The Chicago Bears 2016 schedule was released on Thursday and the Bears arguably have an easy path to a successful season. They have the third-easiest schedule according to strength of opponents from last year, and a second half schedule that sees them at home in four of the final six weeks.
Of course, all of this means little as teams fluctuate from year to year, but from a bird’s-eye view in mid-April, four and a half months from the beginning of the regular season, the Bears are sitting pretty.
Week 1: @ Houston Texans
The Texans added Brock Osweiler in the offseason and the quarterback played for Bears head coach John Fox in Denver. The Bears lost by just two points to the Osweiler-led Broncos last year and Fox should have a good idea how to defend the Texans’ offense. But with a new starting running back in Jeremy Langford and an offense under the direction of new coordinator Dowell Loggains, the Bears fall just a bit short in the season-opener.
Prediction: Houston 23, Chicago 20
Week 2: vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia is in a state of transition, trying to cleanse itself from the cancer that was Chip Kelly. The Eagles have a few decent weapons on offense, but their defense has its work cut out for them and the Bears will be amped up for their regular season home opener on Monday Night Football.
Prediction: Chicago 27, Philadelphia 14
Week 3: @ Dallas Cowboys
Tony Romo will be back at the helm for the Cowboys after missing most of last season with a broken collarbone. The Cowboys had to rely on the run game last year when receiver Dez Bryant missed extended action as well. If the Bears can exploit the Cowboys’ defense, they have a shot to pull off the road victory. But I’m giving the slight edge to the Cowboys in this one.
Prediction: Dallas 24, Chicago 20
Week 4: vs. Detroit Lions
The Bears have lost six straight to the Lions. Enough is enough. The Lions will struggle to find an identity without receiver Calvin Johnson, who retired in the offseason. The Lions offense will need to rely on its run game to help them move the ball in 2016, but the Bears’ much-improved linebacking corps will help stifle that aspect and secure the win.
Prediction: Chicago 27, Detroit 17
Week 5: @ Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck missed more than half the season in 2015 for the Colts, and as a result of that missed time the team struggled without him. When healthy, Luck is one of the top quarterbacks in the league and the Colts offense is a tricky bunch to defend. The Colts defense took a major step back in 2015 from the previous season. I have no doubts the Bears can compete in this one, but they might not be able to keep up.
Prediction: Indianapolis 24, Chicago 16
Week 6: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
You might find yourself plucking a bunch of Jaguars in your fantasy drafts, because they have a wealth of offensive talent at the skill positions, but there are still holes on the offensive line and all over the defense that leave this team near the bottom of the league. I wouldn’t call any team a pushover in today’s era of the NFL, but the Jaguars are as close to one as it gets.
Prediction: Chicago 30, Jacksonville 17
Week 7: @ Green Bay Packers
The Packers surely have this game circled on their calendars after the Bears upset them at Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving a year ago. The Bears defense played some of its best football all year and stifled the Packers’ receivers. Aaron Rodgers did not have a good game and was picked off by Tracy Porter late in the game. I expect the Bears to bring the same level of passion they did on that rainy November night in 2015, but Green Bay will ultimately pull away in this one.
Prediction: Green Bay 27, Chicago 20
Week 8: vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Bears have a tough opponent in back-to-back weeks in division rival Minnesota. At 3-4, the Bears will be hoping to even out their record heading into the bye week. The reigning NFC North champions squeaked out a three-point victory over the Bears at Soldier Field a year ago, before trouncing them later in the season. I’m confident in the upgrades the Bears made on defense this offseason to say they’ll neutralize the defending rushing champion, Adrian Peterson, and gain a measure of revenge against the average Teddy Bridgewater, who shredded them last December.
Prediction: Chicago 20, Minnesota 17
Week 10: @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
These aren’t your Lovie Smith Buccaneers. New head coach Dirk Koetter led the Buccaneers to surprising offensive success last year as their offensive coordinator. I expect that unit to be even better this year. Where this game will be decided is when the Bears have the football and the Bucs are trying to defend them. This is no gimme, but I think the Bears pull away at the end.
Prediction: Chicago 23, Tampa Bay 20
Week 11: @ New York Giants
The Giants promoted offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to replace the departed Tom Coughlin in an effort to maintain continuity. The problem is that the Giants shouldn’t be continuing what they’ve been doing. They need to infuse their roster with younger talent and find ways to fix the defense. Although this is a road game, I think this is a game the Bears could and should win.
Prediction: Chicago 21, NY Giants 17
Week 12: vs. Tennessee Titans
Don’t look now, but the Bears could be sitting pretty at this point in the season. The Titans, last year’s cellar-dwellers, will come to town with the Bears on a hot streak. For all intents and purposes, this is a should-win game that can position the Bears right in the middle of a playoff chase. If the Bears are not careful, this could be a trap game with a rematch with the 49ers looming next week. But I think Fox has his guys ready to put this team away early.
Prediction: Chicago 31, Tennessee 16
Week 13: vs. San Francisco 49ers
Do you remember how badly it stung watching Blaine Gabbert shred the Bears’ defense for a long touchdown run in last year’s 26-20 overtime loss? And then throwing a touchdown bomb for the win? Don’t worry, the Bears remember, too. And it ain’t gonna happen again. New head coach Chip Kelly brings his up-tempo offense to the West Coast, and while it’ll entertain the masses from time to time, it’s a system that can’t ultimately prevail in the NFL. The Bears will pull this one out and really instill hope in Bears fans.
Prediction: Chicago 24, San Francisco 21
Week 14: @ Detroit Lions
Riding high on a five-game win streak, the Bears will try to keep the momentum going against the Lions and prevent themselves from looking ahead to the Packers the following week. This is where the Lions will catch the Bears on a bad day and pull off the upset. I have no rationale for why the Lions will outplay the Bears in this one, other than to say it’s hard to see the Bears roll to a 9-4 record without some kind of hiccups.
Prediction: Detroit 26, Chicago 20
Week 15: vs. Green Bay Packers
The Bears will be in prime position in the hunt for a playoff spot when they head into the final, three-game stretch of the season against three playoff teams from last year. I’d like to think that the Bears can at least split with the Packers this season, but I also feel like somewhere down the line they are going to lose a game that gives pause to whether they’re going to make the playoffs.
Prediction: Green Bay 24, Chicago 17
Week 16: vs. Washington Redskins
Similar to how the 49ers upset the Bears at Soldier Field last year, the Redskins won a game last year that the Bears arguably gifted to them as well. So, much like the Bears circling the game against the 49ers on their calendars, this one will have added meaning as well. I don’t buy into the Redskins hype — mostly because I don’t buy into quarterback Kirk Cousins — and they backed into the playoffs last year by virtue of a horrible division. Knowing that they badly need a win to stay in the playoff chase, the Bears have a sound victory in this one.
Prediction: Chicago 27, Washington 14
Week 17: @ Minnesota Vikings
This is what dreams are made of. The Bears enter this game in control of their own destiny (I hate that expression, but I used it anyway). If they win, they’re in. If they lose, they need some help to make the playoffs. They already hold the 1-0 season lead on the Vikings after beating them in Week 8. The Vikings are either competing for their playoff lives or looking to play spoiler. As well as the Bears will have played up to this point, and as promising as their future looks, this has the makings of a young team that is not experienced in situations like these. A team that needs to take its lumps first to experience the level of play that is required to be a playoff team. Bears lose this one, but launch themselves as a playoff team in 2017.
Prediction: Minnesota 27, Chicago 24