2007 season. This past year, they were 9-7 and on the cusp of the playoffs. Wouldn’t it be logical that they’re more deserving of five prime time games this year than last year? To borrow a phrase from the Boers and Bernstein show on 670 The Score — who are you crapping, Bruce?
This schedule could easily have been made before Cutler was acquired by the Bears because the Bears are one of the NFL’s most recognized franchises who have a big national following and would surely generate ratings.
It’s certainly premature at this point in the off-season to make predictions for the 2009 season because so much can still happen between now and September 13. But I’m going to do it for fun, regardless, and analyze the implications of each game.
Week 1: Sun. Sept. 13 @ Green Bay, 7:20 p.m. (NBC)
Obviously, there could be no bigger game for the Bears to open the season with than a prime time matchup against the hated Packers. Green Bay will likely still be learning the intricacies of new defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense and the Bears might still be honing their skills with Cutler as quarterback. I like the Bears chances in this one and I think their defense will come out and stifle the Packers’ offense in similar fashion as to what they did to the Colts in last year’s season-opener.
Prediction: Chicago 24, Green Bay 13
Week 2: Sun. Sept. 20 vs. Pittsburgh, 3:15 p.m. (CBS)
Talk about putting pressure on Cutler and setting the bar high. First, he begins the season on the road in prime time and must get a quick lesson into the Bears-Packers rivalry. Then, his home opener is against the Super Bowl champion Steelers in Week 2. He’ll likely have the kitchen sink thrown at him by the Steelers’ stout defense, so the Bears better be on top of their game. I do feel the Bears have a chance to win this one, but I’m going to go the conservative route and say they lose a close one.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Chicago 17
Week 3: Sept. 27 @ Seattle, 3:05 p.m. (FOX)
For the third straight week, the Bears do not have a noon game, which most NFL players will say is the best time to play for continuity purposes. I don’t like the idea of the Bears playing in Seattle, one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. This is a Seahawks team that is rebuilding, but it doesn’t mean it will be an easy one to push around. I’ve got to give the advantage at this point to Seattle.
Prediction: Seattle 27, Chicago 20
Week 4: Sun. Oct. 4 vs. Detroit, Noon (FOX)
The Bears will get their first look at the revamped Lions who will look vastly improved over last year’s 0-16 pushovers. However, although the Lions will be a better team, I think we’re going to see this game as a “coming out party” for Cutler and the Bears offense. I think the Bears put up a big number in this one.
Prediction: Chicago 34, Detroit 16
Week 5: Bye
The Bears enter the bye week with a respectable, 2-2 record, and in competition for first place in the NFC North.
Week 6: Sun. Oct. 18 @ Atlanta, 7:20 p.m. (NBC)
I love this game. I was licking my chops as soon as I saw the Atlanta Falcons logo on NFL Network when they showed the Bears’ schedule. You know what they say, revenge is sweet. Let’s face it, Matt Ryan is a good quarterback. He’s not great. And neither is Michael Turner. The Falcons surprised the league last year with a good turnaround season that resulted in a playoff berth, but they’re a beatable team, and the Bears will win this game in prime time.
Prediction: Chicago 27, Atlanta 20
Week 7: Sun. Oct. 25 @ Cincinnati, Noon (FOX)
Several teams have shown over the last few years that they can make dramatic turnarounds in one year’s time. I don’t expect that from the Bengals though. The Bears still have to be wary of Carson Palmer’s ability, but their defense is awful and they lost T.J. Houshmandzadeh to free agency. It could be a blowout or it could be a close game, but in either scenario, I see a Bears victory.
Prediction: Chicago 21, Cincinnati 17
Week 8: Sun. Nov. 1 vs. Cleveland, Noon (CBS)
The one positive I can say about the Browns is that at least they fired that phony Romeo Crennel. And even though Eric Mangini will help improve the defense, I don’t see any way that a healthy Bears team loses this game at home.
