Predictions are meaningless, especially from the national media. Each team’s season depends on the health of their players, overall team depth and their ability to manage on- and off-field distractions.
When looking at strength of schedule, you can forget about that too. Each season is different and teams that weren't good last season, might be good this season. If you look at the Bears' schedule, they play the NFC South (not sold on the division) and AFC West (middle-of-the-road).
There are plenty of reasons the 4th Phase should be excited about this season’s Bears. Cutler looks to be in the best shape of his career, has worked on his mechanics during the offseason and seems (although not expressing it) to be extra motivated by the off-the-field hoopla that had people questioning his toughness and desire.
Mike Tice has the personnel to fit his blocking schemes as they are now bigger upfront, a year older but still young, and have looked like they’ve improved over last season.
Players will also be motivated to not only bring the Lombardi trophy back to Chicago but also to get paid. Matt Forte and Lance Briggs want extensions and Chris Harris could be due for one as well. Roy Williams, Amobi Okoye, and newly signed Brandon Meriweather want to prove they can still play at a high level.
Here is my prediction on how the Bears will fare this season:
First Quarter (3-1)
W -- vs. Falcons -- The Bears are playing at Soldier Field, a place built as a memorial to soldiers. There’s no way the Bears are losing in front of the 4th Phase on the 10th anniversary of September 11.
L -- @ Saints -- All the talk is about the Saints offense but the Bears defense aren’t too shabby themselves. The Bears play fast on turf so don’t be surprised although they could bring home a W.
W -- Packers -- Although it won’t be the same, the Bears will get their revenge against their rivals. Cutler will have something to prove and will want to make a statement.
W-- Panthers -- Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen aren’t exactly elite quarterbacks at this stage in their careers. The Panthers have no shot here.
Second Quarter (2-2)
L -- @Lions -- The Lions will no doubt be a better team this season BUT they aren't a playoff team. For no reason, I’m giving them this game as payback for the Calvin Johnson non-catch.
W -- Vikings -- The Vikings’ window of opportunity has shut as a Super Bowl contender. Donovan McNabb will make them a better team but Bernard Berrian as their number one receiver doesn’t strike fear in anyone.
W -- @Buccaneers (London) -- The Bears are the most popular team in the UK. Consider this another home game for the Bears and another win.
L -- @Eagles -- The Bears always match up well against the Eagles because the 2nd Phase has enough speed to run with their offense. This will no doubt be a challenge for the Bears.
3rd Quarter (4-0)
W -- Lions -- The Lions are this season's IT team. I'm not one to believe the hype. At best, the Lions are a .500 team and the Bears will treat them that way.
W -- Chargers -- Cutler faces off against his arch nemesis in Denver, Phillip Rivers. This will be a statement game for Cutler and the offense.
W -- @Raiders -- The Raiders have a solid running game but Darren McFadden is no Bo Jackson and the Bears have a solid run defense.
W -- Chiefs -- The Chiefs are an upcoming team with Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe but it won’t be enough against this defense.
4th Quarter (3-1)
W -- @Broncos -- Expect Cutler to hear the boos early and often. Cutler will show the Mile High crowd that he does indeed have a stronger arm than John Elway.
W -- Seahawks -- The Seahawks made the playoffs last season because they play in the weakest division in the NFL. They also have the worst starting quarterback in the league, Tavaris Jackson.
L -- @Packers -- For the second year in a row, this game will have playoff implications and the Bears will let the Packers win.
W -- @Vikings -- The Metrodome is no longer a House of Horrors for the Bears. In this meaningless game, the Bears backups lead the team to victory and the starters will be well rested for the playoffs.
That's right, I'm picking the Bears to finish 12-4. If it weren't for the Saints, Packers and Lions losses, in which I gave no good reasons for the Bears to lose, I'd have them finishing 14-2. Then again predictions are meaningless.