The Chicago Bears 2013 schedule was recently released, and while I'm not here to break down every single match up and give predictions for each—Ryan Wooden has you covered there. Well, sort of—I am here to offer analysis and guesstimation on the 2013 outlook as a whole with said recently released schedule in-hand.
Weeks one and two at home
The Bears have opened the last three seasons at home, and they are 3-0 with an overall score of 90-45 against those three opponents. This year, the Bears open up with a team that made the playoffs both of the last two seasons in the Cincinnati Bengals.
Next, Chicago has their first divisional game against the Minnesota Vikings; a team that eliminated them from playoff contention in 2012. Last year, the Bears split the Minnesota series with both teams winning at home. The last time the Vikings beat the Bears at home was in 2007 (34-31 Vikings).
The importance of opening the season with a winning record, and especially securing your home wins, is crucial, but as we saw last year, it’s not the most important stretch of the season.
Before the bye-week stretch
The Bears were 4-1 before the bye-week last season and 4-3 the season before that. They have found ways to go into the layoff with momentum. Their last two seasons they've had a 2-3 game winning streaking going into the bye and went on to win three more afterward.
The Bears lead off these five games with two road games; one in Pittsburgh and the other in Detroit. The Pittsburgh game also gives the Bears their first 2013 prime-time spot on Sunday Night Football. In five prime-time games last season, Chicago was 2-3 and was embarrassed in a couple of those (32-7 49ers, 23-10 Packers).
The Bears then play the newly reinstated Sean Peyton-led Saints and then the New York Giants at home. The Giants game is another prime-time look, and the last time these two teams met in a night game the Giants had nine sacks by half-time and won 17-3.
Chicago ends this stretch against an extremely dangerous Washington Redskins team, who made the playoffs a year ago.
Returning from the bye-week
The first game back is a Monday nighter against the Green Bay Packers. The count is now at five very painful losses in a row. This game might be a major deciding factor in the fight for the NFC North title.
Then, the Bears get two games back-to-back at home against the Detroit Lions and the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
It’s then time to hit the road for two difficult away games; one against the talented St. Louis Rams, who finished last season close to .500, and the other against the Vikings on the road. A stretch of five games that could very well decide the fate of this team's playoff chances if they can't get a couple road wins and win the majority of their home games, especially those in-division.
Final quarter of the season
In recent years, the final four for the Bears have really decided their fate. Last season they ended on a two-game winning streak but lost three games prior to that, which ultimately ended their season. In 2011, the Bears, without Jay Cutler, lost five out of their last six.
Chicago ends this season with three teams who failed to make the playoffs last year and two road games. First, is another Monday night game against the Dallas Cowboys, this time in Soldier Field. Last year in Dallas, the Bears picked off Tony Romo five times in route to a 34-18 victory.
The Bears then go on the road to face the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles, which should be one of the easier two game stretches of the season regardless of being on the road.
Green Bay at Chicago Week-17
My eyes were drawn to this game as soon as I saw the schedule for the first time. Packers at Bears, week 17, a game that I feel could potentially decide the winner of the NFC North. It is also a game that could potentially keep one of these teams out of the playoffs. I have that baby circled on the schedule, as should not only every Bears fan, but every football fan.
Stretch of death
Last year the Bears fell from 7-1 to 8-6 during the stretch of games I consider the stretch of death; games against the San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks. This year, the stretch starts Week-5 against the New Orleans Saints and ends Week-9 against the Packers.
Two of the games are at home (NO, NYG), and the Bears will face Redskins and the Packers on the road. During this stretch of games the Bears should hope to survive and be happy earning a 2-2 record or better.
In 2012, the Bears faced the AFC South early on and swept them leading to the 7-1 record. Chicago ends the 2013 season against four teams that failed to make the playoffs the year before. If the Bears want to set themselves apart this season, this is the stretch where they need to at least finish with a 4-2 record during the final six games.
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