Prediction: Chicago 30, Cleveland 10
Week 9: Sun. Nov. 8 vs. Arizona, Noon (FOX)
I’ll give the Cardinals their due. They shocked the world with a Super Bowl berth behind a dominant offense and a surprisingly talented defense. But if there’s been one constant for the better part of a decade, it’s that the Super Bowl runner-up just can’t make the playoffs the next year. Kurt Warner is one hit away from retirement. This team has no run game, even though they played better in the playoffs than they did last regular season. This is a game where the Bears’ physical play could bury the Cardinals in a hurry.
Prediction: Chicago 22, Arizona 13
Week 10: Thurs. Nov. 12 @ San Francisco, 7:20 p.m. (NFLN)
The 49ers were a completely different team under Mike Singletary than they were with Mike Nolan as head coach. I’m glad to see that he got a contract extension after it was clear he started to get the team more focused. But they are still a ways away from being a good team and their quarterback situation leaves a lot to be desired.
Prediction: Chicago 24, San Francisco 20
Week 11: Sun. Nov. 22 vs. Philadelphia, 7:20 p.m. (NBC)
In the Bears’ third Sunday night game of the season, we’ll see a rematch against the Eagles, whom the Bears defeated last year on a Sunday night in September. And just as much as we’d like to see the Bears gain some revenge against the Falcons, Eagles players and fans would just as much like to get revenge against the Bears. I think this is where the Bears’ win streak comes to an end as Donovan McNabb and company pull out a win on the road.
Prediction: Philadelphia 27, Chicago 24
Week 12: Sun. Nov. 29 @ Minnesota, Noon (FOX)
This game will not only help determine the NFC North champion, but it will also serve as a litmus test for letting us all know how good the Bears truly are, and whether or not they can make a run through the playoffs. The reason why I say this is because the Bears have won just one game — count ‘em again, just one — in the last seven years in Minnesota. The one game they did win in that span — in their 2006 Super Bowl season — came on a last minute drive for a 19-16 victory. I hate to say this, but unless the Vikings have sustained devastating injuries, or the Bears are really that good, the Vikings will make it 7 out of 8 victories in Minnesota.
Prediction: Minnesota 24, Chicago 17
Week 13: Sun. Dec. 6 vs. St. Louis, Noon (FOX)
Fresh off a two-game losing streak, the Bears will return home to face a Rams team that is still rebuilding. They’ll be more competitive, but not nearly good enough to beat an angered Bears team. I think this could be one of the most lopsided games of the season.
Prediction: Chicago 31, St. Louis 7
Week 14: Sun. Dec. 13 vs. Green Bay, Noon (FOX)
With the NFC North division crown in sight, the Bears complete the sweep of the Packers with a close victory in front of their home crowd. The Bears did not play well against the Packers last season, even in their 20-17 overtime victory at Soldier Field. But if they’re healthy at this point in the season — and that’s always an if — then I think they play much better in this outing.
Prediction: Chicago 23, Green Bay 20
Week 15: Sun. Dec. 20 @ Baltimore, Noon (FOX)
This is going to be a very physical, low-scoring game between two of the better defenses in the league. It’s also the type of game that you cringe with every hit that Cutler takes from this Ravens defense. While I feel the Bears could certainly win, I just think the home field advantage will push Baltimore over the top.
Prediction: Baltimore 17, Chicago 13
Week 16: Mon. Dec. 28 vs. Minnesota, 7:20 p.m. (ESPN)
The Bears are fortunate to have so many chances to avenge some tough losses last year, and not just within their division. Assuming both teams are healthy, this game will probably decide the NFC North champion. It’s no wonder they put it on prime time in front of a national audience. Whether or not the Bears can beat the Vikings in Minnesota earlier in the season, I expect them to be victorious in this one. While the Vikings will be relegated to running the ball all game — definitely a strength for them — I feel the Bears’ versatility on offense gives them the edge.
Prediction: Chicago 21, Minnesota 17
Week 17: Sun. Jan. 3 @ Detroit, Noon (FOX)
Something tells me this game won’t have much — if anything — riding on it. I think the Bears will have the NFC North crown wrapped up by this point and may rest their starters. However, if they don’t have it wrapped up, I expect them to clinch the division with a victory in Detroit.
Prediction: Chicago 27, Detroit 14
Final Record: 11-5