Tough Schedule for the Bears Unlikely to Get Easier

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.

The Name to Keep an Eye on: Arthur Brown

Don Pompei reviews the middle linebackers in this year’s draft.  The player that catches my eye in this group is Arthur Brown:

Arthur Brown, Kansas State, 6-1, 241: Brown is like [sure first round pick, Alec] Ogletree in that he has the ability to play outside as well as inside. ‘He’s a fast-flow, run-and-hit guy,’ one veteran scout said. Brown is very athletic and he has good instincts. He goes all out. Brown gets off blocks well and runs the seam better than most of the linebackers in this class (he ran a 4.67 40 at his pro day). There is some concern over his size. The transfer from Miami is a little smaller than ideal. He showed up at the combine at 240, but played at 230 pounds, according to one front office man. The good news for Brown is he plays big. He packs a wallop. He has risen up the charts in recent weeks.”

Brown’s got all of the characteristics of a cover two middle linebacker.  The comment about how he played a 230 lbs and is getting bigger would, based upon what we saw last year, fit the profile former strength and conditioning coach and current Bears GM Phil Emery, might be looking for.  Emery seems to like players who he thinks can put on weight without losing quickness.  Brown sounds like one of those guys.  That may be why they had him in town for an interview (one of the very few that leaked out of Halas Hall this winter).

The Bears probably prefer Ogletree but most mock drafts have him gone before the Bears pick.  Pompei has him going at 16 to the Rams.  I think the Steelers and the Giants (at 17 and 19 in the first round, respectively) would also like to have him.

Assuming he’s not there when the Bears turn comes up at 20, they may prefer to trade back.  Indeed, Emery has made it clear that the pick is for sale.  Brown may be the first guy he has in mind if he trades into the second round.  That would mean we’d all have to wait until Friday evening to see the Bears make a pick.  But it could be a memorable one.