Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times thinks the Bears have drawn a tough schedule next year:
“Things can change between now and Sept. 8, but at first blush, it doesn’t appear [Bears head coach Marc] Trestman and his staff will have the wind at their backs. The Bears will face 12 teams that made the playoffs in at least one of the last two seasons, including in each of their first 10 games. That’s more than any team in the NFL.”
Yes, ordinarily its perilous to try to judge the schedule based upon past records. Things go up and down in the NFL very fast and teams you thought were going to be good can turn into duds very quickly. And teams with low expectations can rise above them just as fast. Consider the Vikings last year as a prime example of a team no one thought would win many games. They were competing for a playoffs spot in the second half of the season.
But the Bears face a special situation this year. They’re playing every team in the AFC North including the Steelers and the Ravens. They’re up against every team in the NFC East including the Giants and the Cowboys. The Bengals and the Redskins both finished strong last year. Add the Saints into the mix and you’ve got a real problem.
Its not that the Bears can’t beat these teams. In fact, they did beat the Cowboys in a poorly played game last year. And they should be able to handle the Browns. But beyond that, both of these divisions are extremely competitive and the teams in them are uncommonly consistent year to year. While most of the NFL see-saws up and down, you can count on the Steelers, Ravens and the Giants to be looking to make the playoffs nearly every year. And you can count on the Cowboys, Eagles and Bengals to give you a pretty rough time most games. Even in what is considered to be down years for most of those teams, they’re going to make you earn every game more than most.
That means that we aren’t likely to look back on 2013 and say, “Wow. That turned out to be easier than I thought”. More likely, the Bears are going to have to play above their heads – and a lot better than they did last year – if they are going to make the playoffs.